10 principles of disability created by the University of Greenwich

Universities and colleges are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of empowering, celebrating and giving a voice to disabled staff and students.  

A recent example includes the University of Greenwich driven by its disability and diversity focused initiative ‘STAART’. The initiative provides a set of principles and guidance to its future and current disabled students and staff.  

10 principles of disability 

The University of Greenwich’s disabled students, graduates, and staff have created 10 new ‘STAART Principles of Disability’ (abbreviated as SPoD) to be adopted across its UK campuses:   Group of young people sitting in a lecture hall

  1. Disability includes physical impairments; specific learning difficulties; mental health conditions; long-term health conditions; and/or potentially life-shortening illnesses.  
  2. We are not embarrassed and/or ashamed of our disabilities.  
  3. Some days are better than others.  
  4. Sometimes it may take us longer to work or study than our non-disabled peers, although sometimes we are quicker than our non-disabled peers to achieve the same results.  
  5. We are capable of great achievements.  
  6. Ninety-two percent of our disabilities are not visible.  
  7. Disabled peers can be our greatest allies and successful supporters.  
  8. We are disabled people, not people with disabilities. We are (mostly) disabled by the environment and attitudes rather than our bodies and brains.  
  9. We are experts by experience (of our disability/disabilities).  
  10. We come in different shapes, sizes, colours, faiths, and genders. 

The university is also encouraging other organisations to adopt the principles for their own staff/students, free of charge.   

Interview with the STAART Manager at the University of Greenwich  Melanie Thorley smiling at the camera

AbilityNet had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Melanie Thorley (pictured), the STAART Manager about the STAART Principles of Disability. 

What prompted you to create the STAART Principles of Disability? 

I noticed that there were no references to models of disability in my institution. I thought if we adopt specific principles, as agreed with disabled students and staff, the university has the potential to create a more disability-friendly environment for our students, staff, and visitors.  

STAART itself already has a positive reputation internally and externally. So, I thought a combination of STAART and the SPoD will ensure the university acknowledges, supports, and embraces disabled students and staff. 

How did you engage with the university to agree that these would be adopted? 

I created a business case proposal to adopt the STAART Principles of Disability (SPoD) which went to the VC group, Director of Student and Academic Services (SAS) and the Human Resources team at the University of Greenwich. In the proposal, I described a synopsis of STAART achievements in the last 3 years, SPoD’s potential benefits, and resource implications.  

What was the impact on people of creating them? What did everyone who contributed get from the process? 

With the collaborative efforts of disabled students, graduates, and staff, SPoD help to focus on the attitudes and behaviour of disability. By debunking the idea that disability is a negative state, SPoD may encourage more sharing and a more disability-friendly environment for our students, staff and visitors. 

Have you seen any initial impacts of having SPoD rolled out? Any tips for others who want to take up your kind offer of adopting them into their institution? 

I’m aware of two organisations who are considering adopting the SPoD for themselves, and I will share this information on the STAART social channels once the adoptions have been confirmed. Any organisation who would like to adopt the SPoD for themselves can contact me directly at me at m.thorley@greenwich.ac.uk.

Inclusive and Accessible Learning 

Dr. Melanie Thorley joined us for a webinar to discuss how to create inclusive and accessible learning and working environments moving forward during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Learn more about Dr. Thorley and the STAART initiative by accessing the webinar recording and transcript.  

Man drawing diagram on large presentation paper with woman looking on

25% off accessibility and inclusion training courses!
AbilityNet turned 25 on 23 January 2023. In celebration of our 25th anniversary, for 25 days we are offering 25% off live training sessions*.
Use the code Happy25thAbilityNet to redeem this discount to help you build skills in accessibility and inclusive design. You might be interested in the upcoming How to deliver and sustain accessible digital learning - for HE and FE professionals course.
* Offer ends Thursday 16th February 2023 at 23:59 GMT.


You may also be interested in our recent webinar where Amy Low, Service Delivery Director at AbilityNet was joined by Deborah Green, CEO of The University and Colleges Information Services Association (UCISA), and Stephen Thompson from the University of Sheffield. Five years on from the introduction of PSBAR, Amy discussed GOV.UK audits and sector-focused insights from our ‘Attitudes to Digital Accessibility’ survey with the panelists. 

Watch the recording of our webinar on PSBAR

Lived experience of disability 

AbilityNet provides lived experience training from its team members with professional knowledge and personal experience of disability. The authentic person-centred viewpoint helps Higher Education and Further Education institutions, and other organisations provide a learning and working environment that is inclusive by design.  

Our expert consultants can also help you ensure your institute’s website, apps and other digital services are usable, accessible, and comply with the new UK accessibility regulations. Find out more about our digital accessibility services.  

Further resources:

Blog: Higher education sector digital accessibility gaps highlighted in global report

Blog: Accessibility requirements for Higher and Further Education organisations

Training: How to deliver and sustain accessible digital learning - for HE and FE professionals

Higher education sector digital accessibility gaps highlighted in global report

A new survey report shows that universities still face big challenges in meeting their legal responsibility to provide accessible services for disabled students.

More and more are making a public commitment to accessibility, but they still need to make changes to their internal processes to ensure that they deliver on their promises. 

What are the global attitudes towards digital accessibility?

backs of heads of group of female students wearing graduation gowns and hats More than 200 people working in HE responded to AbilityNet’s Attitudes to Digital Accessibility Survey in late 2022, which gathered 447 responses in full.

Almost 80% said that accessibility is seen as a high priority for their organisation, but a key concern is that commitments made by senior managers are not matched by the resources needed to deliver change.  

