You should always ask, 'Is it accessible?'
For nearly all work you produce, you should always ask, 'Is it accessible?' Digital accessibility is the law and inclusivity is one of the University's values.
Making something digitally accessible means removing barriers that prevent a disabled person accessing information or completing an action.
To make things accessible, you just need to follow some rules. Lots of them are quite simple.
Things that are accessible are more usable for everyone.
What you need to do
All kinds of roles across the University directly affect whether we're meeting the law on digital accessibility and helping our students and colleagues in the ways they need. Select a statement that matches what you do at the University to see how you can ensure what you're involved in is accessible.
How to make something accessible
To start with, use the following resources on this site to make your content easier to access for everyone, whether you’re making a web page from scratch, reviewing a document or fixing problems with existing content.
What does digital accessibility mean?
Digital accessibility refers to making sure websites, apps, digital devices and more can be used by anyone, no matter their physical, sensory or cognitive abilities.
Web accessibility is a large part of digital accessibility but refers to anything that can be accessed via a web browser, such as Chrome or Microsoft Edge. That means web pages, videos, downloadable documents and more.
In practise, asking 'Is it accessible?' could result in:
- Adding captions to a video. This helps people with hearing impairments and those who want to watch in a quiet environment.
- Producing a simple web page version of a complex PDF. A web page will be easier to navigate for people with vision impairments who use a screen reader. A web page also makes the information mobile friendly for all.
- Combining colours with patterns in a chart or graph. Using visual styles with colours makes charts and graphs easier to understand for everyone, but particularly those with colour blindness.
Why do we need to do this?
Although you may be new to digital accessibility, the regulations have been in place since 2018. In general, any documents published after 23 September 2018 should have met accessibility standards, as should all web pages since September 2020.
Following digital accessibility standards gives people with disabilities an equal experience and quite often helps everyone. When we don't do this at the University, we inhibit the learning of thousands of students and make it harder for colleagues to teach, research, and provide services.
What are the digital accessibility standards?
The University is required to meet the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018. This ultimately points to the latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which is currently WCAG 2.1 AA. Typically people just refer to 'WCAG' when talking about web accessibility compliance as it's a standard recognised worldwide.
'WCAG 2.1' refers to the version of the standard. 'AA' refers to the level of the standard. WCAG is broken down into criteria. Each criterion is assigned a level: A, AA or AAA. Items marked as A are easier to achieve. AAAs are harder to achieve.
As a public sector body our legal requirement is the AA level, which means we need to meet all the A and AA criteria with one exception. That equates to 49 rules we need to meet.
If you'd like to explore digital accessibility further, the internet is full of information. Some of it can be overwhelming, though. The following are some easy points of entry to the subject.
This short Microsoft learning path can be completed in less than half a day. It will give you an intro to disability and explain what can be done within the Microsoft suite of products.
Run once a month during term time, the Jisc 'Accessibility drop-in clinic' tackles a key topic by asking experts for their advice. A selection of archived clinic recordings are also available.
The a11yphant site ('a11y' is shorthand for the term 'accessibility') "teaches web accessibility, one step at a time, broken down into manageable pieces". It's aimed at web developers but will be useful for anyone.