ICS Article

Dear All,

I am very happy to inform you that our abstract has been accepted for the special issue of Information, Communication & Society. I have attached the abstract here as background.

What I will need to collate for the article  from each of our countries are

  1. different disability profiles

how do different impairment types break down in the students body, both absolutely and as a proportion of students with disables in HE. What are rates of enrolments and completion for students with disabilities?

  1. approaches to online learning

both overall and in relation to disability access

  1. national and institutional regulatory policies and laws

As these relate to access for students with disabilities in HE and in online learning in general

  1. attitudes and approaches to students with disabilities

Here specifically focusing on higher education and eLearning, but also more generally.

My plan at this stage is for each of us to prepare a brief based on our own national and institutional setting that addresses these points (where there are a group of you in the same country of region please feel free to reach out and collaborate. If I could ask for a draft of these by December, I will try to put together a draft outline of the article to circulate before the end of the year. As you can see below the article is due with the journal editors by the start of February, so this will give us some time to refine it once all the information is together.

I am looking forward to working with you all on this first publication for the larger comparative study, and very pleased that we will be able to present it to a journal of the calibre of ICS.

As always please feel free to contact me with any questions comments or suggestions.

All the best,



Article Abstract for Digital Economies of Disability special issue of Information, Communications & Society


Disability and eLearning – Global Perspectives

Mike Kent, Katie Ellis & Deepti Azariah, Curtin University;

Maha Bali, The American University in Cairo;

Ashley Cwikla, Harvard University;

Simon Darcy, University of Technology, Sydney;

Yota Dimiitriadi, University of Reading;

G. Anthony Giannoumis Oslo and Akershus University of Applied Sciences;

Eulàlia Hernández, Elena Barberà Gregori & Maria Galofré Olsina, Open University of Catalonia;

Loredana Ivan The National School of Political Studies and Public Administration

Anlia Pretorius, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Elisabeth Raddock - Umeå University;

Kudzai Shava & Barbara Podzo, Reformed Church University;

Louisa Smith, University of New South Wales;

Maria Sourbati, University of Brighton;


There has been a rapid growth in the popularity and availability of eLearning in higher education. In the ten years from 2002 to 2012 the number of students in the United States taking at least one unit online increased from 1.6 million to 7.1 million (Allen & Seaman, 2014). This was before the subsequent growth in online education presented through the development of massive open online courses or MOOCs (Bennett & Kent 2017). eLearning can be an attractive option for students with disabilities (see Dobransky & Hargittai, 2006; Fitchten, Ferraro, Asuncion, Chwojka, Barile, Nguyen, Klomp, & Wolforth, 2009; Kent, 2015a; Kent, 2015b; Kent 2016; Roberts, Crittenden & Crittenden, 2011). It allows students greater flexibility with how they engage with the learning process, a greater level of accessability for learning materials, and greater levels of control over disclosure of their disabilities (Kent 2015a).

Despite these affordances there are still challenges presented by eLearning for students with disabilities. Educational material is not always provided in accessible formats or with regard to the requirements of students with disabilities (Kelly 2009; Roberts, Crittenden & Crittenden, 2011). There is also the danger that once students with disabilities move online they are rendered invisible, potentially creating additional barriers to access through lack of awareness (Kent, 2015a; Kent, 2015b). Studies have shown that students are reluctant to disclose that they have a disability, even if this means that they are unable access learning materials (Roberts, Crittenden & Crittenden 2011)

This paper presents an international comparison of access to eLearning for students with disabilities. It brings together perspectives from Australia, Zimbabwe, United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Spain, United States, South Africa, Romania, and Egypt to explore different approaches and attributes to eLearning and the inclusion of students with disabilities to this form of higher education. The article will examine the different disability profiles in higher education in different countries. It will then explore the different approaches to online learning, national and institutional regulatory policies and laws and attitudes and approaches to students with disabilities in each of these countries. Through this comparison it will illustrate how the digital economy of higher education is being utilised in each setting, and the consequences for the inclusion of people with disabilities.


Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2014). Grade change: Tracking online education in the United States. Babson Survey Research Group, January. Retrieved from http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/gradechange.pdf

Bennett, R., & Kent, M. (eds) (2017). Massive Open Online Courses and Higher Education: What went right, what went wrong, and where to next? New York: Routledge.

Dobransky, K., & Hargittai, E. (2006). The disability divide in internet access and use. Information Communication and Society, 9(3), 309-311.

Fitchten, C. S., Ferraro, V., Asuncion, J. V., Chwojka, C., Barile, M., Nguyen, M. N., Klomp, R., & Wolforth, J. (2009). Disabilities and e-learning problems and solutions: An exploratory study. Educational Technology & Society, 12(4), 241-256. Retrieved from http://www.adaptech.org/cfichten/abDisabilitiesAndE-LearningProblems.pdf

Kelly, S. M. (2009). Distance learning: How accessible are online educational tools. Paper presented at the Equal Access to Software and Information Webinar, February.

Kent, M. (2016). Access and barriers to online education for people with disabilities. Perth, Western Australia: National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education. https://www.ncsehe.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Access-and-Barriers-to-Online-Education-for-People-with-Disabilities.pdf

Kent, M. (2015a). Disability and eLearning: Opportunities and barriers. Disability Studies Quarterly, 35(1). Retrieved from http://dsq-sds.org/article/view/3815/3830

Kent, M. (2015b). Disability, mental illness, and eLearning: Invisible behind the screen? The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy, 8.

Roberts, J. B., Crittenden, L. A., & Crittenden, J. C. (2011). Students with disabilities and online learning: A cross-institutional study of perceived satisfaction with accessibility compliance and services. Internet and Higher Education, 14, 242-250.