For example 80% of respondents’ organisations have a diversity and inclusion strategy, of which 79% reference disability. But only 34% said that ‘digital accessibility’ is included in that strategy.

Lack of awareness of digital accessibility (61% of respondents) and lack of internal skills or experience (57%) are seen as the most significant barriers to be addressed to close this gap.  

Amy Low, Services Delivery Director at AbilityNet, said of the report's findings: 

“We had a great response to this survey from the HE sector. The Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations place clear legal requirements on universities so it’s good to know they are rising to the challenges it sets. 

However, it’s clear to see that many institutions are struggling to get beyond the headline commitments in their diversity, equality and inclusion strategies and make real changes to the experiences of students with disabilities.  

The next step for higher and further education institutions is to invest in changes to their internal processes, including the design and development of all their digital learning services. They are beginning to build the skills of their teams, but this needs to accelerate, and they need to make sure that their procurement policies match their accessibility requirements.” 

The full survey report and findings are available on the AbilityNet website.

Download the full survey results

 

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25% off accessibility and inclusion training courses!
AbilityNet turned 25 on 23 January 2023. In celebration of our 25th anniversary, for 25 days we are offering 25% off live training sessions*.
Use the code Happy25thAbilityNet to redeem this discount to help you build skills in accessibility and inclusive design. You might be interested in the upcoming How to deliver and sustain accessible digital learning - for HE and FE professionals course.
* Offer ends Thursday 16th February 2023 at 23:59 GMT.

Higher and Further Education sector results in detail 

The survey was open for responses from 20 September to 3 October 2022. AbilityNet worked with Open Inclusion to design the survey and analyse its results focusing on key findings in five main areas: 

  • Leadership 
  • Motivations 
  • Capability 
  • Processes 
  • Procurement 

Higher Education and Further Education institutions comprised 40% (201) of the 447 full responses to the survey, the overall results of which reveal a mixed picture of digital accessibility improvements and barriers. 

The survey report shows what many of us see across the public sector – the rules are in place and there is a top-level willingness to address this issue, but we still have a long way to go before digital inclusion and accessibility is embedded in the culture and day-to-day practices of the HE sector.

As to be expected post the introduction of the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations (PSBAR), the majority of HE/FE respondents (79%) said their website has an accessibility statement, (3% don’t have one, 18% didn't know), but 13% said their statement was not up to date. 

FProfile images of Amy Low, Stephen Thompson, and Deborah Greenree webinar on Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations (PSBAR)
In our free webinar, which took place on 7 February at 1pm GMT, Amy Low, Service Delivery Director at AbilityNet was joined by Deborah Green, CEO of The University and Colleges Information Services Association (UCISA), and Stephen Thompson from the University of Sheffield.
Five years on from the introduction of PSBAR, Amy discussed GOV.UK audits and sector-focused insights from our ‘Attitudes to Digital Accessibility’ survey with the panelists.

Confidence among HE professionals is high

Just under half (49%) of those surveyed in this category say they are ‘Quite confident’ in their understanding of digital accessibility, and 31% ‘Very confident’. 

Could higher levels of confidence within digital accessibility in this sector be attributable to their experiences implementing requirements for the 2018 Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations (PSBAR)? 

Senior management: Accessibility is a lower priority  

More than 55% of the HE/FE respondents say digital accessibility is a significant feature of their role, but only 7% say that for senior management it’s a ‘very high priority’, and another 33% report that it’s a ‘high priority’. However, 7% say it’s a very low priority for senior leaders in their institution. 

The most commonly cited motivator perceived by HE/FE professionals as leaders’ reasons for delivering digital accessibility was meeting legal requirements, with 79% of respondents noting it as a factor. 

Quotes from survey respondents about leaders’ priorities: 
“The accessibility agenda is being driven from IT services, middle management and non-managing staff, without sufficient resource for real expertise” 
“It isn't prioritised accordingly due to budget and time constraints. When it is prioritised, it's purely because it's a compliance issue rather than embracing user needs or enhancing the UX.” 
“They think it is the remit of accessibility professionals, not part of everyone's role” 
“Too many competing priorities and lack of awareness leading to perception there are little tangible gains aside from compliance.” 

Barriers to digital accessibility 

There were mixed reasons cited for ‘most significant barriers for delivering digital accessibility’ perceived by HE/FE professionals, with lack of awareness of digital accessibility (61%) and lack of internal skills or experience (57%) cited. 

What respondents said about barriers to delivering digital accessibility at their institutions:  

  • “People are overwhelmed when they find out it is all digital content and as many are already doing the work of multiple people on tight deadlines, the extra steps are significant” 
  • “Most people in my organisation want to do the right thing, but they also complain about having the time to do the right thing. Accessibility is currently seen as an add-on instead of a baked-in or from-the-start type of thing.” 

Positive outlook for diversity and inclusion

Most positive in the results is that 80% of respondents’ organisations have a diversity and inclusion strategy, with nearly all of those (79%) respondents saying ‘disability’ is referenced within the strategy. However, only 34% said that ‘digital accessibility’ gets a mention within that strategy. 

Accessibility statements 

As to be expected post the introduction of the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations (PSBAR), the majority of HE/FE respondents (79%) said their website has an accessibility statement, (3% don’t have one, 18% didn't know), but 13% said their statement was not up to date. 

Who is responsible for maintaining digital accessibility? 

Group of students sitting in lecture hall with teacher speaking to themNearly a fifth (23%) say ‘There is an executive level sponsor for our digital accessibility programme’ and 30% report there’s a non-executive leader of our digital accessibility programme. But the highest response (40%) noted that ‘there’s no single person in our organisation who is responsible for digital accessibility’. 

