Accessibility has in recent months become a hot topic in the Education Sector.

This year at the Glasgow University Learning and Teaching Conference, the Digital Education Team lead a session on Accessibility by Design, in the Online Distance Learning area. Here are some of the highlights

What is accessibility?

The definition of digital accessibility varies depending on who you talk to and what website you visit. We like this one from which states that Digital accessibility is “the ability of a website, mobile application or electronic document to be easily navigated and understood by a wide range of users, including those users who have visual, auditory, motor or cognitive disabilities”.

Why should we care?

In the UK 1 in 5 people have a disability of some kind. Which is  20% of the population, that’s a lot of people. 

Many thanks to Greg Walters for the following statistic. At the University of Glasgow in 2016/17 there were 26803 students across all stages of study who accessed Moodle courses. 1603 of those students identified as being disabled or having an impairment. That’s just shy of 6% of our students. 

In the Digital Education Unit we feel that all students should have the best possible experience with Glasgow.  As we deal with online programmes the students that take those programmes only ever experience the university digitally. Therefore we strive to make sure that our courses are easy to use and navigate, and provide an engaging learning experience for everyone. Obviously the main part of that experience comes from the excellent academic material which is provided by the Programme team. But having those materials presented in a way that is designed to be accessible for all plays a large part in student experience.

So what is an accessible course?

An accessible course is usable course. Many improvements that are made for disabled users benefit everyone. People with disabilities have inspired the creation of many of the technologies that we use today.  One of the founders of the internet Vint Cerf, pioneered the first commercial email as an alternative to the telephone for people with hearing impairments. Vint Cerf has a hearing impairment.

In the digital world providing alternative formats gives people choice. I like to watch and listen to everything with subtitles or a transcript. I don’t know why, I don’t have a hearing impairment, it is just personal choice. For someone with a hearing impairment having subtitles or a transcript is the difference between participating or not. They cannot use a narrated PowerPoint or watch a video of a lecture as the audio is not perceivable.

When talking about web content there are 3 key terms and there is a lot of overlap.

Accessibility: addresses discriminatory aspects related to equivalent user experience for people with disabilities. Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can equally perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with websites and tools. It also means that they can contribute equally without barriers. For more information, see the Accessibility introduction.

Usability: is about designing products to be effective, efficient, and satisfying. Usability includes user experience design. This may include general aspects that impact everyone and do not disproportionally impact people with disabilities. Usability practice and research often does not sufficiently address the needs of people with disabilities.

Inclusion: is about diversity, and ensuring involvement of everyone to the greatest extent possible. In some regions this is also referred to as universal design and design for all. It addresses a broad range of issues.

Find out more by taking a look at our PPoint presentation.

Check out the University of Glasgow accessibility guidelines on

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