Accessible IT practice: Nutshell notes:
Theme: word processing
Why does it matter?
Word-processing is the fundamental skill most teaching practitioners will have developed to some extent. Generally this will involve creating handouts, revision aids and assignments. Word processed documents can create a number of accessibility barriers:
; They are often used in a relatively passive way which can be difficult for
people with concentration difficulties.
; They can be text heavy, making them difficult for people with literacy difficulties
(for example dyslexia, English as a second language.
; It can be difficult for some people to pick out the key points in a long document. ; It can be difficult to find specific information for people with poor skim reading
; They can be difficult to read for people requiring higher text sizes. When word processed documents are used online they can be used much more interactively, they can be supported by audio, navigated via the document map view, magnified as required and rapidly searched for key information. They can be accessed by assistive technologies, transformed to mindmap, refreshable Braille or audio.
Who in the organisation needs to be aware?
Everybody in the organisation needs to be aware of good practice in accessible word processing, from Admin staff to marketing staff and teaching/learning practitioners. ; Administrative staff - from producing meetings of minutes to governors
reports, staff in administrative functions need to know how to produce
; Marketing staff – many marketing materials - from website to prospectus -
start life in a word processed format. Good practices such as heading styles
need built-in at this first stage.
; Staff developers – word processing training is often based on skills needed
for people working in an office rather than working with learners. ; Teaching and learning practitioners - learning experiences can be
significantly enhanced by using documents that either have maximum
accessibility for the text or go beyond takes to include media and interactivity.
; Network managers - maximising the inclusion of word processed documents
may have implications for the file storage space staff require, the hardware
available at PC terminals (for example soundcards) and the integration of third-
party tools such as mind manager software.
; Learning support staff - Learning support teams need to be able to advise
learners on the inbuilt accessibility tools in word processors and word
What are the key things I should know?
; Word documents online can have much higher accessibility than their printed
; Where word processors are used to create text-dominant resources, a few
simple skills can transform the accessibility of the resource for dyslexic,
visually impaired, deaf and motor impaired users.
; Word processors can be used to create interactive resources that are suitable
for group collaboration.
; Word processors can be used for tasks that focus on particular skills (for
example sequencing the arguments in an essay), creating resources that are
quick and easy to mark yet provide highly effective skill development for
; Sequencing, mix and match activities and audio support can all be embedded
into Word documents.
What are the links I should explore?
Accessibility essentials 2, creating accessible documents.
Staff Pack - Benevolent Bill: What Microsoft Does for Accessibility Accessibility potential of word processing software
In the resources folder you can find samples in different folders illustrating different inclusion opportunities.
; Using drag and drop: all these examples exploit the way text boxes and
images can be dragged across a page (provided the layout properties are set
appropriately – e.g. Tight or In Front of Text). This provides many inclusion
benefits because activities can be based more on thinking skills rather than
writing skills. These activities can be developed across a wide range of ability
levels from independent travel training (traveltraining.doc with images
obtained from Google Street view) to sophisticated evaluation activities
(Hair_Beautyprocedure.doc). They can involve simple convergent activities
(Catering_glasses.doc) or sophisticated open ended group activities
(Politics_rank_justify.doc). They can require no writing
(Cell_drag_drop.doc) or significant writing (woodland_niches.doc). Drag
and drop activities add significant value for most learners but are unsuitable for blind people and can be difficult for people with motor control problems.