Furthermore, 35% said ‘It is unclear where digital accessibility responsibility sits within our organisation’, and 22% said ‘There is little or no executive level interest in digital accessibility’ 

Promisingly, 55% of HE/FE organisations represented in the results have a disability network or employee resource group which discusses digital accessibility, but 15% don't have any proactive groups for discussion of digital accessibility issues. 

How would you describe your organisation’s overall commitment to digital accessibility? 

Digital accessibility is a very low priority in 7% of the organisations included in the results, but 61% report ‘There are pockets of good practice across the organisation’, and 12% report that ‘Digital accessibility is embedded into the way we usually work’. Only 5% say that ‘digital accessibility is central to our organisation’. 

Overall, results indicate no roadmap for digital accessibility is shared across the institutions represented in the results for the higher and further education sector. 

Need for formal, consistent accessibility and inclusion training 

When asked if their institution provided digital accessibility training tailored to respondents’ roles, the answers were the following: 

  • Not applicable: no digital accessibility training is delivered specific or tailored to my role: 17% 
  • Internally delivered online digital accessibility training: 54% 
  • Externally sourced online accessibility training: 32% 
  • Internally delivered face to face digital accessibility training: 28% 
  • Externally sourced face to face accessibility training: 6% 
  • Don’t know: 13% 

What respondents said about training provision 

  • “Externally sourced online training, but only what I have found myself. It is not a formal training plan.” 
  • “Only some training - not much and not prioritised.” 
  • “The training I had was over 7 years ago and our software and digital access has changed a lot in that time, yet I am expected to know about it.” 
  • “Different departments have a different approach. I have created a full online learning package for my own department specifically aimed at the software we use for content creation.” 
  • “Training is available for very specific areas. There are significant gaps in provision.” 

Generally positive training options are reported to be available to the HE/FE sector respondents, but the overall results show that an inconsistent approach is taken towards accessibility training, and it’s not something embedded in the majority of institutional cultures:

  • General training in digital accessibility for all staff: 33% 
  • Disability awareness training as part of induction: 40%  
  • Digital accessibility training as part of induction: 14% 
  • Specific budget for accessibility training if teams require it: 16% 
  • Opportunities for learning across teams about experiences: 32% 
  • Support to gain accreditations in digital accessibility: 15% 
  • Attending relevant conferences: 37% 
  • Attending free webinars, meetups and networking events: 65% 
  • Don’t know: 18% 

Budgets are a constraint

When asked for any additional points to share about how digital accessibility is handled at their organisation, one respondent said: 

"Financial and workload pressures in Higher Education mean that senior management are concerned about adding to already stressed staff to improve the accessibility of their content. This is seen as "additional" work and is the first thing to be dropped. I believe we should be putting in place more support for staff, and raising awareness of accessibility issues, but with zero budget this is impossible." 

Further resources:

Blog: How can I prove the need for accessibility training to senior leaders?

Blog: Accessibility requirements for Higher and Further Education organisations

Training: How to deliver and sustain accessible digital learning - for HE and FE professionals

Inclusive Cybersecurity: How to ensure digital safety is for everyone

By guest blogger, Annie Button

Person working on code on laptop and on mobile smartphone on deskIn today's digital age, cybersecurity is a concern for everyone. Just as it is becoming harder for businesses to recruit cybersecurity specialists, there has also been a spike in the number of cybercrimes taking place. Businesses, organisations, and individuals must do everything they can to ensure that they don’t make it easy for criminals. 

However, not everyone has equal access to the necessary tools and information to protect themselves online. People with disabilities, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations often face unique challenges with regard to both digital accessibility and staying safe in the digital world. 

In this article, we will explore some of the problems with cybersecurity and inclusivity, as well as ways to make cybersecurity more accessible to everyone.

Disabilities can make phishing harder to spot

One major issue faced by people with disabilities when it comes to cybersecurity is the difficulty in identifying phishing scams. For people with poor vision, it can be challenging to read and interpret the text and images in an email or message, making it easier to fall for a scam.

Additionally, people with memory problems may struggle to remember complex passwords, leading them to use much simpler or more obvious passwords. This will make their accounts easier to break into from the perspective of a hacker. 

Utilising screen readers and other assistive technology can make it easier for people with visual impairments to navigate the internet. For those who struggle to remember a number of long and complicated passwords, it could be worth using a password manager, as these only require remembering one master password to get into all accounts. 

Compromising security 

Money spread around with the word Fraud written on paper amongst themAnother issue is the need for different forms of assistance to go online. For example, individuals who require carers to enter private passwords on their behalf may have their privacy compromised. This can be a major concern for those who wish to maintain their independence and autonomy.

To address these issues, there are several steps that individuals can take to make themselves safer online. For example, using a form of multi-factor authentication could ensure that if someone does ever try to enter their account using a password, they would also need additional factors such as biometric data.

Vulnerable people are targets of cybercrime

Cybercrime disproportionately targets the elderly, as well as other vulnerable members of society because they may be less inclined to question suspicious or compromising situations. Criminals can infiltrate communities, posing as people with disabilities in order to manipulate individuals.

To limit disruption to IT networks Head of Threat Intelligence, George Glass at Redscan points to the value of “responding to, managing and mitigating cyber security incidents with incident response plans which, once implemented, can be relied on to restore operations as quickly as possible”. 

Unfortunately, older and vulnerable people are targeted by cyber criminals in many ways within an organisation or community they belong to by sophisticated scams that can be very convincing. In recent years, older people are reportedly targeted on average every 40 seconds by fraudulent scammers.

