Practical steps for accessible content

Practical steps for accessible content

It can be argued that producing content that is accessible and inclusive is a moral imperative. However, it is something that many content creators are weak at. Thanks to the internet and the widespread use of technology, we are all content creators now. Every image, every word document, every video and every tweet. However, how often do we question the accessibility of what we create and share?

I find a helpful way to frame the discussion around inclusion and accessibility is to reverse the ideas associated with these concepts. If we create content that is not inclusive, it is exclusive. If it is not accessible, it is inaccessible. This switch represents a different way of considering how the content we create is used. After all, very few people would willingly do this.

The Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations legally commit public bodies, including universities, to addressing the accessibility of their content. As Alistair McNaught identifies in his blog post, accessibility is finally defined by objective, measurable criteria. However, it can remain challenging for novice users to address these in their content sufficiently. Often, this is not willful neglect but comes from a lack of understanding of good (accessible) design and how to properly use software like Microsoft Word or tools like a WYSIWYG editor on a webpage.

To help support content creators with accessible design, the Home Office created a series of posters to identify what is needed to support users falling into one of these six categories:

  • low vision,
  • D/deaf and hard of hearing
  • Dyslexia,
  • motor disabilities,
  • users on the autistic spectrum,
  • users of screen readers (visual issues/blindness).

These posters are brilliant – but they are also overwhelming for anyone wanting to use them for a broad audience. Working in higher education, I was well aware of the challenges faced by educators when trying to create accessible learning materials. For this reason, my colleague Sue Watling and I developed the Designing for Diverse Learners Poster. One poster to rule them all.

The Designing for Diverse Learners Poster

The Designing for Diverse Learners is now in its third edition. Our initial poster was enhanced thanks to feedback from colleagues and input from an edit-a-thon I hosted at the ALT Online Winter Conference 2018. We are also immensely grateful to the University of Aberystwyth for translating the poster into Welsh, furthering its impact by allowing institutions in Wales to adopt the guidance.

This poster now hangs on the walls of many educators across higher education. We are also immensely proud to see the guidance enhanced and adopted by other institutions (UCEMHYMSNewcastleUCL and others). It is fantastic to see how helpful and valuable this poster has become, and I firmly believe much of its success comes from succinctness. In the complicated world of digital content creation, some simple and easy to follow guidance can go a long way.

In writing this for the CLA Blog, I feel it is essential to acknowledge the power of Creative Commons Licencing. The Home Office licenced their posters under the CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International Licence. This gave us the freedom to share and adapt their work under the conditions of attribution, non-commercial use and sharing alike. This licence made our derivative possible. In licencing under the same licence (as required), it ensured our work had maximum impact.

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