Marketing teams contribute significantly to raising the overall profile of accessibility and inclusion. You can demonstrate good practice in your own documents, and develop effective communication campaigns informing learners about the support that is available to them.
It is vitally important that your marketing materials are as accessible as possible as they demonstrate the accessibility awareness of your organisation. To maintain credibility, it is essential that:
- Your website design and navigation is clear and simple
- Your accessibility statement is written in plain English and is easy to understand
- Support for disabled learners is clearly signposted
- Electronic versions of your prospectus, documents and online application forms are accessible.
What you can do
Prospective students with print impairments may attend your open days, download your prospectus and visit your website. Those with a severe visual impairment will need accessible marketing materials through technologies such as screen readers. Others may need to change their view of your digital resources, for example changing magnification or font size.
Some prospective students will access resources with text-to-speech tools or request alternative formats.
Start by mapping out the accessibility of the marketing department's resources. Look at good practice with accessible Microsoft Office documents and pdfs. Consider the basics like document structure and navigation:
- Can visitors navigate your digital prospectus using heading styles or bookmarks?
- Are there alternative descriptions for complex tables or graphics?
- Can text be magnified and reflowed so that it still fits the page?
- What do your current disabled staff or learners think about your marketing materials?
- How do your materials work with assistive technologies?
Good accessibility is normally a better experience for all but beware of adding accidental barriers. Video and audio clips may be great for engaging dyslexic learners or international students but if you forget to add appropriate transcripts, you might end up disadvantaging a different group of learners.
- How do you tell people about what you do to support them?
- Where is the accessibility information on your website?
- How many actions does it take to find it?
- Where can people find out about the accessibility of your prospectus – for example whether it will reflow on magnification or whether it is tagged for structural navigation or reading order?
Communication, however, should encompass more than the accessibility of your marketing materials:
Organisations with a wealth of digital resources (like VLE's, interactive whiteboards or e-book platforms) are in a better position to offer resources that can be accessed independently or personalised to suit their needs.
Assistive technology provision
Organisations with text-to-speech or mind mapping on all PCs provide significant benefits for print disabled learners.
No matter how great the technical infrastructure and assistive technology provision, making it clear who can be contacted (and how) is vital for reducing barriers for disabled learners. Do your flyers advertising open evenings or taster days include a contact name/number for additional support needs?
How well do you communicate the bigger picture of accessibility? For example, do your site maps include disability related information such as disabled toilets and inaccessible buildings? Do you plan the availability of alternative formats or wait until you are asked for them?
The former may take some thought but can be more cost effective to produce. It is more efficient to offer an accessible prospectus that can be adapted to personal preference than to print dozens of copies on different coloured paper with varying magnifications to suit open-ended individual requests.
Key to all of this is:
- Knowing your accessibility strengths and communicating them
- Knowing your accessibility weaknesses and identifying:
- Which can be tackled quickly and easily
- Which need an alternative provision
- Which need a long-term improvement plan
- Effective planning and prioritising arising from the considerations above
- Consulting with disabled learners or staff in these processes.
Disability-friendly marketing will encourage learners to access the help they need. It will also reduce the risk of exposure under the Equality Act.
Working with others
Marketing departments can only produce accessible experiences for end users if they work with others:
- Subject heads usually provide prospectus text which may follow a standardised template. Use heading styles so that when you compile the information across the organisation it has an inbuilt structure
- IT and web teams have a significant influence on your website. Include accessibility in the procurement criteria and accessibility testing as one of the sign-off requirements
- Graphic designers and typesetters, whether sourced internally or externally, must have an understanding of accessibility. The digital prospectus should have a clear heading or bookmark structure for navigation and should reflow when magnified
- Disability support staff and disabled staff or learners can help you understand the issues of accessible marketing. Make sure you use their experiences to full effect.