Global Accessibility Awareness Day – Why it matters to everyone

Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)

GAAD on May 18 is a day designed to remind those who shape our digital world that they have a critical role in making our future world accessible to everyone. Most designers work to accessibility standards and guidelines that consider the diversity of ways that people access webpages, software and mobile devices – but this is just a starting point.

Students enjoying using technology

All Students benefit from accessible digital design

Recognising responsibility and reducing risk

We all have a responsibility to improve inclusivity. Anticipating the needs of disabled students and providing information in accessible formats is not a ‘nice to have’ but a legal imperative. There are reputational and financial risks in getting it wrong. Gathering more data on student progress increases the opportunity and the responsibility to make adjustments to meet their needs.

The good news is that a little technology can make a big difference – to a lot of people. Everyone can benefit from productivity tools like text to speech, accessible documents and engaging teaching. Organisations will be able to see real benefits from their investment in technology if they have an inclusive digital strategy that aims to maximise student engagement and independence.

There can be cultural barriers to overcome. Many people see disabled students as the responsibility of the disability support team, but the social model of disability suggests that disability often results from the actions of the provider, not the student. Do your teaching staff know how to teach accessibly? Or your library staff know how to signpost to accessible resources or advise on alternative formats? Do marketing and comms staff know how to create accessible online prospectuses? Any corporate ‘lack of ability’ in inclusive practice will create disabling situations for certain students. Jisc’s role related guidance helps signpost inclusive practices for different roles.

Creating a digitally capable culture

With the focus on digital capability, disabled students should expect to acquire the digital skills that will ensure their independence and employability.  Digital tools, resources and activities are great enablers of accessibility and independence if created with inclusivity in mind. Otherwise they can be disablers. Inclusion is key to a digitally capable organisational culture.

Inclusive practice also makes sound business sense. Inclusion opens up new opportunities for delivery and widens markets to include learners who can’t otherwise participate. It increases independence and therefore reduces support costs and risk of exclusion. It meets student expectations and enhances their satisfaction. It improves retention and achievement by supporting more engaging teaching and enabling differentiation. In fact, it gives a better user experience for everyone.

How can Jisc help?

Inclusive Digital Review

Jisc’s membership subscription includes a holistic and comprehensive accessibility evaluation and signposting service that helps organisations make the most of their digital investments and policies. We help you get together a team that will support lasting change.

Accessibility and Inclusion Training

When you know what changes you want to make, we can offer bespoke training at a competitive rate that will address your needs directly. Examples include:

  • Alternative approaches to alternative formats: how different technology approaches can help libraries scale up support for print impaired students.
  • Teaching inclusively using technology: how to include, engage and support using no cost and low cost solutions.
  • Helping them to help themselves: giving disabled learners more independence by increasing the digital capability of the staff who support them and the learners themselves.
  • Creating accessible information and resources: promoting principles of effective practice in creating accessible information. Everyone will benefit when all your staff can create accessible information.

Contact the Jisc Accessibility and inclusion subject specialists for a chat about our range of training offers online and bespoke workshops for teams, departments or staff across your organisation designed to meet your specific needs.

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