Academic journal article International Education Studies

Assessment of Web Content Accessibility Levels in Spanish Official Online Education Environments

Academic journal article International Education Studies

Assessment of Web Content Accessibility Levels in Spanish Official Online Education Environments

Article excerpt

Abstract

Diversity-based designing, or the goal of ensuring that web-based information is accessible to as many diverse users as possible, has received growing international acceptance in recent years, with many countries introducing legislation to enforce it. This paper analyses web content accessibility levels in Spanish education portals according to the international guidelines established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). Additionally, it suggests the calculation of an inaccessibility rate as a tool for measuring the degree of non-compliance with WAI Guidelines 2.0 as well as illustrating the significant gap that separates people with disabilities from digital education environments (with a 7.77% average). A total of twenty-one educational web portals with two different web depth levels (42 sampling units) were assessed for this purpose using the automated analysis tool Web Accessibility Test 2.0 (TAW, for its initials in Spanish). The present study reveals a general trend towards non-compliance with the technical accessibility recommendations issued by the W3C-WAI group (97.62% of the websites examined present mistakes in Level A conformance). Furthermore, despite the increasingly high number of legal and regulatory measures about accessibility, their practical application still remains unsatisfactory. A greater level of involvement must be assumed in order to raise awareness and enhance training efforts towards accessibility in the context of collective Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), since this represents not only a necessity but also an ethical, social, political and legal commitment to be assumed by society.

Keywords: accessibility, disabilities, educational environment, eLearning, Internet

1. Introduction

1.1 Introduce the Problem

The ongoing evolution of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) stands out as one of the essential features of the Information Society (Castells, 2009), which provides easy access to global communication and allows us to talk through boundless information systems with no physical borders (Sangrà & Wheeler, 2013). This tendency to work with online environments rather than printed materials is certainly changing (Ali, Wahid, Samsudin & Idris, 2013). However, this is a change which requires constant adjustment. The temporal nature of knowledge requires a structure where training is replaced by staying up to date, that is, placing the latest developments within a real-time field (Aguirre & Manasía, 2007).

Access to ICTs makes it possible to obtain information and communication not only more safely and easily, but also more quickly, regardless of our physical location (Llanos de la Hoz, 2006). Moreover, ICTs offer persons with a disability an opportunity for coping with the challenges in communication and socialising that they often encounter in their day-to-day life (Aguaded-Gómez & Pérez-Rodríguez, 2012; Stendal, Balandin, & Molka-Danielsen, 2011). Nevertheless, gaining access to all these information and technology developments can actually represent a double-edged sword for people with disabilities: whilst the information is suddenly more accessible to many individuals, it can also raise barriers and severe obstacles for other users who cannot access much of the content - for instance, when basic accessibility principles do not apply (Fairweather & Trewin, 2010; Rodríguez & García, 2009). Hence the need for further research on the connection between people with disabilities and their way of accessing web content (Van Kraayenoord, 2010).

Accessibility is a very broad concept. According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), web accessibility means universal access to the Web regardless of the hardware, software or network infrastructure used and the language, culture, geographical location or abilities of users. Berners-Lee (2007) describes accessibility as "the art of ensuring that, to as large an extent as possible, facilities (such as, for example, Web access) are available to people whether or not they have impairments of one sort or another. …

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