If you google learning and then select the images option, you’ll find that the majority of the pictures include books or at least a depiction of reading. This is because despite the proliferation of many avenues for receiving information, text in some form or another is still the main vehicle for delivering digital content efficiently and quickly. Reading is the main source of information both for learning and for daily life for many people. There is a significant minority of learners who find the process of decoding the understanding text, ie reading, to be difficult. There are many reasons for this particular difficulty that range from a difficulty actually seeing the text, not being able to understand the code or being unable to hold a book or hand held device for long enough to read from it. In addition to these possibly permanent disabilities, many might have temporary inability to access text – such as forgetting their assistive technology (glasses) to being unable to ‘read’ when they are tired or in low light or the text is in a language that they don’t understand.
There is a general term for anyone who might be unable to read text for whatever reason, – print impaired. This simply explains the problem, they have difficulty with print in any format.
There are many other ways of delivering learning content and these can include –
- audio, by providing a narration of a piece of text, or a podcast on a particular topic of interest,
- video, short focused videos such as much of the content on YouTube can be a powerful learning tool as can fuller more comprehensive content,
- games and gamification of learning provides engagement and motivation for learners,
- interactive content can support learning and deliver immediate feedback and constructive direction for further investigation,
- discussions can allow learners to negotiate meaning, work at finding a mutually agreed position and provide and receive support from their peers,
- collaborative learning and development mimics real time working environment with teams or small groups providing assessment, feedback and developmental resources.
Some of the sections above will merge into each other but they all provide ways of accessing, understanding and developing knowledge, experience and skills. They can all be delivered digitally and so can be altered and manipulated to ensure that all learners can engage with it.
Understanding how different learners might manipulate text is the first step to understanding how and why you need to make your content accessible.