Accessibility for everyone: Alistair McNaught, Subject Specialist, Accessibility and Inclusion

The art of the possible, Education Strategy Series, Technology Enhanced Learning, Accessible and Inclusive Digital Content, July 1-5 2019

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.

Find out more about the events and book your place.

Accessibility Stocking Fillers

Do you want to find out how to make your content accessible for everyone?

In our latest 3Ps we covered a range of accessibility tools and tips to ensure that we can quickly and easily make new and existing materials accessible to everyone.

In the session we covered three topics:

  • How to use styles, colours, alt text to create accessible content.
  • Tools available to students and staff so make content accessible and support the
  • Some of the frustrations staff and students might experience and how to overcome them.

If you weren’t able to attend the session you can have a go and test your accessibility knowledge with the Accessibility Checking Activities.

Resources

Microsoft Office

The Microsoft Office Accessibility Center is a great place to look for handy guides on producing accessible Office documents with out of the box accessible templates. Microsoft Office is available for free to all staff and students and has some great Microsoft Accessibility Features built in.

Adobe Acrobat PDFs

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.

Video Captions

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.

On Campus

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.

Printable Checklists

Download and print copies of our A4 checklists for Word, Powerpoint, PDFs and Blackboard and keep them with you for quick reference.

What support is available?

The Student Health and Wellbeing Service provides information, advice and guidance on a wide range of student support issues, helping students to maximise their potential whilst at university.

If you have any queries about creating accessible content get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to offer advice and guidance – contact LTDS@ncl.ac.uk

Make your learning and teaching resources more inclusive – two free online courses

Home Office poster on inclusive design.
Inclusive design is better for everyone.

Following on from the interest shown in a session, run by Ruth Graham and Sandy Alden, at the 2018 Learning and Teaching Conference, on designing inclusive learning, you can now sign up for two free online courses.

Inclusive Learning and Teaching Environments and Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society are both from the University of Southampton.

Inclusive Learning and Teaching Environments runs from Sept 3rd for three weeks and is specifically for those working in Higher Education and interested in making elearning accessible to all.

Explore the barriers experienced by disabled students and learn how to overcome these barriers through inclusive practices.

Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society runs from Oct 8th for five weeks, and has 8 universities discussing different aspects of digital technologies and accessibility from the developer and user’s point of view. It features case studies, new technologies and the latest news about legal standards and guidelines for web, mobile, documents, IoT etc. When there is:

“a better understanding of users’ needs, technologies can be developed to be accessible & provide a more inclusive environment”

Both courses are free, and offer practical hints and tips you can use straight away to make your own resources more inclusive.

NUTELA 3Ps – Dialogues

At NUTELA (Newcastle University Technology Enhanced Learning Advocates) 3Ps workshop this week, we were learning about how to make really excellent resources for all of our students.

change-timingsAs both teachers and as researchers, we spend lots of time creating digital resources, how can we build in accessibility so that they can be used by the widest group of people?

For this session we explored a number of ideas:

  • Documents are best when they have text (not pictures of text), structure, and a sensible reading order.
    – We explored this with a hands-on exercise looking at pdf accessibility.
  • Videos are much more accessible and useful when they have a transcript and subtitles.
    – We had a look at how easy it is to add transcripts to YouTube.
  • Images can convey information powerfully, but how can we make these useful to people with little or no sight?
    – We explored the use of images in a Sway.

You can read more about the sessions and learn how to make resources for all at the NUTELA blog.

For more information about NUTELA or to join our mailing list email us.

NUTELA 3Ps: Dialogues

The next 3Ps: Pizza Pop and Practice workshop will take place on 29th November 2016.

3ps-dialoguesThe topic is ‘Dialogues’ and draws together sessions on storytelling using Microsoft Sway and the complexities of designing materials accessible to all students.

The event will take place between 12 and 2pm in the Hope and Tees Clusters of the Robinson Library.

There will, of course, be pizza and pop available before the workshops begin.

Please do register here.

We look forward to seeing you there!

3Ps: Dialogues

The next 3Ps: Pizza Pop and Practice workshop will take place on 29th November 2016.
3ps-dialogues

The topic is ‘Dialogues’ and draws together sessions on storytelling using Microsoft Sway and the complexities of designing materials accessible to all students.

The event will take place between 12 and 2pm in the Hope and Tees Clusters of the Robinson Library.

There will, of course, be pizza and pop available before the workshops begin.

Please do register here.

We look forward to seeing you there!