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Editorial: Web Accessibility in Higher Education

With the introduction of the new Special Educational Needs and Disability Act, it is necessary for all Higher Education Institutions to examine their policies and procedures relating to people with disabilities. We are especially concerned in this context with educational technology and the impact of the Act on the accessibility of that technology to all students.

The Act now requires us to be proactive when dealing with disability issues. It is no longer acceptable to react to a situation as and when it arises. The emphasis is on anticipation of the needs of disabled people in general and so we must ensure that the technology is accessible for all at all times.

Technology has had a massive impact on the accessibility of information for students with disabilities and has actually removed many barriers to learning. The use of adaptations on personal computers, portable listening and recording devices and so on, allow a student with disabilities to be on an equal footing with their peers. However, if thought is not given to how the technology works for them and whether, for example, a web site is accessible for all students, then this can reverse the process and they can be denied that access which would then lead to social exclusion.

This issue looks at the legal implications of the Act, and then explores specific issues within that context. The first article explores the Act and what it may mean for Higher Education Institutions. The second article looks at the kind of provision we can provide and then examines a specific case study of how a man with Retinitis Pigmentosa is using the technology available to him to aid his studies. The third article looks at the accessibility of websites and provides useful guidelines.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the RNIB for their contribution to this issue.

Jane Hope
Centre for Academic Practice
University of Warwick

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