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ADCET Webinar: 2018 Vision Australia Report - Online, but off-track

During this webinar, Bruce Maguire outlines and discusses the findings of Vision Australia’s research into the significant barriers to online learning experienced by university students who are blind or have low vision. 

Vision Australia. Blindness. Low Vision. Opportunity

In 2017 Vision Australia conducted survey-based research into the online learning experiences of university students who are blind or have low vision. 34 of the 35 respondents reported that experienced significant barriers when trying to use online learning environments, and in some cases these barriers prevented the students from completing their university studies.

The barriers were of three basic and often overlapping types:

  • Firstly, some online learning platforms do not comply with accessibility guidelines and standards, and so to that extent cannot be used by people who require assistive technologies such as screen-reading software.
  • Secondly, respondents reported that disability support staff often have little knowledge of how assistive technology interacts with the university’s online learning systems, and the nature of appropriate reasonable adjustments.
  • Thirdly, some respondents reported that course lecturers were unwilling to accommodate their needs, for example, by providing them with accessible versions of Powerpoint presentations or course notes.

Since publishing the findings of the research, Vision Australia has vigorously engaged with a range of stakeholders to discuss how these pervasive barriers can be addressed systemically by the university sector working collaboratively, and also by the adoption of best practices by individual universities. As universities are now increasingly using online course delivery, it is more important than ever that students who are blind or have low vision do not face barriers that will have a negative impact on their studies and future opportunities for employment and further education.


Bruce Maguire

Bruce Maguire. Lead Policy Advisor, Vision Australia. 

Bruce is blind and has a Master’s degree in Policy and Applied Social Research. Before joining Vision Australia in 2008, Bruce worked in the Disability Rights Unit at the Australian Human Rights Commission. He has also been Chair of the Australian Braille Authority and President of the Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities. He also led Vision Australia’s research project into barriers to online learning experienced by university students who are blind or have low vision.