HE/Public Sector Update: How to promote digital accessibility at your institution, with University of Derby

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"Great informative and practical session, useful to have insight from colleagues at other unis - sharing tips, caveats and approaches from strategic and practical stance. Thank you." - webinar attendee from 13 April 2021.

University of Derby logoIn this free webinar, we learned from Claire Gardener, Senior Learning Technologist and lead contact for Digital Accessibility at University of Derby, about her university’s accessibility programme.

Claire discussed her experiences as a participant in AbilityNet’s Accessibility Maturity Evaluation pilot badging project and about how the university worked with AbilityNet to create an accessibility focused elearning module for all staff.

Find out about eLearning modules for higher and further education institutions >>

AbilityNet's senior accessibility consultant Alice Taylor provided an outline of mobile applications as part of our update on the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations (PSBAR) upcoming June 22 deadline.

Watch the webinar recording 

(Access the transcript)

Webinar recording, slides and transcript

This webinar will be of particular interest to those who work in a higher or further education setting, and those working on creating online content in the public sector.

Find the session's transcript, slides and Q&As below. 

Useful links 

Questions and answers from the webinar

The panellists have been able to provide answers to some of the questions posed by attendees during the webinar:

Question: What problems does Zoom chat cause with screen readers?

Answer: The chat can't be muted and so if a presenter or attendee is using a screen reader, they will hear eveything going on without choice. We have raised this with Zoom and hope that the functionality will be updated soon.

Q: Would be great to hear about the baseline and how you went about setting it out?

Claire Gardener: The Off-Campus Digital Learning Baselines are expectations, designed to support our blended approach to teaching and learning, to ensure our capability to deliver off-campus digital learning. The three themes were a designed approach, socialisaton, active learning and accessibility.

Q: The only app we use is Microsoft Teams - do we need to link to its accessibility statement or is it only if we create the app ourselves?

Amy Low (AL)/James Baverstock: As Teams is a third party platform, I think it should be ok to link to Microsoft's own accessibility information for it. The searchBox directory for third party accessibility statements gives this URL. The following page also seems to be potentially helpful for users too.

Q: We have an accessibility statement on our main college site, however not on our student intranet / VLE. Some pages of the student intranet are available to view before logging in - is a separate accessibility requirement required for this too?

AL: The intranet and VLE will require a statement too, whether for pages that are public or behind password login.

Q: How much of the public sector regulations is applicable to STAFF of universities as well as the students? Do internal systems also need to be accessible?

AL: Yes, they are equally applicable to staff, students and any visitors to the digital platforms of the university.

Q: I'm an Internal Comms Officer and I wanted to ask something about Word documents. My experience is that the Microsoft Accessibility Checker doesn't pick up things like missing heading styles; alt text describing table content. How do you get around things like that? It's difficult to say to staff that they should use this tool when it doesn't actually pick up every issue.

AL: My comment on the accessibility checker is that it can only pick up so many issues and is best used as a ‘final’ check rather than a catch all. Providing training on how to create accessible word docs and what a difference it makes as well as potentially creating templates that are accessible from the get go is going to be a  much better approach, then you can advocate also running the checker just in case to see if it picks up anything you hadn’t thought about.

CG: Agree, it gets people start to think about the technical accessibility of the document. Blackboard Ally, picks up additional detail. Training is critical, as the tools don’t look pick up issues like badly formatted hyperlinks, colour contrast or colour to convey meaning. Nor does it flag font choices too.

Q: Interested in how you see Universal Design for Learning (UDL) playing into the overall accessibility strategy?

AL: This is an interesting one, UDL is so closely aligned with the principles of inclusive design and digital accessibility it seems a missed opportunity not to highlight what a win/win situation it is to think like this and progress both agendas wherever the topic crops up (if that makes sense!). The great thing with UDL is also how user centred it makes the task which is good for engagement, especially for teaching and learning staff.

Q: Does the success of the Blackboard Ally rely on the standards of the source document?

CG: Yes, the success of the Blackboard Ally alternative format does rely on the standard of the source format. Although some machine learning alogorithms do provide some additions.

Q: Have some courses provided greater challenges than others?

CG: Yes, of course. For example, those that are media-rich or have used pdf documents, where the source file is hard to locate.

Q: How can we advocate for greater commitment to accessibility in our orgs beyond core legal requirements?

CG: In my opinion, there are two initial steps:

  • Leading by example – encourage department or team to adopt best practice – for example, ensure the team are producing accessible documents and taking inclusive approaches to meetings might be a good start.
  • Personal lived experience – interview colleagues/students/clients in your organisation who have a disability and ask them to describe the impact that poor working practices have on them.

Q: Have you been able to track any related improvements in student satisfaction or outcomes for module convenors who have been through the course and/or are high scoring on Ally?

CG: Not yet, but hope to do this soon.

Q: Do the Mobile App regulations also apply to Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) as well? Or just Native Apps?

AL and Alice Taylor (AT): PWAs are basically web apps (with a few bells and whistles) so they will have been in scope from September 2020. 

Q: Do the mobile app guidelines apply to web apps and native mobile apps? Or would we have tested the web apps already as part of website testing?

AT: This deadline is for native mobile apps so web apps should have already been covered in the earlier deadlines. 


Date of webinar: 
13 Apr 2021 - 13:00