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Accessibility is about removing barriers enabling users to engage and participate in everyday activities. This includes reducing and overcoming the barriers that might occur for people with disabilities and includes the digital and physical interactions that people have in everyday life.

The social model of disability

The social model of disability 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.

By raising awareness of the key barriers to information access and tackling these barriers at source, the University will make great progress in developing a fluid and accessible information landscape where information is accessible to all.

It's the right thing to do

Designing your content for accessibility and inclusion will benefit users who are or have:

  • neurodiverse (for example, ADD or ADHD)
  • a specific learning difficulty (for example, dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia)
  • social and communication issues (such as Autism Spectrum Disorder)
  • sight loss and low vision
  • screen reader users
  • physical and motor issues
  • deafness or hearing loss

Here are some statistics from Scope on how many people in the UK have specific conditions and impairments:

Research informs that disabled people are over 50% more likely to face barriers to accessing digital and online services than non-disabled people. (Reason Digital radical accessibility via Populus)

However, accessibility isn't just about permanent or even temporary disabilities.

Have you ever tried accessing a website on a train or a library?

You might experience situational impairment. Your movement can be restricted. The train vibrates making it difficult to click on links or operate small buttons. Background noise and interruptions can affect hearing and concentration. Sunlight, particularly when the sun is low in Spring and Autumn, can make things difficult to read.

In a library setting, you can't have sound on a video as it will disrupt the quiet environment.

You can't stop many of these things from happening, but good accessible design can help reduce the effects.

Improving accessible content makes sure it can be used and understood by the widest possible audience. As a public sector organisation, the University must remove as many barriers or obstacles to accessing our services as possible.

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. Good content design created with inclusivity in mind should mean your communication is better understood by your intended audience.

It's the law

When producing or sharing documents, PowerPoint slides, web pages, images or video, the University has a legal obligation to make sure people with disabilities can access it.

That means structuring content and writing in a specific way.

By law, all active University documents need to adhere to accessibility standards as we must meet our obligations under the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Application) Accessibility Regulation (2018). It specifies all actively used internal and external documents available on web-based software should meet accessibility standards.

See the JISC guide to meeting accessibility regulations for more about the legal implications.

What this means for staff

As stated above, the law requires any document shared with staff, students or external users by digital means (including by email, SharePoint, MS Teams, Blackboard Learn and University operated Websites) to adhere to accessibility standards.

There are a range of resources to help everyone upskill and understand how to make their work accessible for staff, students and external audiences.

Microsoft products like Word and PowerPoint have built-in accessibility checkers. These can help ensure documents are accessible.