Accessibility and Me awareness raising training at University of Bristol

Adam Tweed presents about accessibility

Martin Nutbeem, one of The University of Bristol’s Senior Digital Education Developers in the Digital Education Office (DEO), felt that the University's teaching and administrative staff needed to have a better understanding of digital accessibility in general. This improved level of understanding would enable the University to better address the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018, which require most public sector institutions, including universities, to ensure digital content is accessible.

Putting accessibility front of mind

As much of the University's content would be made available on the learning technology tools and systems that the DEO maintains and supports, Martin was keen to ensure the University's content creation processes included accessibility as a key factor.

Whilst DEO have made the accessibility checking tool Blackboard Ally available and regularly advise on best practice for digital accessibility, it's a small team in a large University and it has proved difficult to be visible everywhere. "We felt that some events were needed to 'get the conversation started' in a broader sense and raise awareness of the requirements staff faced when creating content," says Martin.

AbilityNet provided suggestions on how the University might raise the profile of digital accessibility. "AbilityNet was incredibly helpful in terms of advice and came back to us with some considered suggestions for potential live events and drew on their experience in the field," says Martin.

Having discussed the University's requirements, AbilityNet provided a series of four two-hour events, with each focusing on a specific digital accessibility theme:

  1. Visual Impairment
  2. Mental Health
  3. Physical Impairment
  4. Neurodiversity

The unique selling point was each of these events were presented by someone with lived experience of that issue. The authenticity of the presenter’s experience of accessing content in the digital space created quite a buzz within the University. All four sessions ‘sold out’ quickly, with many requests for recordings to be made available for those who could not attend.

Quick Tips video series

AbilityNet also provided a “Quick Tips Videos” series, to be released a week after each event. Each video tapped into the themes discussed in bite-sized chunks, using a mnemonic to help remember the key points to bear in mind about inclusive design. Martin and his team released these videos once a day during the week following an event, and have also added them to the University's website pages that focus on Digital Accessibility. Below you can see an example of one of the Quick Tips videos:

Very positive feedback from staff

"We’ve had incredibly positive feedback after each session, with even seasoned accessibility champions stating they’d learned something new or hadn’t considered previously. We’ve still got a way to go on our journey, but the 'Accessibility and Me' sessions have provided a solid foundation for us," says Martin.

Some of the feedback from University staff who attended the training sessions:

  • “I found the session extremely interesting and informative. One of the big takeaways for me was the fact that by making communications more accessible for small groups you end up making them more accessible for everyone. Win-win.”
  • “I'm really enjoying these sessions I think because they are so authentic. And the honesty of the individuals is inspiring. The session really helped frame neurodiversity, the challenges and how we need to approach addressing them. Just fantastic.”
  • “Before attending I had viewed some feedback on the open plan office I work in, some of which seemed a bit petty at the time. The session made me realise that lighting and noise levels which may cause me minor irritation can actually be a significant blocker to some colleagues being able to do their work. It really helped me to rethink the assumptions I make.”
  • "The training has inspired me to be more equipped to provide accessible digital resources and to pursue championing this area within my role."

Speak to our experts

AbilityNet offers tailored accessibility and usability support to clients from all sectors, including further and higher education accessibility support packages.

Speak to our experts about your project and we will advise on a bespoke accessibility strategy to meet your specific requirements.