In addition to fake emails and dodgy phishing scams, vulnerable people can also fall foul of sweetheart scams and malicious dating invitations due in part to the widespread access to and popularity of social media.

You may be interested in AbilityNet's free webinar playback: How to spot an online scam and avoid it: Stay safe online


Language barriers

One important aspect of inclusive cybersecurity is ensuring that information and resources are available in multiple languages.

For non-native speakers or those with limited proficiency in the dominant language of the internet, understanding and navigating online security can be difficult. This can also be an issue for indigenous communities and other marginalised groups. 

Providing information and resources in multiple languages can help bridge this gap and ensure that everyone has access to the information they need to stay safe online.

Ensuring tools and products are accessible 

Another important aspect of inclusive cybersecurity is making sure that digital tools and platforms can be accessed by people with various physical and cognitive abilities.

This includes designing interfaces that are easy to navigate and understand, as well as providing options for users to adjust font size, contrast, and other visual settings. 

Additionally, providing keyboard shortcuts and other alternatives to mouse use can make it easier for people with mobility impairments to access digital tools and platforms.

How to make cybersecurity more inclusive 

Websites and social media platforms also have a role to play in making the internet more inclusive. For example, providing accessible design and user interfaces can make it easier for people with disabilities to navigate and use these platforms. (You can learn more about accessible design and inclusive recruitment in AbilityNet's training courses. See the special 25% discount offer below.) 

Once again, implementing two-factor authentication sits alongside other security measures that can help protect vulnerable users from cybercrime.

Inclusive cybersecurity also means recognising and accommodating the strengths of different perspectives and backgrounds.

Research has shown that diverse teams are more effective at identifying and mitigating cyber threats. For example, women and other underrepresented groups can bring new perspectives and approaches to problem-solving, leading to more effective and innovative solutions.

Man drawing diagram on large presentation paper with woman looking on

25% off accessibility and inclusion training courses!
AbilityNet turned 25 on 23 January 2023. In celebration of our 25th anniversary, for 25 days we are offering 25% off live training sessions*.
Use the code Happy25thAbilityNet to redeem this discount to help you build skills in accessibility and inclusive design. 
* Offer ends Thursday 16th February 2023 at 23:59 GMT.


Ensure underrepresented groups are involved

A key way to increase diversity within the world of cybersecurity is by encouraging and supporting underrepresented groups to pursue careers in this field. This includes providing mentorship, networking opportunities, and targeted education and training programs. 

Given the current shortage of qualified staff successfully filling cybersecurity roles, this offers strong opportunity to welcome a wider and more diverse set of people into these roles. Additionally this highlights the importance of addressing unconscious bias and discrimination in the hiring process and to create a more inclusive culture within cybersecurity organisations. 

Cybersecurity is a concern for everyone, but not everyone has equal access to the necessary tools and information to protect themselves online. By addressing the unique challenges faced by people with disabilities, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations, we can work towards creating a more inclusive digital world. 

Further resources

Blog: 10 scams to be aware of - Autumn Scam Watch 2022

Factsheet: Internet scams and how to avoid them

How can I prove the need for accessibility training to senior leaders?

At the end of 2022, AbilityNet surveyed more than 400 professionals worldwide about their attitudes toward digital accessibility within their organisation.

Graphic showing a head with a lightbulb in the brain areaThroughout the year, we will be analysing in greater depth the five main topics covered within the Attitudes to Digital Accessibility report findings (Leadership, Motivations, Processes, Capability, Procurement), and take a deeper dive into each area.

This article looks at what the survey results reveal about attitudes toward digital accessibility Capability.

6 key takeaways about capability development

1. Senior leaders think accessibility skills are better supported than they are

It seems respondents perceive no major differences in the state of their organisation's accessibility skills depending on the size or type of organisation. However, interestingly, perceptions did vary by seniority.

Along with most other categories analysed in the survey, executive/C-suite/senior leaders think their organisation is supporting skills development much better than less senior respondents do - this indicates an opportunity to highlight to senior leaders the gap between reality and perception.  

Just under half the respondents agreed with the statement: ‘My organisation helps individuals to develop the skills they need to deliver its digital accessibility vision’ (46%), with 15% agreeing strongly. 28% disagreed with this statement, with 15% disagreeing strongly.

Almost a quarter of respondents were ambivalent (22%) neither agreeing nor disagreeing.

The results show significant differences in how well individuals are feeling supported by their organisations in developing their digital accessibility skills.

Organisations should explore disparities in perceptions as they could reveal some misunderstandings and positive assumptions across the organisation that may be limiting practical progress.

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25% off accessibility and inclusion training courses!
AbilityNet turned 25 on 23 January 2023. In celebration of our 25th anniversary, for 25 days we are offering 25% off live training sessions*. Use the code Happy25thAbilityNet to redeem this discount to help you build skills in accessibility and inclusive design.
* Offer ends Thursday 16th February 2023 at 23:59 GMT.


2. Confidence is high, but role-specific training is needed

A quarter of respondents noted a lack of accessibility training specific to their role. 

Unsurprisingly, respondents for whom digital accessibility was a significant part of their work (in both technical and non-technical roles) were much more confident in their understanding of digital accessibility than those less significantly aligned with it in their roles. 

Over 4 in 5 respondents (84%) felt confident about their understanding of digital accessibility (29% felt very confident and 55% quite confident). We recognise this may be a skewed sample to some extent as the survey was shared by accessibility and inclusion organisations who are more likely to reach people with accessibility interest and awareness.

Although the confidence of people in roles related to accessibility is quite high, their influence across the organisation can often be limited and their skills are in scarce supply across the business.  

