Galvanising staff to meet accessibility goals at University of Westminster

Although work on improving accessibility and inclusive practice was underway at University of Westminster in various areas, and a range of support and guidance was available to colleagues, the University identified a need to establish a more joined up, institution-wide approach to accessibility. 

Recommendations for next steps in accessibility

The University recognised the importance of inclusivity and accessibility and committed to this within its strategies. To help understand the University's current position with regards to accessibility and how best to ensure the goals within its strategies could be met, the University sought advice from AbilityNet and its Digital Accessibility Services for Higher and Further Education (HE and FE).

AbilityNet, working in partnership with HE/FE sector accessibility experts, McNaught Consultancy, provided an evaluation of key student journeys, tested the University's main website to identify any accessibility issues, and worked with the University to build an accessibility roadmap to outline key accessibility priorities. 

Learnings and challenges from the project

Sian Norris, Senior Project Manager, Information Systems and Support at University of Westminster, notes that the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations (PSBAR) deadline (23 September 2020) was a challenge for the institution.

"Not only did it coincide with the start of the academic year, this year is a time of unprecedented changes to teaching and operations resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic," she says. 

In addition to testing the accessibility of the University's website, AbilityNet provided technical expertise on the legislative requirement to develop the University's accessibility statement. 

"Through working on the project, I realised how fundamental accessibility is to everyone’s experience of the University and how improving accessibility makes our websites and content easier to use and more inclusive for everyone," says Norris.

Two Students sat side by side using computers

Making progress

The University has established a cross institutional Project Steering Group to focus on accessibility and inclusion, with hands-on involvement from a senior sponsor and a Project Manager driving towards firm goals and timings. 

"We sent communications from the senior sponsor and Vice Chancellor on the topic which highlighted the strategic commitment and work going on," says Norris.

AbilityNet and McNaught Consultancy also provided training to support colleagues in the digital teams to build skills internally and make the University's efforts sustainable. This included creating an elearning module for Norris and her team to share with staff at the University.

Benefits the University has achieved

The University took a structured approach to focus its accessibility activity on meeting the legislative deadline. It also continues to look beyond the deadline to galvanise employees to work together to embed change and make continuous improvements. 

"We have focused on engaging the whole institution to make meaningful progress and have raised awareness of digital accessibility," says Norris. 

Awareness-raising activities included engaging key stakeholders as members of project Working Groups, regular features in the all staff communications newsletter, and creating a colleague intranet site to host FAQs, guidance and resources and promoting training sessions.

Norris and her colleagues plan to build on the work done so far to continue to create a more accessible and inclusive University. "We are working to embed this into our culture, policies and processes, to create sustainable change," she says. 

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.

Image credit: Joanne O'Brien

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