In using social media tools for learning (or anything else), one thing I think we often forget is the issue of accessibility. And by that, I don't mean in terms of issues like having access to a computer or broadband, although those are issues as well.
Currently I'm working with two different clients who work with individuals with disabilities and one of the things we're grappling with is how accessible these tools are. For many of their consumers, web-based technologies have been a God-send that has helped them access information, resources and communities of support they never would have dreamed possible a few years ago. Opportunities for teleworking, online learning and self-employment have also exploded.
But for some people, especially those with visual or cognitive impairments (including brain injury and learning disabilities), social media and the Web can be a mixed bag. One one project, for example, we've had problems with one of our team members, who is blind, being able to use our group wiki with JAWS, a tool that many people with visual impairments use to surf the web. I've also heard some individuals from the brain injury community complaining about use of Flash and how difficult it is to navigate through some sites. And let's not forget the large numbers of people who have learning disabilities.
This has all been a real eye-opener for me, so I've been doing some research into accessibility issues and wanted to share a few resources.
- 100 Killer Web Accessibility Resources: Blogs, Forums and Tutorials--Resources on general accessibility, as well as for individuals with specific disabilities, such as visual impairments and epilepsy.
- Accessify--News, tools, etc. related to accessibility. Shows you how to do things like easy closed-captioning for YouTube videos, as well as providing some useful tools for development.
- Access eLearning--a tutorial of the Georgia Tech Research on Accessible Distance Education (GRADE) project at Georgia Tech. Includes 10 modules.
- Designing Web Content that is Accessible to Users with Cognitive Disabilities--This webcast provides information on cognitive accessibility research conducted by NCDAE and others, and overviews and provides strategies for addressing the most common web accessibility issues for users with cognitive and learning disabilities.
- TARGET Center Discovery Series--a whole series of webinars on issues such as making accessible PDF files and emails with file attachments. Also a bunch of webinars on ergonomics and the home office.
- For Twitter--Accessible Twitter and TwInbox have both been recommended to me. The latter lets you use Twitter from Microsoft Outlook. This post on Twitter for Those Who Can't Talk or Type is also eye-opening.
I'm still learning a lot myself, so if this is something you have experience in, I would love to get your feedback and links to the resources you use and find to be helpful.