Most of the postings we make on accessibility and inclusion are upbeat and positive: we are firm believers that accessible practice is good practice. There are plenty of good positive reasons for engaging an inclusive teaching and learning. However, now and again it is worth considering the role of sticks as well as carrots in changing cultures. This week, Alistair McNaught lifts the cudgel of costs and compliance (but only because he was asked to in one of our recent online training sessions on DSA changes!)
Everything costs – even doing nothing
Accessibility has a cost of sorts. It is not a high cost (and it saves money in the long run) but getting policies right, getting staff development organised and getting some sort of quality assurance in place all have some sort of cost in terms of time, energy or money. However, the cost of not doing so can be much more expensive.
These are the costs of non-compliance:
Needless costs – 1: support for inaccessible systems
This is where your organisation decides to subscribe to an e-book platform / VLE / Eportfolio / awarding body / quiz tool etc that proves to be inaccessible for your disabled users. As a consequence, you have to invest in additional support staff (or additional software) to overcome the problem. That is an ongoing cost you could have avoided.
Needless costs – 2: support for inaccessible content
This is where your staff do not know how to create an accessible Word document, PowerPoint, video or podcast. This is normally for the simple reason that nobody taught them (a) how easy it is, (b) what a big difference it makes to disabled learners and (c) how it improves the experience of all learners. Fast forward to the day when a technology-aware disabled student comes to your institution having had excellent support with a previous learning provider. How long will it take to retrofit accessibility on all your resources? Can you afford to buy in technical support to make an entire course accessible in a few days? Is this cheaper than providing additional human support?
In both the examples above, human support has two major disadvantages. First, it costs a lot to provide. Secondly, it undermines the learner’s sense of autonomy and agency. That can be costly if they think it impacts on their final results – or even just their enjoyment of the course… see below…
Needless costs – 3: out-of-court settlements
It is notoriously difficult to find case law relating to reasonable adjustments (or lack of). The reason for this is because learning providers settle out of court away from the gaze of the media. However, some of the organisations supporting and representing disabled learners claim that the majority of cases revolve around learning providers having either
- failed to make anticipatory adjustments or
- failed to have a clear policy framework that influenced and informed practice.
We can provide support in both these areas.
Keeping one step ahead of student awareness
Three years ago the Jisc TechDis advisory service worked with a range of organisations to create a student guidance document. It outlined what would be reasonable expectations for a print impaired learner in a 21st-century learning provider. This was widely circulated at the time through the contributory organisations and – despite the demise of Jisc TechDis – the reasonable expectation guide is still hosted on various disability websites.
It is well worth using the 8 ‘things you can ask for’ to assess the current level of your own provision. Many organisations get away with less than optimum accessibility practices simply because the students themselves are unaware of the reasonable adjustments they could be enjoying.
But the guidance they need already exists.
It’s better that you find it and begin to respond to it before they do. Tell us what you think of the reasonable expectation guide. It’s now three years old – would you add anything extra to it now? Tell us in the comments below…