Disability-aware systems

  • Abstract

    With the proliferation of information technology devices also comes a massive increase in the number of information systems that are developed to meet the demands of users. By default, designers and developers of information systems tend to design for users without disabilities. The consequences for people with disabilities are enormous. This chapter aims to propose a disability-aware approach to information systems design that advocates that stakeholders consider the needs of people with disabilities throughout development. This aim is achieved by reviewing some of the difficulties encountered by people with disabilities when interacting with information systems, proposing a disability-aware approach and examining how this could be practically implemented through e-learning design. The recommendations from 48 students with disabilities from two universities in the United Kingdom and Canada are presented. The chapter also looks at possible future research for those interested in pursuing such approach.

    Nganji, J. T. (2018). A Disability-Aware Mentality to Information Systems Design and Development. In M. Khosrow-Pour, D.B.A. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Fourth Edition(pp. 314-324). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. doi:10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch028 [Link to Encyclopedia article]
  • Abstract

    Disabled students in higher education are faced with a lot of difficulties accessing learning resources when e-learning systems are inaccessible. When instructional designers and developers of e-learning systems overlook the needs of disabled students, this leads to exclusion in what is termed disability divide. This paper reviews some disabilities encountered in higher education and assistive technologies used in accessing e-learning environments and presents disabled students’ recommendations on designing inclusive e-learning systems, obtained during the user evaluation of a disability-aware e-learning software. It is hoped that these recommendations would be adopted by designers and developers of e-learning and web-based systems so that they can meet the needs of disabled students.


    Nganji, J.T. (2012). Designing Disability-Aware E-Learning Systems: Disabled Students’ Recommendations. International Journal of Advanced Science and Technology, Volume 48, pp. 61-70. [Link to article]

  • Abstract

    Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to address how virtual learning environments (VLEs) can be designed to include the needs of learners with multiple disabilities. Specifically, it employs AI to show how specific learning materials from a huge repository of learning materials can be recommended to learners with various disabilities. This is made possible through employing semantic web technology to model the learner and their needs.

    Design/methodology/approach: The paper reviews personalised learning for students with disabilities, revealing the shortcomings of existing e-learning environments with respect to students with multiple disabilities. It then proceeds to show how the needs of a student with multiple disabilities can be analysed and then simple logical operators and knowledge-based rules used to personalise learning materials in order to meet the needs of such students.

    Findings: It has been acknowledged in literature that designing for cases of multiple disabilities is difficult. This paper shows that existing learning environments do not consider the needs of students with multiple disabilities. As they are not flexibly designed and hence not adaptable, they cannot meet the needs of such students. Nevertheless, it is possible to anticipate that students with multiple disabilities would use learning environments, and then design learning environments to meet their needs.

    Practical implications: This paper, by presenting various combination rules to present specific learning materials to students with multiple disabilities, lays the foundation for the design and development of learning environments that are inclusive of all learners, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. This could potentially stimulate designers of such systems to produce such inclusive environments. Hopefully, future learning environments will be adaptive enough to meet the needs of learners with multiple disabilities.

    Social implications: This paper, by proposing a solution towards developing inclusive learning environments, is a step towards inclusion of students with multiple disabilities in VLEs. When these students are able to access these environments with little or no barrier, they will be included in the learning community and also make valuable contributions.

    Originality/value: So far, no study has proposed a solution to the difficulties faced by students with multiple disabilities in existing learning environments. This study is the first to raise this issue and propose a solution to designing for multiple disabilities. This will hopefully encourage other researchers to delve into researching the educational needs of students with multiple disabilities.



    Julius T. NganjiMike Brayshaw, (2017) "Disability-aware adaptive and personalised learning for students with multiple disabilities", The International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, Vol. 34 Issue: 4, pp.307-321, https://doi.org/10.1108/IJILT-08-2016-0027

  • Abstract

    Existing virtual learning environments (VLEs) in educational institutions are not designed with the expectation that students with disabilities will use them. Consequently, retrieving relevant information by some students with disabilities is a challenging task. The focus of this study was to propose the design of VLEs to incorporate ontologies that facilitate information retrieval by students with disabilities in their learning, thus serving as a semantic web-based assistive technology in education. An Ontology-Driven Disability-Aware Personalised E-Learning System (ONTODAPS) was designed and then used to recommend specific learning materials to learners based on their learning goal and disability type. Preliminary results of the evaluation of ONTODAPS, by 30 students with disabilities, indicate that 70% of the participants found ONTODAPS to offer a better personalisation, better access to learning materials (68%) and is easier to use (63%) in retrieving learning materials than Sakai. Thus ONTODAPS serves as an assistive tool in their education through retrieval of relevant learning materials in a suitable format which is compatible with their disability.


    Nganji, J.T., Brayshaw, M. (2015). Facilitating Learning Resource Retrieval for Students with Disabilities through an Ontology- Driven and Disability-Aware Virtual Learning Environment. International Journal of Information Retrieval Research (IJIRR), Volume 5, Issue 3, pp. 75-98. [Link to Article]

Julius T. Nganji's Profile


Julius T. Nganji, PhD

Researcher, passionate about digital accessibility & usability and improving user experience.

Adjunct Lecturer

Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy
Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto



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