3. Good practice is not widespread

Group of people in work setting looking at laptop on desk, one looking at his watchTwo-thirds of respondents said that there were only pockets of good practice towards developing digital accessibility skills in their organisations.

In some organisations, digital accessibility skills and experience are siloed. This means that overall high standards and improvements in digital accessibility are constrained by a lack of time available to be spread across the organisation and it can be a struggle to meet varying demands.

These more advanced digital accessibility skills also risk being lost when the valuable, knowledgeable, and experienced team members move on from the organisation, and take their expertise with them.

4. It's up to you to sort your accessibility training

When asked if their organisation is supporting the development of capability, less than half of the respondents felt they were. This aligns with one of our key findings from the survey, which also came out through comments in the open questions, that people felt they need to find information and upskill themselves rather than in training that is provided by their organisation.

The results show that in many businesses, individual employees have to take their own initiative to find courses or study aids like free webinars, meetups, and networking events (63% said they attended online events such as these) to develop their accessibility skills, as this is not built into existing company standards or professional development plans. 

The challenge this poses is that digital accessibility capabilities are not generally being regularly assessed and developed in a structured way across organisations.

Some comments provided by respondents related to skills and capability development:
“Active disinterest in understanding IT skills and how these are necessary across the whole staff body to ensure good digital accessibility.” (Large government/public body)
“Lack of understanding, I think they think it's an easy thing to implement. There is definitely the will but time and workload don't allow for people to be trained effectively.” (Large government/public body)
“I just think they don't understand the time and expertise needed, they just think it's easy to do” (Size unknown government/public body)


5. More disability training is needed 

Respondents were asked what formats were offered for role-specific digital accessibility training. The majority said online, but almost a quarter (24%) said that no role-specific digital accessibility training had been delivered to them.

Under a fifth (17%) of respondents noted that digital accessibility training formed part of company inductions. This identifies a clear gap and key opportunity for organisations to provide improved general disability and digital accessibility awareness-raising activities, particularly for new starters.

However, interestingly, if you work in a commercial business you are more likely to receive team learning about experiences (54% compared to 32% of government/public bodies and 30% of charities). 

Group of people in meeting room in formal training sceneOnline learning modules for workplaces
Do you need a cost-effective way to teach your staff about accessibility and inclusion?
AbilityNet has developed a series of online learning eLearning modules to help you become a digitally disability inclusive workplace. Topics include Disability Awareness, PDF Accessibility, Accessible Recruitment, Office 365 and more.


6. Digital accessibility needs to be embedded

The proportion of professionals noting that digital accessibility was central to or embedded in the way they work with the organisations is relatively low.

Organisations need to review their processes to ensure they are operating as efficiently as possible.

Great value: get 10 courses for the price of 8

Save on the year ahead by purchasing 10 training courses for the price of 8, with our 2023 bundle deal. 

You don’t have to book them all right now – you have until the end of 2023 to book all 10. More courses will be announced soon. You can also download a training brochure to browse what’s available and share with your team. 

Book your training bundle
 

Further resources

Accessibility requirements for Higher and Further Education organisations

As higher and further education organisations are part of the public sector body they must adhere to The Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018 (PSBAR). 

What are The Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations?

Three students working on their laptop in a library. PSBAR requires public sector organisations, such as universities and colleges, to make their websites and mobile apps accessible so they can be used by as many people as possible.

The accessibility regulations say that you must make your website and/or mobile application more accessible by it being "perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust" (POUR). Your website must also include an accessibility statement.

Free Webinar on Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 

In our free webinar, which took place on 7 February at 1pm GMT, Amy Low, Service Delivery Director at AbilityNet was joined by Deborah Green, CEO of The University and Colleges Information Services Association (UCISA), and Stephen Thompson from the University of Sheffield. 5 years on from the introduction of PSBAR, Amy discussed GOV.UK audits and sector-focused insights from our recent ‘Attitudes to Digital Accessibility’ survey with the panellists.

Watch the recording of our webinar on PSBAR

Profile images of Amy Low, Stephen Thompson, and Deborah GreenStephen Thompson shared his experience with being audited by GOV.UK last year at The University of Sheffield as part of its role in monitoring compliance with PSBAR (2018). Stephen discussed the preparation for the audit, the actions they took based on the audit results, and how they are continuing to embed digital accessibility within the institution.

Deborah Green from UCISA delved further into results from AbilityNet’s ‘Attitudes to Digital Accessibility’ survey. From 447 full responses, 40% (201) were from Higher and Further Education (HE/FE) institutions (primarily in non-managerial roles), and the results revealed a mixed picture of digital accessibility improvements and barriers.

More than 55% of the HE/FE respondents said that digital accessibility is a significant feature of their role, but only 7% said that for senior management it’s a ‘very high priority’, 33% a ‘high priority’, and 7% said it’s a very low priority - findings from AbilityNet's Attitudes to Digital Accessibility survey

How AbilityNet can help you meet accessibility requirements

AbilityNet's expert consultants can assist you in ensuring that your organisation's website, apps, and other digital services are usable, accessible, and in accordance with PSBAR (2018).

You can download a free copy of our HE and FE Accessibility Maturity Model

The accessibility model will help you:

  • Determine where you are in the Accessibility Maturity Spectrum
  • Understand the risks and how to build on the benefits
  • Identify support needs

Amy Low, Service Delivery Director at AbilityNet, and Alistair McNaught, McNaught Consultancy, explain more on how using the HE and FE Accessibility Maturity model can help you in your accessibility journey.

Also, our popular training course ‘How to deliver and sustain accessible digital learning’ can help you in improving the overall student learning experience. You'll learn how to identify strengths and weaknesses, what training staff might need, how to incorporate digital accessibility considerations into templates, quality assurance and feedback, and a comprehensive audit framework.

