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.
; Using drop-down forms: these examples exploit the ability to add form fields, in particular the drop down form field. In Word 2007 this is in the Developer Ribbon under Controls group and LegacyTools. In earlier versions of Word this is found (rather more intuitively) under Insert > Field. Please note drop-down
forms only work on a protected document so it is not possible to combine drag and drop activities with a drop-down form activity since letter requires the document being locked. From and inclusion perspective, drop-down forms allow you to create cloze exercises without dyslexic learners being disadvantaged. They can be used equally well for simple true/false exercises (dr_downelectrolytic.doc), language drill (germ_pron2.doc), multiple choice
(Business_Herzberg.doc) or reinforcement of technical terms
(ecology_cloze.doc). They can be used very effectively with images
(wd_satellite.doc). Although cloze exercises are usually rather low level learning, a little bit of creativity (see part two of dr_downelectrolytic.doc) can
add significantly to the quality of the exercise. This technique is accessible by screen reader users.
; Using hyperlinks: hyperlinks are excellent for providing differentiation because the same document can point people to additional resources to suit different abilities or learning preferences. A hyperlink in a word document has the optional property of a pop-up screen tip. This gives the opportunity to add an extra layer of. These points are well exemplified in farinaceousfood.doc.
; Using screen tips: using the trick with hyperlinks outlined above, it is possible to add dummy hyperlinks onto objects drawn over points of interest on an image. This way when the user moves their mouse over these image hotspots they get additional information in context. The image hotspots can have colour turned off, making them invisible. This requires the learner to actively seek parts of the image where they expect to find them (Coastal_erosion.doc).
Alternatively, the outline may be left on so the user knows where to look (National dishes.doc) or a pop-up can be attached to simple labels
(SouthamptonWater.doc). The use of screen tips on images adds
considerable accessibility value for most people by putting the description/explanation in context. Blind users or those with motor difficulties would find this task difficult.
; Using sound: sound is very easy to insert in a document. It can be used to
supplement existing resources by aiding pronunciation of technical terms
(earlylife2.doc) or it can be used to rapidly create an activity that is light on
text but high on cognitive demand (Goldencap.doc). By inserting sound clips
into movable text boxes you can create mix and match dialogues
; Using styles: documents formatted using styles (inbuilt heading levels) are
much more accessible because they can be easily navigated in document map
view or in a screen reader. They can also be exported to mindmaps.
AddingAccessibility_str.doc and hairBackground_str.doc have both been
formatted using styles. View these in document map mode and then compare
them with the unstructured versions (AddingAccessibility_unstr.doc etc). If you
have mind manager software try exporting the structured and unstructured
versions to mindmaps and compare the difference. If you have mindmap
software try exporting the structured versions.
Developing exam skills: by combining different techniques as above it is possible to create imaginative exercises to focus on specific exam skills. These can vary from interpreting tables (Dates_trend.doc) to collating arguments (RS_Report_task.doc)
and resequencing essays (essay_restructuring_History.doc). In this way, quite
granular skills can be imparted, a particular benefit for students with dyslexia.