There’s been much talk about accessibility at Queen’s University for the last 18-24 months. Accessibility has been changing, updating and there is much to do. Just to let you know, accessibility should not be a bolt-on to courses and content. Courses and digital content should be created with accessibility in mind and it’s legislation.

It’s a ‘must do’, not a ‘nice to do’. You may think ‘well I’m only sharing content with x-number of people’. That’s irrelevant. You’re creating digital content. The content should be created with accessibility guidelines in mind. Even if you only share your digital creation with one other person, that person is your audience.

Don’t assume everyone can view and engage with the digital content equally. Some people need aids and assistance to interact with digital content, things like glasses, screen readers, screen magnifiers, text to speech assistance, bigger/smaller text with more/less contrast, etc.

Please do consider students with disability needs. There are a number of students who do declare disability and seek QUB support, but 10-15% of students don’t disclose disabilities. This figure may be higher.

You can design digital content with consideration to disability. Here, you can read some of our existing posts on Getting Access with design in mind:

Please also find some of our Hacking Accessibility posts for:

Even though we improve our accessibility through the digital materials we create, if we share those via our Canvas VLE, online or via an App, we need to include an Accessibility Statement on our Canvas module, website or App.

What is an accessibility statement?

An Accessibility Statements is a declaration for audiences visiting your website / App / VLE, particularly those with disabilities. Firstly, audiences will appreciate the openness and acknowledgement that accessibility is a key driver for websites / Apps / VLEs.

All public sector websites need to meet accessibility standards and have an accessibility statement published on their site. This helps make it clear the level of accessibility across sites and Apps. It highlights the barriers too. The statement is to inform audiences of alternative routes to accessing the content. The statement also needs to allows audiences to contact website / App owners if they identify issues.

What should it include?

Basically, any digital content you create and share should use the Accessibility WCAG guidelines. It’s a good standard to use for all digital content whether it results being shared on the internet or not. Even emailing / sharing content with students, use these guidelines anyway.

New regulations mean an accessibility statement needs to be presented in a consistent way and based on a model statement. It should include:

  • any inaccessible parts of the VLE, website or App
  • demonstrate how people with access needs can access alternative content
  • provide contact details for reporting any inaccessible content
  • provide information on the enforcement procedure if people are not happy with the response
  • be published in an accessible form
  • follow a consistent format

The statement will also need to be updated annually. It’s a great idea to have an ‘updated on: date‘ at the end of the statement. Every Canvas module should have an accessibility statement. This is not a one-size-fits-all. Some Canvas modules may use 3rd party Apps and other digital ‘bells and whistles’ beyond the tools available, etc.

Let’s have a look at some of the QUB accessibility statements to see how they are written and in what context.

Does the QUB main website have an accessibility statement?

Yes. It can be viewed on the Accessibility Statement page. This is a good example of stating what is and is not accessible, why and how it’s being addressed. Admittedly, this is a very long page but in essence, the Queen’s website is vast as well.

What about the library and library content?

QUB Library Accessibility – eBooks

Our Library ebooks also have accessibility statements for ebook content and also for some of the suppliers the library uses too:

What about the Canvas VLE?

Canvas VLE Accessibility Statement

Of course Queen’s has a Canvas VLE: Accessibility Statement which you can view and link in to your pre-teaching area of your Canvas module. It’s also important for you to consider writing a Course module specific statement to include the content you intent using. This could be for different file formats (PPTX, DOCX, PDF, etc.) and how accessible these are to the best of your knowledge along with any 3rd Party Apps you may use (which are not already used in Canvas).

For example, some courses use subject specific Apps. Those Apps should have accessibility statements available online which you could provide links to.

We’d also like to link you to a sample Accessibility Statement.

Sample Accessibility Statement (Gov.uk)

To help you along, you can view this sample Accessibility Statement which has been put together by Gov.uk. You can delete parts that are irrelevant to your course / context. Change the word ‘website’ to ‘Canvas module’ and include the module code.

Before you go amending this statement, do check out the Canvas VLE Statement above. Then just add in a course module specific statement for anything else you may have included. Include a link directly to the Canvas VLE Accessibility Statement.

Next time

Tomorrow, we investigate Canvas’s page Accessibility Checker which looks at each individual Canvas pages’ accessibility.

Please do join us then to learn more and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @MDBSelearn.


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