Enhancing Accessibility and Inclusive Practices at Goldsmiths, University of London

Goldsmiths, University of London, is committed to fostering an inclusive and accessible environment for all students and staff. Goldsmiths, University of London logoIn pursuit of this goal, Jennifer George, the Head of the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths, recognised the need for external expertise to assess and enhance its disability inclusivity efforts.  

Why work with AbilityNet?

Goldsmiths had been actively working to make the department more disability-inclusive for nearly two years. Recognising the need for expert guidance, Jennifer chose to partner with AbilityNet, stating “I had worked with AbilityNet from a previous institution, and they were the obvious fit for us.” 

Goldsmiths' partnership with AbilityNet went on to have a transformative impact on accessibility and inclusive practices within the Computing department and across the university. 

Introducing a Digital Accessibility Maturity Model 

The collaboration began with AbilityNet and its education partner, McNaught Consultancy, to conduct the Higher Education Digital Accessibility Maturity Model guided assessment sessions, to gauge the department’s level of digital accessibility maturity.  

As word spread, other departments expressed an interest in joining the initiative, turning it into a comprehensive university-wide project. The process included course-level reviews, institutional assessments and workshops. 

The sessions were conducted online, allowing AbilityNet to assess work completed, staff perceptions, attendance, and evidence, enabling them to make comprehensive recommendations. 

Gold for Goldsmiths  Group of young people smiling and walking

The collaboration yielded tangible results.  

The Maturity Model includes a series of statements to meet standards needed on a five-point scale between 'not in place' and 'fully implemented'. Having reviewed all areas, the Model provides an overall maturity score between unbadged, bronze, silver, and gold. 

The Computing department had already instigated some inclusive practices in their learning approaches and achieved a Silver badge for course level accessibility and disability inclusivity. Following on from the session they implemented further improvements and swiftly met the recommendations for a Gold rating. 

Alongside the departmental course level evaluations, Goldsmiths undertook an Institution level Maturity evaluation. This model looks at the maturity of the structural elements (including strategy and organisational chart, disabled user voice, staff support and training, compliance and governance and more) that enable a university to provide an accessible inclusive learning environment. The institutional report provided crucial insights that facilitated discussions about strategy.  

Goldsmiths has also recruited a dedicated professional to oversee the implementation of AbilityNet's recommendations, with plans to assess the full impact within a year. 

Jennifer emphasised that “receiving the report from an external professional organisation such as AbilityNet will enable you to take leaps in getting it on the institutional agenda.” 

Accessibility in Computing as a curriculum

Computer Science offers significant opportunities for accessibility and inclusion. Jennifer says that the department “is continuously exploring ways to make maths, code and LaTeX formats more accessible. We have also introduced Accessibility as a new module within the department.” 

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Understanding barriers within the department 

Following the successful rollout of the Higher Education Digital Accessibility Maturity Model guided assessment, the Computing department then wanted to focus on its staff.  

It asked AbilityNet to conduct its Disability Inclusion Gap analysis, which “shed a light on how the [department’s] work environment could be made more disability inclusive,” says Jennifer.  

As a result, “I have changed the templates used for advertising jobs, interview systems and adjustments to working environments. There is more to be done with the systems involved, but we have definitely raised awareness and made some changes,” Jennifer says. 

Find out more about AbilityNet’s Disability Inclusion Gap analysis service by watching the video below. You can also access the transcript on our website.

Advice for accessibility progress 

To those looking to enhance accessibility at their organisations, Jennifer advises to “find allies, collaborate, remove barriers a few at a time and involve AbilityNet in your journey so you can take advantage of their expertise in accessibility.” 

Goldsmiths' partnership with AbilityNet exemplifies a proactive approach to fostering accessibility and inclusive practices, serving as a model for institutions seeking to create more inclusive environments for all members of their community. 

How AbilityNet can help you 

If you don't know how accessible your institution is, AbilityNet and McNaught Consultancy’s HE Maturity Model can help you figure it out. 

The model will help you create a plan to make your institution more accessible. 

You can download the free HE and FE Maturity Model or talk to AbilityNet's experts. They will help you create a plan that meets your specific needs.  

Download the free HE and FE Maturity Model

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