How can academics ensure the materials they produce are accessible for all students?
Academic staff produce a wide range of written materials for students, including course handbooks and lecture notes. Careful consideration needs be taken to ensure written documents are accessible to the full student body – both to ensure an inclusive environment and to meet the requirements of disability legislation.
By anticipating the accessibility needs of the student, academic staff will be contributing to an institution’s responsibility in positively promoting disability equality, as required by the Disability Equality Duty. Additionally, by providing information in alternative formats the institution will be actively committing to its responsibilities, under Part 4 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (as amended), to provide reasonable adjustments.
Written information may be a barrier for some students, such as those who are blind or partially sighted. If a document is poorly designed or contains unfamiliar terminology it may be difficult to understand and navigate by students. However, documents may also be inaccessible as a result of the way in which the content is produced or formatted. To reach a diverse student audience, and anticipate any needs they may have, it is vital that accessibility is built into all forms of written communication.
Accessible written formats include email, Braille, Easy Read, and large print. A disabled student’s requirements will depend on their impairment, as well as other factors. For example, many blind people do not read Braille, but instead prefer to receive information by email or on audiotape.
A range of helpful practical resources produced by HEIs and related organisations are listed below:
• JISC TechDis: Creation of Learning Content
•University of Leeds: How to make your School or Service’s written and printed information accessible
• Lexdis: Resources for making accessible learning materials
• Open University: Making your teaching inclusive
• University of Oxford – Bodleian Library: Clear Print
• University of Oxford – Bodleian Library: Accessible Electronic Information
• Regional Support Centre Scotland North and East: eLearning Accessibility and Inclusion