Assess and test your systems and resources for accessibility
To ensure the systems and resources at your college are accessible, take the following actions to find out what you have, how students interact with these systems/resources and what needs fixing.
Identify what you have
Start by establishing which teams, services, digital platforms and resources students will interact with during their time at college. Then, identify the potential accessibility barriers which might impact students in each of those cases.
It is a great idea to map the student journey to identify key processes that need to be considered. Knowing where digital platforms sit within the student journey will benefit the removal of accessibility issues. A knowledge of what you have and how students will interact with them is a vital first step to prioritising what services need work first.
Get started now with these four simple steps…
The Government’s Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) has guidance on making online public services accessible. They describe the four steps you should take to make sure your online services are accessible:
- Decide how to check your website or app for accessibility problems
- Make a plan to fix any accessibility problems you find
- Publish an accessibility statement
- Make sure new features are accessible
When considering where to begin, think about the following to guide you:
- Is the system/resource internally or externally facing?
- How heavily used is it?
- Is the information sensitive?
- Is the system/resource used by disabled users?
- Have there been previous complaints about it?
- Has it already been audited?
- What risk/compliance did the audit reveal?
- Is there an accessibility statement?
Test for accessibility
Once you have prioritised which systems and resources to tackle first, the next step is to test each of the identified websites / systems / platforms / learning resources to check their accessibility.
Testing web-based systems
To get started with testing your web-based content and systems for accessibility, begin with these Quick accessibility checks from LexDis. The Microsoft Accessibility Insights automated testing tool is a useful free accessibility checker tool which runs on Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome browsers. It will help to find and fix accessibility issues in your web-based content.
Testing electronic documents
Common applications such as Microsoft Office and Adobe have built-in accessibility checking features that can be used now to check the accessibility of existing documents.
- Microsoft – Improve accessibility with the Accessibility Checker
- Using the Acrobat Pro DC Accessibility Checker
Best practice testing
Once you have completed the basic testing, it is highly recommended you progress to in-depth manual testing – testing with assistive technologies such as NVDA and user research with disabled students, to not only ensure compliance with legal requirements but also create highly user friendly accessible content.
For more information on accessibility testing, read this informative resource from LexDis:
Produce accessibility statements
The requirement for colleges to publish accessibility statements has existed since 2018. If your college does not have an accessibility statement published for the main website by now, you are at serious legal risk.
These statements have very specific legal requirements alongside responsibilities for providing guidance and support to users. To produce an accessibility statement, you must first know what accessibility issues the platform has after completing accessibility testing.
Our research into accessibility in further education found that 8 out of 10 colleges in the UK do not provide legally required accessibility information. Find out how your college scored in our tests.
Create/update your accessibility statement
To write a compliant accessibility statement, use the CDDO Sample accessibility statement template. Be sure to read the example carefully and consider what accessibility issues your platform has as well as any applicable exemptions.
For many systems delivered by 3rd parties, such as most virtual learning environment (VLE) platform foundations and the Microsoft Office 365 suite, there is often already ample accessibility support information available which colleges can tap into when writing their statements and guidance material.
Find out more about accessibility statements here:
This guidance has been created in response to research from All Able Ltd and commissioned Thomas Pocklington Trust that looked at blind and partially sighted students’ access to information and assistive technology in mainstream FE. This showed a lack of inclusive practice creating a barrier to accessibility. Read about this research
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