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Physical Access - Diverse Learners


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Diverse Learners

The overall intent of the UDI Online Project is to support the concept of “faculty as designer” in implementing innovative instructional practices in online and blended courses to meet the needs of diverse learners. The term diverse learners refers to students with mild cognitive disabilities such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

Learning Disability is a specific type of disability that has multiple definitions. The most relevant definition for postsecondary level students and adults comes from the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD, 1998) which defines learning disability (LD) as “a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical skills. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual, presumed to be due to a central nervous system dysfunction, and may occur across the life span. Although learning disabilities may occur concomitantly with other disabilities (e.g., sensory impairment, mental retardation, serious emotional disturbance), or with extrinsic influences (such as cultural differences, insufficient or inappropriate instruction), they are not the result of those conditions or influences.”

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurobiological disability with characteristics of inattention, impulsivity, or hyperactivity that appears in early childhood, is relatively chronic in nature, and is not due to other physical, mental, or emotional causes (Center for Students with Disabilities, www.csd.uconn.edu). According the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV, 1994), "the essential feature of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequent and severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development" (p. 78). The subtypes of this disorder vary according to the predominant symptom pattern (i.e., inattention, hyperactivity-impulsivity, or a combination of these characteristics).

 

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed). Washington, DC: Author.

Center for Students with Disabilities. (n.d.). Disability information: Students with attention-deficit disorder (ADD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). University of Connecticut, Storrs. Accessed on May 27, 2010 http://www.csd.uconn.edu/fs_add_adhd.html

National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD). (1998). Learning Disabilities: Issues on definition. Asha, 33. (Suppl. 5), 18-20.

 

Functional Limitations that May Impact Physical Access

According to the American with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008, the definition of disability is:

  • Having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  • Having a record of such an impairment; or
  • Being regarded as having such an impairment.

Listed in the ADAAA, major life activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Seeing
  • Walking
  • Bending
  • Breathing
  • Learning

Mobility is the physical and psychological ability to move about from place to place inside and outside the home compared to people with normal mobility (Center for Students with Disabilities, 2009). Physical Access in an online or technology blended course takes on a slightly different slant, in that the focus is not on mobility rather accessibility. According to the W3C organization, there are four principles of accessibility. Anyone who wants to use the Web must have content that is:

  1. Perceivable - Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive. This means that users must be able to perceive the information being presented (it can't be invisible to all of their senses).
  2. Operable - User interface components and navigation must be operable. This means that users must be able to operate the interface (the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform).
  3. Understandable - Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable. This means that users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface (the content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding).
  4. Robust - Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. This means that users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible).

If any of these are not true, users with disabilities will not be able to use the Web (W3C, 2008).

 

Physical Access in an online or technology blended course includes:

  • Navigating course sites or web sites (scrolling, tracking, clicking).
  • Display of course content (print, audio, visual, video).
  • Multiple formats (text, captioning).

 

Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008, PL 110-325, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq.

Center for Students with Disabilities. (n.d.). Disability information: Students with attention-deficit disorder (ADD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). University of Connecticut, Storrs. Accessed on May 27, 2010 http://www.csd.uconn.edu/fs_add_adhd.html

W3C. (2008) Introduction to understanding WCAG 2.0. Accessed on June 10, 2010 http://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/intro.html#introduction-fourpr...

 

Scenarios Involving Faculty and Diverse Learners:

 

The following scenario(s) are based on real experiences involving student(s) and/or faculty at the postsecondary level.  Each scenario was developed to provide a broad example of situations that diverse learners, such as those with learning disabilities, may experience in college level courses, or that faculty may experience working with these students.  However, the specific characteristics and needs of students with disabilities will vary from person to person and from situation to situation. The solutions offered here should be used as guidance only.

  • You are teaching an online course that requires students to go to an external webpage to complete a learning module. Students must go to the site, register, take a pre-quiz, and then follow several steps to complete the module. This requires a significant amount of navigation through the web site. One of your students contacts you and explains that he can get to the site, but isn’t sure where to go to register and follow the next sequence of steps.

    Possible e-Tools to consider in addressing learning need: Jing, Camtasia

  • You are putting together your reading list for an online course that you will be teaching in a few months. You have listed several readings (journal articles, PDF manuscripts, and Internet resources) for each week on your syllabus. You know that students taking this online course are situated at varying locations around the country. You are concerned that some students may have difficulty accessing your reading list documents from their site, especially if their library database is limited.

    Possible e-Tools to consider in addressing learning need: Hyperlinks, Feeds, Google Reader

  • Jill, a student in your online social science course, contacts you via e-mail regarding required reading on a web site. Jill is having difficulty reading the text heavy pages on the web site. Jill explains that she has difficulty tracking from one sentence to another due to her learning disability, which is compounded by the extensive scrolling required to read down the web pages. Jill has attempted to print the web site; however, due to the layout of the site, content is lost during printing. You would like to assist Jill with having a successful learning experience in your class.

    Possible e-Tools to consider in addressing learning need: Camtasia, Jing, Audacity, Adobe Acrobat Pro – Commenting

  • Dr. Connelly is teaching an online microeconomics course. He has planned to incorporate several graphs and diagrams in his course material demonstrating various economic theories. Dr. Connelly plans to include in-depth explanations to describe the functions of the graphs. However, he is concerned about the overall display of the graphs – colors, shading, fonts, as well as, providing only a written explanation.

    Possible e-Tools to consider in addressing learning need: Camtasia, YouTube, JingAudacityAdobe Acrobat Pro – Commenting

 

Research: Link to Bibliography