What is accessibility?
Accessibility is about removing barriers so that everyone has fair and equal access.
In education, this
involves overcoming any barriers that might occur for students or staff with disabilities. Everyone has the right to fair and equal access to digital and physical services such as learning resources, information and online systems as well as buildings and equipment.
The social model of disability
The social model of disability, which was developed by Mike Oliver at the University of Kent, suggests that it is society or the environment that is disabling the individual rather than their impairment or difference. For example, videos without subtitles disadvantage anyone watching in a noisy environment, but they disadvantage deaf people all the time.
Video: Kicking Down the Doors: from Borstal Boy to University Professor Mike Oliver
If we all raise awareness of the key barriers to information access and tackle these barriers at source, we will be making great strides in developing a fluid and accessible information landscape where information is accessible to all.
It's the right thing to do
In the UK, at least 1 in 5 people
have a long term illness, impairment or disability.
In addition, most of us will at some time have a temporary or situational disability:
- broken wrist
- glue ear
- bright sunlight
- working in a quiet place with no headphones handy...
Accessible content is optimised to make sure it can be used and understood by the widest possible audience. As a public sector organisation, we must remove as many barriers or obstacles to accessing our services as possible.
For example, you should not need to rely on sight alone to:
- buy print credits
- apply for a parking permit
- read our project plans or roadmaps
It benefits everyone
Creating clear heading structures, writing in plain English, making your content work with or without sound, enabling it to be read aloud, all benefit everyone. It's inclusive design, it's good design. And should mean your communication gets better engagement from your audience.
The legal requirements
This applies to all documents we produce
When you produce or share documents, PowerPoint slides, web pages, images or video at the University, you have a legal obligation to make sure people with disabilities can access it.
You need to structure your work and write in a specific way.
By law, all active University documents need to adhere to accessibility standards. We're are obliged under the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations (2018): all actively used internal and external documents need to meet accessibility standards. See this Jisc guide to meeting accessibility regulations for more about the legal implications.
What this means for Kent staff
The law requires us to make accessible any document we share with staff, students or visitors by digital means (including by email, SharePoint, Teams, Moodle, etc).
How to start
- Most staff should start with our guide to making text and documents accessible
- Teaching staff: the Digitally Enhanced Education - a guide to teaching online has digital accessibility woven throughout and is divided into themes. It was produced by the e-learning team with contributions from academic colleagues, students, Information Services, the Library and Student Support and Wellbeing.