What is Digital Accessibility?
The Introduction to Digital Accessibility is a self-enrol and self-directed Moodle e-learning module that outlines accessibility guidelines, awareness around disability, assistive technology, and legislation in line with City’s Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion strategy. To put this into simpler terms, it is a course that educates students and staff on making use of technology to create more accessible resources for everyone. This course is an important step forward towards creating a more inclusive environment at City, but it also equips our teaching staff with the tools they need to make their resources and teaching accessible to everyone, including those who might process or access information differently.
What does the course cover?
The Introduction to Digital Accessibility module is split into five sections; Disability and Accessibility, Legislation, Case Studies, what we need to do to create accessible content, and links to resources. You can access the content at your convenience as it is not timed, and the progress automatically saves even when you exit the module. The course takes around 45-50 minutes to complete. It is designed to be interactive and encourages you to engage through an array of resources, including mini-lived experiences integrated into the course, which give you genuine insight from students at the university. The course has easy questions and short quizzes, which help you absorb the information more easily.
Following this initial preview, the course then is sectioned into shorter, more specific areas of digital accessibility, including Cognition, Hearing, Mental Health, Physical, and Vision.
Cognitive Difference / Neurodiversity
The Cognitive Difference course describes the types of cognitive differences, types of language used around these differences, barriers, assistive technology, and links to resources. The content of this module is interactive as it has audio, images, and videos that explain the content of the module. It takes around 30 minutes to complete. The module is easy to navigate and provides many useful tools for both students and staff to make their content accessible to everyone. The most useful part of this course for me was learning about the tips for making documents more accessible such as reducing cognitive overload and providing structure.
The Hearing module takes a similar form to the Cognitive Difference component and takes 30 minutes to complete. It includes valuable content that is easy to understand and navigate. The most interesting part of this module was learning about the different assistive technologies used by the deaf community e.g., hearing aids and hearing loops.
This gives an overview of what mental health covers, what language to use to ensure inclusivity in the community, and how to structure your curriculum, resources, and work in such a way that you can tackle barriers to mental well-being for yourself and others. The course also offers advice on how to break down barriers and how assistive technology can help, as well as providing a case study on the topic from a City student.
Like the previous ones, this module provides you with an overview of what a motor disability means and how to address it from a language standpoint – dos and don’ts. Additionally, the course covers how assistive technology can be used to help along with what teaching staff can do to remove barriers to equal access to resources and eliminate bias from learning resources. Finally, the course takes a hands-on approach to covering these issues by taking a real-world case study to highlight the importance of the course.
As a visually impaired student going through the course, it has made me aware of how important this course is for staff to understand how important their efforts are in making teaching as accessible as possible. It also shows how some students may use different pieces of assistive technologies to support themselves. The course does not cover everything in the visual field, but it certainly highlights some of the key aspects to be considered in all aspects of learning and teaching. In the course, assistive technologies, their uses, and their types are shown. However, these assistive devices take other forms such as canes, which are mobility aids that help many visually impaired people travel independently. They come in various forms including a symbol cane, long cane, and white cane, all of which are trying to support the user but convey different things. The white cane is the more common and its purpose is to not only inform those around the user that have a visual impairment but also it allows the user to understand what is around them by feeling their surroundings using the cane so that they can travel safely. The course touches on some of the challenges that visually impaired people face, however not all and may have a way of finding solutions that work for them for all tasks.
Why should you take the course?
One of the core reasons for taking the course is that under the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), public sector bodies need to adhere to these regulations and standards to ensure accessibility to their websites and documents, which includes City. That said, it also provides teaching staff with useful tools and resources to make lectures, notes, and presentations more accessible, as well as how to use appropriate language to create an inclusive education environment. This is also important for students to gain a better understanding of the considerations and language they should be using when interacting with people from the neurodiverse population. Additionally, from a professional perspective, this is a valuable skill to have to enter the workplace as many employers are now actively seeking it as part of their equality, diversity, and inclusion agenda?
Some personal insights
Overall, the module was very informative and insightful, touching upon several key topics which I feel are important for supporting the student community at City, it enhances independent learning and professional development. This course helped me broaden my knowledge of the neurodiverse population at City e.g. I learned to consider the use of person-first language e.g., “people with disabilities” and identity-first e.g., “disabled people”. The latter promotes the social model of disability over the medical model. That said, this often depends on the disability, so you may want to check with the person and ask what they prefer, so if you want to learn more about this, head over to the article – Can we say “disabled”? by Kitty Giraudel.
I also learned that some impairments may be temporary or situational which broadens the scope of the guidance and usefulness provided by this course. In addition to this, I learned about assistive technology solutions that could potentially improve the lives of all students, not just the neurodiverse population. Finally, I think creating digital content that is accessible to everyone creates a more empowering student experience as it reduces barriers and promotes inclusivity for all.