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BCS improves accessibility of IT training for people with disabilities

Justin Richards

The BCS is breaking new ground in helping people with disabilities take IT qualifications, and in certifying the external agencies that provide assistance to these users.

Over the past three years, the society has built up a wide network of external agencies that are helping to make training materials and tests for the European computer driving licence (ECDL) end-user qualification more accessible.

The BCS has introduced a quality mark to award to ECDL automated test providers that achieve certain standards of accessibility for people with disabilities.

An automated test provider can be awarded up to a maximum of three stars if they meet criteria for supporting people with impaired vision. For example, the BCS looks at whether they provide:

  • Additional time to complete the test
  • A readability score for the test material
  • Compatibility with a screen reader package

“We believe that this quality mark is a unique innovation by an awarding body in the UK,” said Derek Mills, technical customer support adviser in the BCS’s ECDL business unit.

The quality mark has been welcomed by automated test providers. One of them is already going through the evaluation process and is close to achieving the maximum three stars, said the BCS.

The society is planning to expand the initiative to include a fourth star, which would denote a language-modified approach for the deaf and hard of hearing.

The society commissioned the Royal National College for the Blind to produce papers in large print, audio and Braille formats for the manual test questions. These can be ordered online at no additional cost to the test centre.

The BCS Qualifications Quality Mark can also be awarded to other organisations that support accessibility initiatives. They will be judged on their technical support, online training materials, and improving the accessibility of the manual test materials. Awards have already been made in each of the three categories and the BCS expects more awards to be made in the near future.

The BCS said it is committed to social inclusivity with regards to its qualifications. It has approached this matter on three fronts: training materials, testing and tutor training.

Although it already works in partnership with a large number of agencies, the BCS is keen to interact with other IT professionals and organisations with expertise in disability matters. It can be contacted via www.bcs.org.

 

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