Organised by global e-learning producer, Tata Interactive Systems (TIS), the invited delegates were drawn from senior learning executives from the public and private sectors along with leading educational publishers – including HM Treasury, the Office of National Statistics and Hertfordshire County Council, British Airways, Legal & General and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Oxford University Press and Hodder Murray.
Speaking at the conference, Sue Garrett, ICT/ILT development officer at The Royal National College for the Blind (RNC), a specialist further education college, with some 200 students – all of whom are residential, said: “Accessibility and usability cannot be divorced.
“Usability focuses on making software, websites and online materials and applications easy for people to use. Accessibility focuses on making them equally easy for everyone to use, including people who may use assistive technologies such as screen readers.
“Making e-learning accessible to those with disabilities should enhance the experience for all learners, if only because the developers of that e-learning will be thinking more about the learning materials they are developing,” she added.
“Indeed, it might be preferable in e-learning programmes to refer to learners’ ‘preferences’ rather than to issues of ‘accessibility’. After all, this whole issue is about how each learner wants to work through the learning materials.”
Sal Cooke, the head of TechDis, an educational advisory service, working across the UK, in the fields of accessibility and inclusion, said: “Of course, every situation is different and every accessibility solution is individual.
“There are many factors to take into account: place, time, teaching resources, staffing, context, emotional state and so on. The circumstances under which material is delivered affect the way an individual can access it – and whether something is ‘accessible’ can only be judged at the point of delivery.”
After a lively panel session – where Sue Garrett and Sal Cooke were joined by TIS’s Wendy Weller-Davies and Helen Fox – the delegates agreed that they would like to attend further, similar events.
According to Alan Samuel, head of TIS in the UK: “As a result, TIS has agreed to organise a similar one day conference early in the New Year, along with establishing a ‘working group’ of delegates to ‘network’ and exchange ideas and best practice on a more informal basis. TIS will work with client organisations to conduct workshops to define accessibility guidelines and standards, as requested.
“Of course, these one day conferences and workshops have an annual focus in the Tata Learning Forum (TLF) – a worldwide series of conferences for key top executives in the field of learning which are organised by TIS,” he added. “The next TLF – following TLFs in Boston, USA, and Sydney, Australia, is scheduled for London in April 2006.”
About Tata Interactive Systems (TIS)
Tata Interactive Systems (TIS) is a global pioneer in e-learning. A part of the £7bn Tata Group – one of the largest and most trusted business conglomerates in India, TIS has 15 years of experience in designing and developing innovative and cutting-edge e-learning solutions.
TIS employs a global team of 850 multi-disciplinary specialists – a unique mix of project managers, software engineers, instructional designers, content developers, visual designers and animators. Its service bouquet includes Simulations, Systems Training, New Hire Training, Business Processes and Skills Training, Regulatory and Compliance Training, Sales and Customer Service Training, Adaptive Assessments, Story-based Learning Objects and EPSS. Powered by creative talent, sound processes and technological excellence, TIS has developed over 950 e-learning solutions for more than 300 clients – including 50 Fortune 500 companies – across the UK, Europe, US, Australia and Asia. Its client roster includes leading corporations, renowned educational institutions and government bodies such as British Airways, BECTA, Citibank, Colgate-Palmolive, ExxonMobil, GlaxoSmithKline, HP, McGraw-Hill, NHS, ntl, Orange, Pearson Education, Qwest, Royal Mail, Swiss Re, UNICEF, University of Phoenix, University of Maryland and Vodafone.
Apart from holding ISO 9001 and BS7799 certification, TIS is the only e-learning organisation in the world to be assessed at Level 5 in both the SEI CMM and P-CMM frameworks. TIS’s quest for excellence is reflected in 23 prestigious industry awards, including BETT 2004 Best Product Award, Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning Awards in 2004 and 2005, APEX 2004 Award of Excellence and being shortlisted for the ‘Team of the Year’ in the UK’s E-Learning Awards.
About the Tata Group
The Tata Group, established in 1904 by the great visionary Jamsetji Tata, is one of India’s largest and most trusted business houses. The group pioneered the industrial revolution in India by founding, among other things, the first steel plant, power plant and chain of luxury hotels.
The Group employs more than 220,000 people in 91 companies across diversified industry sectors including steel, automobiles, cement, telecom and IT. Generating revenues to the tune of $17.8bn (some £10bn) per year – 2.9 per cent of India’s total GDP – it is recognised as a leader in several industry segments such as such as steel, power, software exports and chemicals. It is also the parent company to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Asia’s largest software producer.