Book your spot

More resources for Higher Education and Further Education organisations

Happy 25th Birthday AbilityNet: 1998 - 2023

Happy 25th birthday AbilityNet, plus graphic of a birthday cakeTake a moment to think back to 1998… the average house price was £75,806, the most popular phone was the Nokia 5110, TVs were still bulky boxes at a modest 21 inches and, in September of that year, Google was launched.

On the 23rd of January 1998, AbilityNet was born. Today, 23 January is our official 25th anniversary.

Our mission - to help make a digital world accessible to all - has driven us ever since, has seen us grow in numbers and reach, and has ensured that each new milestone in technology was used to empower people with disabilities in every aspect of their lives.

Gary Moore, CEO of AbilityNet:

Gary Moore, smiling“On AbilityNet’s 25th birthday, we are celebrating the incredible advances in technology during the last couple of decades. That transformational power is still not equally available for everyone, with a marked gap in uptake amongst older and disabled users.

More than ever, equal access to suitable technology and content has a critical impact on an individual’s life experience. AbilityNet will continue to help older and disabled people to access and use devices. We will continue to help make content more accessible. Working with our volunteers and industry partners, we want people to use technology to achieve their potential at work, in education and in the home."

Milestones in AbilityNet's mission

We’ve come a long way in our lifetime as a charity with a mission to help people reach their full potential through technology.

Accessibility expertise

It’s hard to overstate the importance of apps and the internet. After auditing our first website in 2003, we now have a globally-acclaimed team of accessibility expert consultants and a range of services from diverse user testing to embedding accessibility within every aspect of your organisation with our Digital Accessibility Maturity Model

The result; millions have benefitted from better apps and websites and been able to engage fully in the online world.

You can also access a suite of training courses on digital accessibility and workplace inclusion, delivered by our expert consultants.

25% off accessibility and inclusion training courses!
In celebration of AbilityNet's 25th anniversary, for 25 days we are offering 25% off live training sessions*. Use the code Happy25thAbilityNet to redeem this discount and build skills in accessibility and inclusive design.
Offer ends Thursday 16th February 2023 at 23:59 GMT.

Assessment services

Our assessment services - matching people’s needs with the right tech and software solutions - have also grown significantly. As well as continuing to deliver expert workplace and HE assessments across the UK, we now offer a comprehensive workplace-wide Gap Analysis to gauge where your organisation is on its employee inclusion journey, as well as helping universities and colleges measure their progress with our HE and FE Maturity Model.

Group of approx 40 AbilityNet staff smiling and waving insideProviding IT Support at Home and online

We also now have nearly 400 skilled IT volunteers providing free services to disabled individuals in their homes across the UK. This is complemented by our wide range of expert resources, including factsheets, webinars and ‘My Computer My Way’ and our Freephone advice and information call line (0800 048 7642) for anyone seeking help with accessible technology challenges.

Globally renowned technology events

Pixellated multicoloured logo. Text reads: AbilityNet Tech4Good AwardsSupported by BT ever since its launch in 2011, the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards highlight the wealth of charities, businesses and volunteers across the UK and beyond that harness the power of technology to benefit everyone. It should be an unmissable event again this year.

Lastly, launched in 2017, our annual TechShare Pro conference has now become the must-attend global digital inclusion event for accessibility and IT professionals alike. It also now exists as a year-round schedule of activities in the form of our new TechShare Pro 365.

Basically, we’ve been busy. 

How we have helped: the stats

You can read more about our impact on individuals and organisations across all sectors in our annual impact report published each March and, as well as remaining focused on our charitable mission to help disabled individuals through tech, we are also ever-aware of our broader responsibilities.

We invite you to read about our steps towards lightening our impact on the environment, as well as our approach to social responsibility and good governance.

Need help improving your accessibility?  Speak to our experts

Robin speaking into a microphone as part of desktop tech set upRobin Christopherson MBE, AbilityNet's Head of Digital Inclusion:

"I'm proud to have been with AbilityNet since the very start. We've seen huge changes in technology in the past quarter of a century on our journey from desktop PCs to smartphones, from the internet to the internet of things, from Sony Walkmen to smartspeakers and AI and so, so much more.

Like millions of disabled people I wouldn't be in work at all without the power of tech - and AbilityNet is always there to help us all get the most from our software and devices, both specialist and mainstream."

Read more from Robin about tech developments over AbilityNet's lifetime: 25 Years of Tech - and AbilityNet

Celebrate with us on social media

25 Years of Tech - and AbilityNet

Happy 25th birthday AbilityNet, plus graphic of a birthday cakeI’m very proud to have been with AbilityNet since its birth in January 1998. Today marks our 25th birthday - and it’s worth taking a look at just how far we’ve come…

Changing lives through tech… for a quarter of a century

It’s almost unbelievable how many changes we’ve seen in the landscape of technology, both for consumers and behind the scenes.

When AbilityNet was first founded in 1998, televisions were still bulky boxes in the corner of our living rooms, the internet was still young and fresh, computer speeds were measured in megahertz, mobile phones weren’t nearly so mobile (and definitely weren’t so smart) and the terrifying Y2K digital-apocalypse loomed large on the horizon.Robot sitting on a bench outdoors
 
Today, the unstoppable rise of the smartphone has created a tsunami of smart gadgets and wearables, the internet is everywhere (and in everything from your watch to your washing machine), self-driving cars are on many of our streets and AI is almost everywhere.

