What is accessibility?
Accessibility in education refers to our responsibility to designing teaching and learning in support of equitable access for all our students. It is about the need to reduce and overcome barriers that may occur in our digital content, systems, and processes, teaching and learning activities and assessments. In simple terms, making teaching and learning accessible means ensuring all on campus, blended and online teaching can be accessed without the need to request adaptation by as many of our students as possible, including those with:
- Limited vision
- Motor difficulties
- D/deafness or hard of hearing
Why is accessibility important?
According to the 2018/19 UK Government’s Family Resources Survey, at least 1 in 5 people in the UK have a long-term illness or disability and these may have a direct impact on their ability to access classrooms, engage in learning activities or access online materials.
If teaching and learning is not designed to overcome these barriers, then we risk excluding students and creating barriers to academic success. Creating an accessible teaching and learning environment is important in helping our students feel included and respected, as well as supporting student engagement, progression, and equity of attainment.
Simply put, without accessibility, we can’t achieve inclusivity.
The Policy Context: The Coventry Way sets out that we are “open, accessible and inclusive”. Also, the Education Strategy (2015-2021) states that “our students can expect equality of access, progression and transition opportunities”.
As a University, we have a legal obligation to uphold the principles of the Equality Act 2010 which seeks to advance equality of opportunity. We are also required by law to ensure that our online teaching materials are accessible.
What can you do?
There are several simple things you can do to help understand the needs of your students and design your teaching and learning environment to support your students.
- Design with accessibility in mind – When designing your learning use Universal Design for Learning principals to ensure all learners can access and participate. This involves offering flexibility in the way students access material, engage with it, and demonstrate their learning. For example, you may wish to use the ABC Framework to structure your materials and activities.
- Check the data – The Business Intelligence Dashboard supplies you with up-to-date course-level data on the demographic makeup of your course. Familiarise yourself with this information to identify any common accessibility issues for the students you are teaching.
- Add captions to video – Adding captions to videos and providing written transcripts helps to support different learning styles as well as providing access for students with certain disabilities or impairments. You can make use of tools such as Microsoft Stream, Planet e-Stream or upload a transcript directly to Aula. You might also wish to add live-captions to your remote presentations.
- Use Templated Slide Decks – Using templated slide decks provided by Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote can help you design with accessibility in mind, especially if your students use screen readers. It is also important to provide your slide decks to students in advance, with adequate time to allow students to print or make changes (for example to colour contrast).
- Run an Accessibility Check – Before you publish your materials, use Microsoft’s built-in accessibility checkers to help fix any accessibility issues. This is particularly important for documents such as assessment briefs and module guides.
- Create a dialogue – Encourage students to engage in conversations around accessibility and share their learning needs with you. Open dialogue and co-creation of the learning experience can ensure your teaching and learning activities, materials, and design work for the students in the room.
Where can I find out more?
Several open-access guides on designing for accessibility are available to help you. Academic Development sessions on accessibility are also available to book from the Course Booking site.