What is accessibility?
Accessibility involves designing systems to optimise access. In education this involves reducing and overcoming the barriers that might occur in:
- Digital content
- Teaching and learning activities;
The social model of disability suggests that the society or environment 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.
Accessibility is about removing those barriers to enable users to engage and take part in everyday activities.
What is assistive technology?
This is a term used for technology that assists someone to do something they would otherwise be unable to do. Assistive technologies can be more accurately described as productivity tools.
A good example of this would be the use of a screen reader to enable a blind user to access online content or a dyslexic student using text to speech for reading on screen.
For more details read our guide to 'using assistive and accessible technology in teaching and learning'
What your organisation can do
An accessible organisation is one that:
- Fosters independence
- Has enhanced productivity
- Has reduced support costs
- Has improved engagement, retention and achievement.
Accessibility is not just about creating accessible websites or documents. To do it well it needs to be incorporated into all aspects of an organisation’s structure:
- Strategy and policies – a commitment to accessibility can ensure that your organisation is truly inclusive and can benefit all your learners and staff
- Marketing – the readability of an organisation’s website and prospectus and ease of attendance at open days can be a decision maker for some users
- Procurement – when procuring systems, taking different access needs into account at the outset can reduce support costs because users can access them independently
- Teaching, learning and assessment – accessible teaching is inclusive teaching and benefits all learners
- Libraries – they play a crucial role within education provision, can provide content in different formats and promote independent learning
- Assistive technology and productivity tools – there are a range of free and commercial tools that can both remove barriers and help all users (both staff and students) overcome existing ones
- Mobile devices – facilitating users’ own devices through a flexible and inclusive infrastructure can enable creative and collaborative learning
- Staff development – training for all staff on how they can contribute and an ethos of support and collaboration can create an accessible and therefore an inclusive organisation.
Read our detailed guidance on how your organisation can support disabled learners.