Digital Accessibility

Icons of an eye, ear and hand depicting disabilities.An estimated one in five people living in the UK have a disability, including around eight million people of working age. Many of our students will be included in these numbers.

The Social Model of Disability proposes that it’s the barriers and attitudes society places, both purposefully and inadvertently, which disables those unable to work around them.

The Equalities Act 2010 requires us to make reasonable adjustments to support learners who have an accessibility requirement. More recent regulations now require websites, intranets and mobile apps for public sector organisations to meet accessibility standards. These legal requirements also cover institutions overseen/funded by public sector bodies, such as Universities.

It may feel like a daunting task ensuring that the materials you create are accessible, but most of the standards are good practice and easily achieved. Tools such as Microsoft Office have accessibility checkers built into them. Blackboard Ally gives you practical advice around improving materials you’ve uploaded into Blackboard.

Ensuring your digital content is clear, concise and accessible creates an improved learning experience for everyone.

Five things you can do to improve Digital Accessibility

1. Structure Your Materials

  • Headings – use correct Heading structures to aid navigation and allow assistive technology to make sense of the document.
  • Tables - Keep tables simple without split or merged cells
  • Layout – use the same layout choices throughout your documents

2. Use clear and meaningful language

  • Links should be descriptive - they should never say “Click here”.
  • Plain English should be used wherever possible. Some nuance is needed for academic content, but consider avoiding figurative speech, homonyms and homophones.
  • Give images, photos and diagrams alternative text which describes the item.

3. Improve visibility and readability

  • Colours - Check the contrast between text or graphics and background to ensure accessible choices have been used. Use high contrast for the greatest accessibility.
  • Text - Prefer sans-serif fonts for most of the text. Avoid capitalizing, underlining or italicising large portions of text. Avoid small font sizes, especially in resources that are difficult to zoom in.

4. Check your work

5. Provide alternatives

  • Provide a variety of formats for the same document, e.g. Word and PDF (PDFs are often inaccessible). Sensus access and Blackboard Ally File Transformer can help you do this.
  • Create descriptive transcriptions for audio or video content

Top Tips for specific accessibility requirements

The links on the right contain top tips for specific accessibility requirements, several of which include series of Top Tips from AbilityNet and links to recordings of sessions with Digital Accessibility specialists from AbilityNet talking about their lived experience of the subject. The event series was hosted by the Digital Education Office in 2019/2020.