Through all these changes, one thing hasn’t altered; AbilityNet has remained at the very cutting-edge, using our expertise to help people with disabilities, to advise government on inclusive policies,  and to assist companies who really care about making their products and services accessible to all.

Do you need advice and expertise to improve your organisation's digital accessibility or inclusive practices? AbilityNet can help you.


Robin Christopherson and guide dog Hugo receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Suffolk Computer Science departmentCelebrating the power of tech

Over these last two and a half decades, the technology has evolved in eye-opening ways - but its potential to help overcome impairments has existed from the very start. In education, at home and in the workplace we’ve continued changing lives through the power of technology - helping many millions of people across countless countries reach their full potential.

Without tech and its awesome ability to include everyone in this digital world, I wouldn’t be Head of Digital Inclusion for such an excellent organisation as AbilityNet - and been able to play a small part in enabling others to also achieve their ambitions over these many years.

How AbilityNet can help you

I know what you’re thinking; of course AbilityNet wouldn’t exist without tech. So I need to be really clear; without the power of tech to include everyone I wouldn’t be in work at all.
 
I and millions of others wouldn’t stand a chance. But tech has given us so much more than an equal chance at a career – it’s also given us access to all those things that YOU use tech for every day.

I may need to tweak my computer and smartphone to do the things you take for granted, but that’s where AbilityNet comes in.

So, please use our website and delve into the enormous range of factsheets and simple step-by-step guides to customising your tech, and do check out our free webinars or contact us for free tech advice or support.

25% off accessibility and inclusion training courses!
In celebration of AbilityNet's 25th anniversary, for 25 days we are offering 25% off live training sessions*. Use the code Happy25thAbilityNet to redeem this discount and build skills in accessibility and inclusive design.
Offer ends Thursday 16th February 2023 at 23:59 GMT.

Further resources

Time to sow new seeds for digital accessibility

Guest blogger Helen Wilson shares her experience teaching digital accessibility in the workplace and details about the Learn to Enable Digital for Everyone project that’s exploring awareness teaching of digital accessibility to school children.

Helen Wilson is a research student in digital accessibility and a Senior Digital Content Designer at a local authority council.

Reflecting on current practice

In January 2020 I was excited to blog about a simple workplace digital accessibility training model developed as part of my profession role. It was shared for the wider community to adopt, and to help raise awareness of the basic principles of accessibility that could be applied to documents when they were created. 

I’m now moving in a new personal research direction and one I think may hold greater long-term opportunities and rewards for digital accessibility awareness.

I spent much of 2022 reading research, papers, case studies, reports and talking to others who had adopted a similar training model, and they all echoed the same frustrations and barriers I was still facing in my own workplace. 

Teaching adults in a workplace how to apply basic accessibility principles to documents comes with its barriers. Before people even engage in training, you often need to overcome their deep-set preconceptions that even basic digital accessibility is complex, costly and very time consuming. This is often backed up by what they had seen on the internet relating to WCAG (Web content accessibility guidelines) and then reinforced by the fix at the end culture, that we all know can be complex and takes twice as long to do. 

Addressing the making of documents correctly from the offset instead of fixing was often an alien concept, with statements such as ‘we don’t know anyone like that, accessibility isn’t our responsibility, ‘we’ve always done it this way, and nobody has complained before’.

Once the initial hurdle of preconceptions was overcome the training got started, but then this brought with it other problems. To learn how to make documents for accessibility meant ‘unlearning’ established practices to ‘relearn’ a new way to do something, in some cases in the workplace these were digital habits, skills and routines built and adopted over 20 - 30 years.  

Once engaged, with the initial preconceptions and barriers overcome people were often surprised it was ‘simple’ to do, and this is what got me reading and questioning why it was this hard just to teach some very basic principles. I’m an experienced teacher and even when I taught students in further education colleges, I rarely had to work this hard just to introduce a new concept or subject. 

The most important thing I learned however, is that you need to teach it as a whole subject and really emphasise the wider ‘why’ because this isn’t just about digital skills, it’s about underpinning wider disability awareness and everyday barriers people face. 

I believe we need to look at this differently

There are around 20% of people with a disability in this country that need us to think about digital accessibility, but it’s even bigger than this, it’s about everyone.

One of the best models I’ve used for teaching accessibility is the personas for permanent, temporary and situational disability from the Microsoft design toolkit. If you consider and present digital accessibility in this way, it affects everyone, and everyone can relate. 

The first key to teaching is engagement, and this often means tapping into personal experiences to get buy-in or attention. Everyone can relate to sun shining on their screens in the summer, forgetting their headphones when they want to watch a video in a quiet place, or printing in black and white and content losing its meaning because there is no colour. 

I did a great session on this using everyday examples of how it affects everyone, not just those with a disability. The feedback heavily suggested it had a more memorable impact than just teaching the digital skills teaching we so often see and do. The ‘why’ in this context is so important and the real examples helped to promote good discussions around the barriers that a whole range of people can face with digital content.

So, if it affects everyone, why is mainstream awareness in this so low and why is this not taught to everyone, after all we live in a digital society?

Microsoft Design Toolkit of a table with each cell displaying graphics of people showing a permanent, temporary and situational scenario of touch, see, hear and speak examples.

Image from Microsoft Design Toolkit

A new year, a new strategy

The barriers of teaching people in the workplace to ‘unlearn’ skills to ‘relearn’ them doesn’t always feel the most effective, and the pre-conceptions that get in the way often aren’t helpful either. But of course, this needs to continue to be able to address the current workplace skills gap for everyday practice.

But why don’t we also teach these skills at the point of learning digital skills in the first place? Why are we not planning for the future of our digital society and preparing our next generation to be inclusive for the world in which they live? The current situation is teaching them later in the workplace when skills and routines need to be unpicked.

