In September 2019, the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No.2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 comes into effect in the UK. These regulations attempt to ensure that all students have equal and fair access to learning opportunities without any barriers as a result of a disability. This covers websites, services and content.
The University recognises that compliance with the Regulations will not happen immediately. A staged programme of work will embed training on compliance for new learning and teaching websites/service and content within the existing Learning and Teaching Development Programme which will be available both as open workshops and bespoke school/service based sessions. The trajectory for compliance is detailed below.
What is the University doing for the start of 2019/20?
Each website/system requires an accessibility statement, providing information about the accessibility of individual websites/systems. The Learning and Teaching Development Service will co-ordinate the creation of accessibility statements across all central University learning and teaching systems. This includes Blackboard, MLE, ePortfolio and others. All centrally supported teaching and learning systems will have an accessibility statement by September 2019.
What do academic units/services need to do for the start of 2019/20?
No specific actions are required for the start of the next academic year. Individuals should consider how they can make any new learning and teaching content accessible, and to start to change practice when creating content in readiness for 2020/21.
What will happen in 2019/20 to make us more compliant for 2020/21?
The new Learning and Teaching Development Programme has Accessibility in Practice workshops that support academic and professional services staff in how to create accessible and inclusive learning and teaching resources. There are some simple tools built in to familiar desktop tools, such as Microsoft Office, that will help to create and check the accessibility of resources.
There are some small simple changes staff can make that will help all students on their programme, not only students with a disability. LTDS will prepare a range of online how to guides that will support staff in the creation of accessible documents.
As part of the rollout of the new VLE, LTDS will run a large number of training sessions. The creation of accessible content will be embedded within these sessions.
The Newcastle Education Practice Scheme (NEPS) is the replacement for the CASAP programme. Accessibility and inclusion will be a core element, and the creation of accessible resources will be part of the programme.
We will renew the University site license for Sensus Access which enables staff and students to easily convert documents into an accessible format. Many file formats are supported, including the main Microsoft Office document types. Use of this tool will be built into the workshops detailed above.
For further information please email email@example.com
Dr Chloe Duckworth from the School of History, Classics and Archaeology has used engaging, bespoke online resources and a range of practical group activities to create a relaxed learning environment for her students.
Find out more from Chloe in the video below as she describes how she considers accessibility issues and ensures an inclusive approach to teaching.
If you are interested in reading more about Chloe’s case study or other case studies of effective practice take a look at the case studies website.
Alistair McNaught, Subject Specialist, Accessibility and Inclusion
A long time coming…
Disability legislation has required organisations to make “reasonable adjustments” for disabled people since 1995. Unfortunately, the legislation did not define what a reasonable adjustment might look like. For the next 23 years, equalities legislation tried to improve the lived experience of disabled people, but without clarity about what was ‘reasonable’ it often failed. Many disabled students drop out of University courses not because the intellectual challenge is too hard, but because negotiating the basic resources is a daily uphill struggle.
The new public sector web accessibility legislation changes everything. For the first time ever it makes a concrete link between a failure to make a reasonable adjustment and a failure to meet the “accessibility requirement” for websites, VLEs and VLE content. The accessibility requirement for digital content is well established – so it’s very easy to tell if resources fail the ‘reasonable adjustment’ test.
Competence more than compliance
This does not mean not every teaching professional now has to become an accessibility professional, any more than an academic referencing a paper is expected to be an information professional. What it does mean is that professional communicators are expected to communicate using conventions and practices that minimise barriers. With a significant proportion of teaching staff having self-taught IT skills it’s little surprise that we don’t always know the best way to make our resources accessible. But the relevant skills are learned very quickly. They also benefit considerably more students than the 10% with visible or invisible disabilities.
Accessibility for everyone
For too many years, accessibility has “belonged to” the disability support team. This is as unrealistic as hygiene in a restaurant belonging to the chef, with nobody else having awareness of training. Higher education institutions have complex digital ecosystems and accessibility needs to be a ‘hygiene factor’ that threads through the organisation’s policy and practice. The encouraging thing is that the vast majority of accessibility is a combination of good design, good practice, good resources, good pedagogy and good procurement policies. What is there not to like?
Find out more
In the Education Strategy Series: The Art of the Possible, Alistair McNaught will work with different groups of staff in the University to try to do what accessibility should do for everyone: enlighten, empower, support and inspire. Bring your own experience, skill and ambition – the catalysts for culture change.
Staff and Students have access to Adobe Acrobat Pro from University Machines. Acrobat has a built in PDF Accessibility Checker which can automatically fix issues with your PDFs and also advise you on why certain elements aren’t accessible.
The session focused mainly of text and images but if you’d like to find out more about creating accessible audio and video content you check out our blog post on creating captions.
For disabled users accessing IT services on campus we offer specialist software and hardware available to staff and students via our Easy Access Accessibility Service.