What is Digital Accessibility?
Digital accessibility is the ability of a website, mobile application or electronic document to be easily navigated and understood by a wide range of users, including those users who have visual, auditory, motor or cognitive disabilities. (whatis.com, 2016)
Those who find digital technologies hard to access may use 'assistive software' to help them. However, it is important that digital resources are presented in a way that enables this software to work and 'poor digital design can make those assistive tools less effective and hinder the user's ability to interact with digital content.' (whatis.com,2016)
Watch a video introduction to Digital Accessibility (3mins 13secs) - This makes particular reference to the new 'BrightSpace VLE' (April 2018) .
10 steps to Accessibility in Brightspace (10mins) provides a slightly more detailed introdution, with plenty of practical guidance on some simple things that will make your work much more accessible.
Digital accessibility may sound like it is something complicated, but it is not. There are three key aspects to digital accessibility:
i) Make it flexible. 'Often it is just a matter of allowing a user to make adjustments to the size of the type or the colour combinations in a display. People with dyslexia- one of the most common disabilities in the UK - can be helped enormously by being able to hear text rather than reading it.' (Lamb, 2008) Giving out a paper handout does not allows students to adapt the work to what they need.
ii) Make it accessible immediately (born accesssible). 'Born accessible' is a concept coined by Betsy Beaumon, Benetech's president. She realized that as content is increasingly 'born digital', it should also be 'born accessible'. Instead of requiring the remediation to make publications accessible, intsead of having to create special versions for the users of AT, and instead of those versions costing extra and often available only long after publication, publications should have accessibility built in at the point of creation.' (Turner, 2018)
iii) Be aware of your learners. The Equality Act (2010) requires that we do not discriminate against any student on the grounds of a disability. Arrangements should be made to ensure that this does not happen, and in some cases, this requires 'reasonable adjustments'. For some students, this will be the provision of assistive software. HudStudy at the University of Huddersfield can advise on suitable software, training and support. All staff should be aware that they may have students using special software to access their studies. If resources are not 'born accessible', then staff should make sure that students can still access work using their software.
Why is digital accessibility important?
Students want to be able to see, use and understand the resources they need to make progress in their studies. Everyone has had times when they have picked up something that doesn't make sense or causes more problems than it solves. For students, poor quality, inaccessible resources can delay their work, lead them to contacting their tutors, or even make them give up all together.
It is really important that we make all our modules as accessible as possible, so that students do not face the frustration and confusion that can come from poor materials.
What do I need to do about digital accessibility?
If you want to make your work and your content as accessible as possible for your students, and comply with Equality law, there are some simple guidelines to follow. These are summarised in '10 steps to digital accessibility'. There are also some more detailed notes below.
Digital Accessibility - Quick Check List (Word Doc download)
Digital Accessibility in Word, including an accessible Word template
Lamb, J. 2008, "FITTING TECHNOLOGY TO PEOPLE", Computer Weekly, , pp. 24-25.
Turner, B. (2018), Benetech global literacy services: Working towards a ‘born accessible’ world. Learned Publishing, 31: 25-29. doi:10.1002/leap.1141
whatis.com. (2016). Whatis.com . Retrieved March 23, 2018, from http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/digital-accessibility