As we know, young people are not just consumers of digital information, they create content just as regularly too. So, it makes sense to make them aware of digital accessibility and how to put some basic principles in place to make their content more accessible for everyone. 
It is during this ideal time in education that young people are beginning to learn and establish their lifelong skills, knowledge and habits. The basic principles of digital accessibility are simple to learn, and if everyone knew from a young age how to put these basics into everyday practice it could just become the 'norm', imagine that?

Unfortunately, my reading identified that currently the topic of digital accessibility or awareness is rarely taught or referred to in schools, colleges or universities, and if it is taught it’s only taught specifically in subjects like ICT, and even this is currently minimal. It’s the same for disability awareness too.

Think about the social model of disability in the everyday world of digital, does our wider society know how to prevent even the most basic digital barriers? Currently I believe the answer in the mainstream is no, and I believe the barrier is lack of visibility of the subject in education and in the mainstream.

So, 2023 brings on my new challenge of going back to university. I’m specifically looking forward to researching what young people in school currently know, and what opportunities there are to bring basic digital accessibility awareness and teaching into the mainstream. 

The everyday skills I am referring to are the following basic digital accessibility principles:

  • captions and transcripts
  • social media hashtags and emojis
  • colour and contrast
  • image alt text
  • describing links
  • use of headings and titles
  • tables
  • use of fonts and clear language
  • reading order
  • using accessibility checkers

I will be using the Learn to Enable Digital for Everyone website as an anchor point to share insights and resources as my research progresses.
The website quotes the famous proverb 'great oaks from little acorns grow' that puts forward the idea that if you persist with small efforts they may build to grander ones in time. 

I believe the acorns in this case are building the foundations of everyone knowing the basics to prevent large-scale barriers, but also sowing the seeds into the minds of our young people who could potentially grow up to become digitally inclusive by default.

If you can share or signpost me to any similar studies, or help me with piloting research ideas, please do get in contact through the Learn to Enable Digital for Everyone website. 

Learn to Enable logo

Further resources:

Accessibility training to help you achieve your 2023 goals

365 new days, means 365 new chances to focus on your accessibility and disability inclusion goals for this new year.

To keep your business prospering in the first quarter and beyond and to improve your professional skills for the year ahead, explore AbilityNet's selection of affordable and high-quality online training courses.

Book now for the following courses:

Attendees of live training sessions will receive a Certificate of Attendance to add to their professional development training portfolio.

Great value: get 10 courses for the price of 8

Save on the year ahead by purchasing 10 training courses for the price of 8, with our 2023 bundle deal. 

  • Not for profit discounted 10 tickets for price of 8 bundle (£99 each) is only £795 including VAT (saving £195)
  • For Profit discounted 10 ticket for price of 8 bundle (£149 each) is only £1195 including VAT (saving £295)

You don’t have to book them all right now – you have until the end of 2023 to book all 10. More courses will be announced soon. You can also download a training brochure to browse what’s available and share with your team. 

Book your training bundle

What previous attendees say about the courses

TransPennine Express logoAbilityNet helped TransPennine Express (TPE) organise an Accessibility Training Day for its staff. Of the many positive comments from the day, here's one from Chris Jeffery, Accessibility Co-ordinator at TPE: 

"I had a really insightful day today learning about digital inclusivity and inclusive language with the TransPennine Express Social Media Team and the expertise of AbilityNet. Really enjoyable and informative training sessions which will help us deliver really engaging and accessible content."

As advice for organisations wanting to progress institutional accessibility, Louis Helm, Social Media Manager at TPE expressed the following:

"My advice for others looking to transform their digital accessibility...would be getting in touch with AbilityNet as its content and training has been ideal for us so far - AbilityNet made the process of booking training easy."

So, this new year enjoy AbilityNet's affordable, high-quality online training courses to build your skills in accessibility and inclusive design.

Further resources 

Do you know how to promote diversity and inclusion across your organisation's processes? Check out AbilityNet’s range of online courses, bespoke training, and online learning tools to help you this year. 

AbilityNet provides a range of free services to help disabled people and older people. If you can afford it, please donate to help us support older and disabled people through technology

AbilityNet Factsheet - January 2023

Autism and Computers

Autism or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder is "a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them" (National Autistic Society, June 2020).

Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support.

Autism is a neurodivergent condition. Neurodiversity recognises that humans are not all the same and a neurological difference such as autism is a normal variation of the human experience with a number of positive and desirable character traits and a fundamental part of a person’s identity.

It should be recognised that there is an ongoing debate regarding the language used to describe people on the autism spectrum as well as identity-first terms such as ‘autistic’ or ‘Aspergers’.(2015 research conducted by The National Autistic Society (NAS), the Royal College of GPs and the UCL Institute of Education.)



Find out how technology can support those with cognitive differences: Removing neurodiversity barriers - lived experience digital disability awareness training


Last updated: January 2023

Autism or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder is "a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them" (National Autistic Society, June 2020). Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support. Autism is a neurodivergent condition. Neurodiversity recognises that humans are not all the same and a neurological difference such as autism is a normal variation of the human experience with a number of positive and desirable character traits and a fundamental part of a person’s identity. It should be recognised that there is an ongoing debate regarding the language used to describe people on the autism spectrum as well as identity-first terms such as ‘autistic’ or ‘Aspergers’.(2015 research conducted by The National Autistic Society (NAS), the Royal College of GPs and the UCL Institute of Education.)
Find out how technology can support those with cognitive differences: Removing neurodiversity barriers - lived experience digital disability awareness training
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