Improving digital accessibility and assistive technologies in further education

In a positive new initiative, students across England have come together to champion digital accessibility in further education.Group of four young people at down outside a college, smiling looking at a tablet and a laptop

This new campaign, titled Access and Assistance for All, is a collaborative effort aimed at changing the way colleges approach accessibility, ensuring that every student has equal access to educational resources.

In this article, we highlight the details of this inspiring campaign, including its five key goals, and signpost the way you can actively participate.

Who created the Access and Assistance for All Campaign?

The Access and Assistance for All campaign includes 15 regional champions — young people who have collaborated with organisations such as The British Youth Council, University College London (UCL), The Thomas Pocklington Trust, and The Kent and Medway Progression Federation. Their collective vision is to create a more inclusive and accessible learning environment for all students. 

What can colleges do to improve digital accessibility?

The Access and Assistance for All campaign provides five key goals for your college to adopt:

  1. Making learning resources accessible: The campaign advocates for the transformation of all learning materials into formats that can be easily accessed by all students, including those using assistive technologies.
  2. Encouraging accessibility champions: Each college is encouraged to appoint an accessibility champion who will champion the cause and grow the practice of digital accessibility within their institution.
  3. Learn about assistive technology: The campaign seeks to ensure colleges are aware of assistive technology and provide guidance on accessing free accessibility tools. 
  4. Use their Access and Assistance for All template: Colleges are encouraged to adopt the campaign’s template, ensuring consistency in accessibility efforts across institutions.
  5. Raising awareness among college staff: The campaign aims to ensure that all college staff members are informed about the initiative and support its goals.

The campaign has been in development over the past year and is now gaining momentum. It has garnered national support from influential bodies such as Government Minister Robert Halfon, Ofsted, Natspec, and The Association of Colleges.

This model enables you to judge the maturity of your institution's digital accessibility.

Why is assistive technology and digital accessibility important in colleges?

The Access and Assistance for All campaign addresses critical issues in digital accessibility within Further Education (FE) Colleges.

Research conducted by The Thomas Pocklington Trust revealed that some college websites were not compliant with accessibility regulations. Also in the findings: 63% of colleges’ accessibility statements were considered poor.

By participating in this campaign, colleges take action towards accessibility, and ensure that all students have equal opportunities and access to succeed in their educational lives.

How can colleges get involved

By signing up to the campaign Access and Assistance for All, it will help you work towards your accessibility maturity and a more inclusive and accessible educational experience.

What is accessibility maturity?

The journey to comprehensive digital accessibility, is often discussed in terms of ‘maturity’. Institutions and organisations frequently go on a journey, from establishing the need through an initial audit of a new website or learning portal, for example, which then grows to developing a dedicated accessibility job role, training entire teams, champions networks, user testing and beyond.

AbilityNet can support institutions wishing to seek assistance on assessing their digital accessibility maturity. You can access this offer through the Higher and Further Education (HE/FE) Accessibility Maturity Model. This interactive resource helps organisations determine their position on the accessibility spectrum and identify areas for improvement.

Accessibility eLearning courses

Further resources: