Accessibility and why is it important
Many students have disabilities or learning differences that affect how they use, experience and contribute to the internet, and by taking simple steps we can minimise any barriers to learning.
For example, a correctly-formatted Word document enables students with impaired sight or dyslexia to easily navigate the information, choose their preferred fonts and colours or have it read to them using text-to-speech. All you need to do is learn how to use Word’s Styles feature and ensure that any images included have a text alternative.
Paying attention to accessibility benefits all students; for example, a learner on a mobile device in a public space might find video captions very useful. Equally a student might have a temporary disability such as an eye infection which affects their ability to read.
It is important to note that universities and their staff have a moral and legal requirement to ensure that all students are equally able to access and use the learning resources provided, as set out in the Equality Act 2010.
Aston’s legal obligations were recently updated by The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018, which requires the university to publish a “detailed, comprehensive and clear annual statement on the compliance of its website or mobile application with these Regulations”.
The Equality Act 2010 clearly defines the responsibility of all tutors to make reasonable adjustments that ensure their resources are accessible to all students. This is an anticipatory duty, which means that you must not wait to act until you have a student with a disability. For example, if you record a short video explaining an assessment’s criteria, that information must also be available as text, even if you have no students with impaired hearing.
NEW for September 2019: Aston has invested in Blackboard Ally, a system which aids accessibility by automatically making resources available in a range of formats. If you upload a Word document it will be available as PDF, HTML, ePub, electronic braille and audio MP3.
If you upload a Word file that has non-accessible features such as images with no text alternative, Ally will alert you to the problem and show you how it can be fixed, encouraging you to edit and re-upload the file. In this way, Ally aims to guide you towards considering accessibility as a normal aspect of your work.
These guides show you how to make simple adjustments that make your resources accessible to all students: