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 meaningful language

  • Links should be descriptive. Links 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. Use Colour and Contrast

  • Colour should be checked to ensure accessible choices have been used.
  • Use high contrast for the greatest accessibility.

4. Check your work

  • Use built in accessibility checkers and where appropriate make suggested changes
  • If using Blackboard, follow the advice given when clicking the Blackboard Ally colour gauge icon next to materials and action suggested fixes.

5. Provide alternatives

  • Provide a variety of formats for the same document, e.g. Word and PDF
  • Create descriptive transcriptions for audio or video content

Top Tips for specific accessibility requirements

The Digital Education Office hosted a series of Digital Accessibility events in 2019/2020 focusing on specific accessibility requirements. Each session had a Digital Accessibility specialist from AbilityNet talking about their lived experience of the subject. The following links contain recordings of the sessions as well as a series of Top Tips for each theme.