Distance, Disability, and the Commodification of Education: Web Accessibility and the Construction of Knowledge

  • Alan Foley
Citations of this article
Mendeley users who have this article in their library.


The uses of Internet technology within educational settings reflect particular perspectives on a host of issues including ability, race, and learning styles, but are often not examined for their implicit ideological or epistemological foundations. Web accessibility (ensuring that web content is accessible to persons with disabilities), though laden with progressive intent, is increasingly connected to neo-liberal agendas within higher education. The delivery of instruction online, and the increased use of technology in all modes of instruction positions teachers and learners within particular discursive formations and mediates instruction in ways that privilege certain epistemologies. In the present article the concept of articulation is utilized to make sense of the diverse ideological and philosophical perspectives that find a nexus in web accessibility and that are analyzed vis-à-vis the increasing technologizing of instruction. As part of this analysis, distance education technology and web accessibility standards are discussed and the notion of "marketizing" disability is explored within the context of shifts toward online instruction. Introduction The increased use of technology in colleges and universities is fairly obvious to even the casual observer, but its integration into educational practice is changing both the fabric of distance education and traditional in-person, on campus course offerings. This change affects the ways students and teachers interact as well as the ways in which knowledge is constructed, pedagogies enacted, and certain types of knowledge are privileged. In addition to the mediation of instruction and the effects on teaching and learning directly attributable to technology (e.g. the disruption of the constraints of time and physical location), the evolution of technology in on-campus and distance education courses has the potential to exclude groups of students and faculty on the basis of disability. This exclusion emerges in a physical/material form -that of basic access to course materials bound up in technologies that are not usable for individuals with disabilities. It also emerges in a philosophical/ideological form in which understandings of disability both within the technology and its utilization are predicated on certain understandings of disability that preclude the full participation of all students. What makes web accessibility a particularly interesting issue is that it can be found at the confluence of several seemingly disparate forces within the university. Understanding the context of this confluence provides insight into the ways in which technology, in particular those used in distance education mediate the construction of knowledge.




Alan Foley. (2003). Distance, Disability, and the Commodification of Education: Web Accessibility and the Construction of Knowledge. Current Issues in Comparative Education, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.52214/cice.v6i1.11375

Register to see more suggestions

Mendeley helps you to discover research relevant for your work.

Already have an account?

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free