Why accessibility matters

Make your content easier for everyone to access. It's the right thing to do, it benefits everyone, and it's the law.

What is accessibility?

Accessibility is about removing barriers to enable users to engage and take part in everyday activities. In education this involves reducing and overcoming the barriers that might occur for students with disabilities and includes the digital and physical interactions that students and staff have at the University.

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 can 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. 

It's the law

When we produce or share documents, PowerPoint slides, web pages, images or video, we have a legal obligation to make sure people with disabilities can access it. That means structuring our work and writing in a specific way.

By law, all active University documents need to adhere to accessibility standards by September 2020. We must meet our obligations under the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations (2018). It specifies that we need to make all actively used internal and external documents meet accessibility standards by September 2020. 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).

The Digitally Enhanced Education - a guide to teaching online course has been designed to help the institutional transition to teaching online. The course is divided into themes and topics and, whilst there is a natural pathway through the course, the individual sections can be viewed and undertaken in isolation and in any sequence. 

The course has been put together by the E-Learning Team, with contributions from academic colleagues, students, Information Services, the Library and Student Support and Wellbeing. Digital accessibility has been woven in throughout this course so will be an excellent means of conveying the core information to staff.

More advice can be found in our accessible content guides.

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