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Access: Ensuring and Assuring #1

It is now quite clear that producing a distance/e-learning course can only be possible if traditional support mechanisms are also in place. Particularly with reference to the electronic side of things, technology issues and assistive technology vs. inaccessible websites creates a definite need for telephone/real life interaction. For a screen reader user who is having difficulties getting through to WebCT to begin with, let alone reach the course, there must be an assured point of contact who is readily available. Presently in University structures this is only possible during business-hours. If we are to view e-learning as expanding beyond old-style norms then this no longer becomes satisfactory. Most students who pursue part-time study will do so out of hours, and so the support structures are required to adapt to provide this service. The alternative is students with particular needs ending up being at the end of a delayed and asychronous support process, which impacts on studies and is perhaps discriminatory (regardless of whether disability is involved).

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