Visual impairment and Digital Accessibility

Around two million people in the UK have some form of sight loss. Technology can help to mitigate issues for visually impaired people by allowing access to tasks which otherwise require visual imput. Assistive technology such as screenreaders and mobile phone apps which describe images captured through cameras are readily available.

On this page, you can:

Please also see how to make them accessible and inclusive more generally.

Support

If you have a visual impairment, there are a few ways you could get support:

Staff

If you would like peer support, you could join a Staff Network, e.g. the Disabled Staff Forum.

Students

Digital accessibility tips

  • Making your device easier to use
  • Alternative formats with Blackboard Ally
  • Colours and contrast – some tools/websites will allow you to change these (e.g dark mode). For the rest, there are browser plugins that can change many pages’ contrast or colour scheme (e.g. grayscale).
  • Text-to-Speech – There are various Text-to-Speech (TTS) tools out there that can enable you to listen to digital text. There are also Speech-to-Text tools that may help with notetaking.

Quick Tips for creating accessible content and activities

We can help visually impaired students and staff by ensuring the content we produce is accessible to assistive technology.

Most of the following tips can make your materials more accessible to everyone, in various circumstances, for example when they only have access to a smaller screen, need a break from their screen, or might be a bit anxious when preparing for an activity.

Check your content for accessibility issues

  • Use accessibility tools built-in to the software you are using, e.g. MS Office tools, and then with Blackboard Ally, if you add them in Blackboard.
  • Check for colour contrast issues by entering the background and text/ graphic colour values in a contrast checker.
  • Check what screen reader users can hear using the free screen reader NVDA.

Provide content early

  • This allows your audience to prepare in advance if they need to.

Give options

  • Provide alternative ways to access information: This includes adding captions/ transcripts to videos and alternative text to meaningful images and graphs, so someone that can't see them can still learn what they need from them. It also means not relying solely on colour to distinguish information: add the information as text on top, use patterns or other elements that visibly differentiate information in graphs. 
  • Provide alternative formats: Blackboard Ally can automatically provide alternative formats for some types of content, e.g. turn a document into audio. For math equations, ensure you provide a format compatible with screen readers, e.g. using Blackboard's formula editor.

Be Clear, Consise, Consistent

  • Make hyperlink descriptions clear ("here" and "link" are not clear), as screen reader users may access the links in a different context to what appears in the text - they need to know what they are clicking on.
  • Make instructions, expectations, next steps clear.

Ask, don't assume

  • Ask your audience if they need something. Read out key points in your slides, or formulas as you write them. Don't assume that they can see what you see (or hear, understand, do what you do).