Digital Accessibility

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 and staff 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 MS 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.

If a student just told you they have an impairment

Ask them:

  1. What you can do to help them.
  2. Whether they have talked to disability services or if you can help them set this up.

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

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 content and add captions to videos.

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.