Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Information Technology

School

School of Computer and Security Science

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Justin Brown

Abstract

Governments and organizations have to respond to a range of legislative and policy initiatives intended to promote equal opportunity for all. The Thai government has passed a number of laws which aim to protect its citizens from discrimination and from breaches of their human rights by government departments and agencies. The Persons with Disabilities Education Act B.E. 2551 (2008) and the Thailand Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Policy Framework (2011-2020) required government agencies to delivery equal education and access to online information for all Thais. Most Thai universities receive government subsidies, and therefore have an obligation to contribute to national prosperity so that all Thais can benefit from their activities, or as the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology and The National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (2011, p. 23) states “The creation of content, database, online content which promotes lifelong learning, the development of school websites and other digital content should follow the web accessibility standard”. Given the Thai government’s commitment to lifelong learning and the creation of accessible materials, this thesis sought to investigate to what level Thai universities were implementing web accessibility in their websites and e-learning materials.

A mixed method approach was employed in order to explore the level of accessibility awareness, barriers to web accessibility implementation and possible drivers for accessibility uptake which might exist within Thai universities. Quantitative data derived from automated and manual web evaluations was gathered based on WCAG 2.0 guideline in order to determine the actual levels of accessible design apparent in Thai university websites. Fifty representative universities were selected from the top ranked Thai universities and a number webpages were tested from within each of the university websites. In addition, online surveys were conducted with three stakeholder groups within the Thai university sector, namely lecturers, web staff and senior managers. These surveys were design to set the context for quantitative website assessment findings and provide evidence as to these stakeholders understanding of web accessibility as a concept. Finally, follow-up interviews were conducted after the web assessments and surveys were analysed so as to reduce ambiguity and increase understanding, creating a very clear picture of the standing of web accessibility in Thailand’s universities.

The findings of the data analysis indicate that Thai universities have low levels of web accessibility implementation in their websites and e-learning materials, even though web accessibility requirements had been embedded in Thai laws and policies for over a decade. In terms of web evaluation, the university webpages had accessibility problems across all aspects of WCAG 2.0’s POUR principles, with not a single tested webpage passing even the lowest level of WCAG 2.0 compliance. The survey and interview data revealed very low levels of awareness of web accessibility amongst Thai university staff members as well as lack of knowledge regarding students with disabilities and their specialised technology needs.

Whilst Thai university staff were generally supportive of the concept of web accessibility and supporting students with special needs, this was accompanied by some less supportive views, including students with disabilities being taught only in specialised educational facilities or only where there were sufficient numbers of such students to make the investment in accessibility worthwhile. A number of universities in this study featured university admission requirements which could be classed as a discriminatory and not aligned with the requirements of the Thai government. In fact, this thesis revealed an almost total lack of awareness within the Thai university sector of Thai government policy regarding web accessibility and equality in education.

This thesis proposed a Smart Thailand : Accessible Learning model and an associated implementation framework which together might lead to an environment in which Thai universities would be more willing and able to implement the tenets of web accessibility and provide an equitable learning experience for all Thai citizens, especially those with disabilities.

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