User experience and accessibility are at the forefront of branding, marketing, and connecting education to the public. While webpage accessibility is increasingly discussed and starting to be considered, digital accessibility, anything other than HTML, is often overlooked. As a result, many students with disabilities struggle to find the resources needed to thrive in their studies. There is evidence that they can be discouraged from attending college or universities or dissuaded from sitting the course they want.
Accessibility in the United Kingdom
According to the Purple Pound, an organisation that campaigns and advocates for people with disabilities in the United Kingdom, more than one in five people in the U.K. are disabled. Despite a growing awareness of web accessibility, 73% of customers with disabilities experience barriers on more than one-quarter of the websites they visit, resulting in loss of revenue for the retailer and dissatisfaction for the customers.
But it’s not just a consumer accessibility issue; academic institutions are also failing to provide accessible digital content to their students. This creates barriers, particularly for students with print disabilities like sight loss, neurological and motor disabilities.
Colleges and universities failing to provide accessible content for their students are missing out on a talent pool that offers new and dynamic perspectives to the academic world.
Students with disabilities
Often in educational settings, when somebody has a disability, scribes (the person reading and or writing on behalf of the student) or assistive devices are used to help the student access information being provided in lectures. However, the scribe or assistive devices can only go so far.
What happens when the systems in place for learning are inaccessible? For example, suppose the learning management system (LMS) an academic institution uses is not accessible or navigable by someone using assistive technology like screen readers. In that case, the student loses access to the information. Meaning they are missing out on being part of the academic environment and staying on top of lectures. Similarly, if your LMS is accessible, you might still be inaccessible if you are uploading things like inaccessible PDFs, non-captioned and non-described videos, or podcasts without transcripts.
A recent study conducted by All Able Ltd and Thomas Pocklington Trust identified accessibility barriers for students with sight loss. It found that inaccessible software, systems and processes prevent and discourage students with a disability from being successful in their further education. Further education and higher education providers, that do not host accessible content, are at risk of indirectly discriminating against people with disabilities.
Education providers have a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments for students with disabilities, and if they fail to provide adjustments, it can be classified as discrimination. According to the Disability News Service, a London university recently received backlash, after over 20 disabled students signed a petition stating the university wasn’t providing them with any support or service, despite the costly tuition fees.
Cost is often cited as a barrier for making digital content inclusive for students, the cost of scribes can be prohibitive, yet without the adjustments students with disabilities are further disadvantaged from the workplace and employment.
“I can’t imagine telling one of my children they can’t be whatever they want when they grow up,” says Laura Clark, AbleDocs Vice President, U.K. “If a young person puts in the work they should be able to achieve their dreams, just like their non-disabled peers”
How AbleDocs can help
By supporting students with disabilities and providing them with universally accessible digital content like coursework, academic forms, lecture notes and so on, colleges and universities can set disabled students up for success for the rest of their lives.
AbleDocs can help academic institutions generate accessible digital content through our suite of products and services. Through software, services and training, we can help you help your students gain confidence and independence in their studies as they pursue further education.
If you’d like to learn more about how AbleDocs can help your organisation, we’d be more than happy to book a Lunch & Learn where members of our team will help educate you on how to proceed with your digital accessibility journey. For information on Lunch & Learn please reach out to Laura Clark by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.