Holistic Accessible Model

Online User Experience

Resources & Case Studies


Holistic Accessible Model

What is it?

This model is demonstrated by (Kelly et al., 2003). It is circular in format to illustrate the feedback mechanism of learning with cultural, political and social aspects that need to be considered. 

What are concepts of the model?

  • Enhance user experience

  • Open learning, feedback

  • User central focus

  • Flexible learning

  • Inclusive design, rather than universal design

  • Users are not assessed on a single method of delivery 

Figure 3: The five stages that summarize a hollistic accessibility approach (Kelly and Phipps., 2006)

Figure 1: The learner needs are at the centre with a model that incorporates several factors (Kelly et al., 2003)

Figure 2: The learner-focused feedback model adapted from (Pearson and Green 1999)

Inclusive Design

Accessibility can be thought of a one-size-fits-all model to create a universal course or development plan. However, the best method is to allow personalisation of learning plans with the learner focus and approaching with a problems-based perspective which helps to directly address the issues a learner faces.

Cyclical, open to feedback

Characterize by the need for continuous improvement and feedback from the users. Have a platform to address learners areas of concerns. The feedback can be simply increase the font on PowerPoint presentations, to add an additional path to learning by providing optional roles in field trips (e.g field data collection, or blog updater)


Online User Experience

Holistic accessibility means adding a variety of resources (e.g oral examination, one-to-one sitting). Designing websites and course content for variety of users requires extra consideration as it is not a substitution for student learning experience.


Accessibility e-learning standards such as W3C WAI may lack particular attention to different disability and special learning needs (Phipps & Kelly 2006). Lengthy standards and guide can become too technical and discourage educators and courseware developers from applying enhanced user experience beyond compliance.


On the right is an image example of designing for users on the autistic spectrum. Click on the button below for more examples of designing accessibility for neurodiverse users. 

The Design Issue



Kelly, Brian & Phipps, Lawrie & Swift, Elaine. (2004). Developing A Holistic Approach For E-Learning Accessibility. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology. 30. 10.21432/T2D60S. 


Lawrie Phipps & Brian Kelly (2006) Holistic approaches to e-learning accessibility, ALT-J, 14:1, 69-78, DOI: 10.1080/09687760500479860

Efaine J. Pearson & Tony Koppi (2002) Inclusion and online learning opportunities: Designing for accessibility, ALT-J, 10:2, 17-28, DOI: 10.1080/0968776020100203


Pionke, J. (2017). Toward Holistic Accessibility: Narratives from Functionally Diverse Patrons. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 57(1), 48-56. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/rusq.57.1.6442

Permvattana, Ruchi & Armstrong, Helen & Murray, Iain. (2013). E-LEARNING FOR THE VISION IMPAIRED: A HOLISTIC PERSPECTIVE. International Journal of Cyber Society and Education. 6. 10.7903/ijcse.1029. 

Example of Holistic Approach

Interviewing Diverse Patrons

A study (Pionke 2017) conducted to gather holistic view of diverse patrons who identify with one of four disabilities including Autism, motor impairment, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or visual impairment. Participants  ranged from undergraduate students to faculty staff

Emergent Themes from Interviews 


Patrons not only needed to be responsible for asking for help, but also encouraged their fellow alumni to ask to help and create a warm, welcoming environment


Patrons viewed libraries differently and negatively. The patrons expressed concern for their unique needs. For example, patrons with autism and PTSD observed that libraries were overwhelming and intimidating. A patron with chronic pain expressed the difficulty and extensive planning involved to accomplish their simple daily tasks in the library. 



Patrons found it difficult to express their frustration. Receiving direct help was difficult as it meant it was re-directed to a virtual service or waiting for a specifically trained person.

The study provides an example of the feedback educators can invite and take into account when designing their own course. 

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