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Students with disabilities

  • 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

    The exploration of social artifacts for the disabled is an important and timely issue. The affordances of new technologies like the Semantic Web allow more intelligent handling of educational learning resources that open up the potential of personalisation of services to individuals. Contemporary legislation calls for “reasonable adjustments” and “reasonable accommodation” to be made to services in order to accommodate the needs of disabled people. Here, the authors examine, from a design perspective, how this might be done in the context of higher education. Specifically, they advocate a design based upon an ontology-based personalisation of learning resources to deliver to students’ real needs. To this end, so far little effort has been directed towards disabled students in higher education. The authors note some of the problems and issues with online assistive/adaptive technologies and propose a methodological fix. Here, they propose an ontology-based methodology for a Semantic Web community of agents that personalises learning resources to disabled students in higher education, specifically highlighting a disability-aware Semantic Web agency development methodology. The authors also present the results of usability evaluation of the implemented visual interface with some disabled and non-disabled students.


    Nganji, J.T. and Brayshaw, M. (2013). Designing Personalised Learning Resources for Disabled Students Using an Ontology-Driven Community of Agents. In P. Isaias, & M. Baptista Nunes (Eds.), Information Systems Research and Exploring Social Artifacts: Approaches and Methodologies (pp. 81-102). Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference. doi:10.4018/978-1-4666-2491-7.ch00. [Link to Book Chapter]

  • 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,

  • 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]

  • Abstract

    The number of students with disabilities in UK higher education institutions increases every year. Delivering education online is becoming increasingly challenging as institutions encounter some disabilities requiring adjustments of learning environments. The law requires that people with disabilities be given equivalent learning experiences to their non-disabled peers through “reasonable adjustments”. Educational institutions have thus utilised assistive technologies to assist disabled students in their learning, but some of these technologies are incompatible with some learning environments, hence excluding some disabled students and resulting in a disability divide. To solve this problem, amongst other solutions, e-learning personalisation has been used and more recently, this is also achieved using Semantic Web technologies such as ontologies. Nevertheless, as ontologies are incorporated into learning environments little seems to be done to personalise learning for some disabled students. This study, in order to bridge the gap, proposes a personalisation approach based on a disability ontology containing information on various disabilities encountered in higher education, which can be used to present disabled students with learning resources relevant and suitable for their specific needs.


    Nganji, J.T., Brayshaw, M. and Tompsett, B. (2011). Ontology-Based E-Learning Personalisation for Disabled Students in Higher Education. Innovation in Teaching and Learning in Information and Computer Sciences, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp. 1-11. [Link to article]

  • Abstract

    Disability legislations such as the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, 2005 and Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 call on service providers to make “reasonable adjustments” and “reasonable accommodation” respectively to their services in order to accommodate the needs of disabled people. Higher education institutions as service providers can respond through their services. Nevertheless, there is an increasing challenge in using digital media to deliver services due to the numerous problems associated with inaccessibility of some online systems with assistive/adaptive technologies. Personalisation is a solution to such problems as it provides content to students based on their needs. However, very little of such personalisation has been targeted towards disabled students and hence, this paper proposes an ontology approach for a semantic web community of agents that personalises services to disabled students in higher education. We present the architecture of such an agency, including a disability-aware semantic web agency development methodology and also present the ADOOLES ontology employed for such personalisation.


    Nganji, J.T., and Brayshaw, M. (2011). Towards an Ontology-Based Community of Agents for Personalisation of Services for Disabled Students. In: Blashki, K. (Ed.). Proceedings of the IADIS International Conference Interfaces and Human Computer Interaction (IHCI 2011), 24-26 July 2011, Rome, Italy, pp. 193-200. [Link to article PDF]

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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