This post is co-authored by Ashley Willcox and Rhiannon Hall.

Getting started with accessibility can be an intimidating process. There’s no shortage of advice, methods, new terms to learn, and plenty more than can quickly become overwhelming. Accessibility can be complicated – but it doesn’t always have to be. By learning some of the key concepts underlying accessible content, you can prepare yourself with principles that can be broadly applied, and make big improvements in your content. 

Stay with us as we go through why there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution, and the most important practices you can adopt for better accessibility.

The diversity of accessibility requirements

While there are common themes in the broader field of accessibility, we should never make assumptions about the specific requirements of one person, or how they might engage with content. Inclusive learning encompasses permanent, temporary or situational scenarios – to include any type of learner in any type of situation.

The different ways that people can use assistive technology is a good example of this. Screen readers are an important form of assistive technology for people who are blind or vision impaired. Other types of assistive technology can benefit people who have cognitive or learning disabilities, neurodiverse people, people who are Deaf or hard of hearing and those with mobility impairments. Different users will have their own requirements, as well as preferences, for engaging with digital content. This doesn’t mean though, that you need to create multiple versions of content to address these different needs. As the next section details, following core accessibility principles will give you the best chance of addressing these different needs in one go. These practices can help all students engage with content and concentrate more effectively.

Follow the LX Accessible Practices 

The LX.lab has a list of nine accessibility practices that will make a big difference in keeping your content accessible. These practices are available on our LX Resources site, and cover: 

  • Content structure
  • Language
  • Alternative text
  • Captions and transcripts
  • Links
  • Colour
  • Templates
  • Canvas accessibility checker

Get into the habit of referencing this list when you need to create content – it is much easier to make something accessible from the beginning than it is to go back and fix problems. You may find that after some time, thinking about accessibility and ensuring your new content is accessible becomes second nature. Like any skill, practice helps a lot.

Bring up accessibility in the classroom

It can make a big difference if students feel comfortable approaching you about their accessibility requirements, knowing that you’ll listen and understand. Set the tone by letting students know in Week 1 that they are welcome to discuss their accessibility requirements with you. This is also a good opportunity to refer students to the UTS Accessibility Service if they’re not aware of it yet.

You may never know if there are people with disabilities in your class – some people prefer not to disclose their disability. But for students who do not disclose, just being in a welcoming and supportive environment can make all the difference.

Consult with the LX.lab about new types of content

If you’re thinking about introducing a new type of content in your class, it’s a good idea to run it past our friendly team at the LX.lab, who will be able to advise you on how to make sure it’s accessible.

Use tools to make accessibility processes faster

There are now so many useful tools to help you along in your accessibility practice. Running the Canvas Accessibility Checker on your subject pages can help to spot anything you might have missed, and automated captions can minimise the amount of time you spend on videos (whilst always remembering to review and check automated captions for accuracy).

Remember to be flexible

There aren’t many circumstances where content can’t be made accessible, either through alterations or by providing an alternative. Your knowledge of accessibility can also be enormously beneficial for your students, as a good example to learn from. All students need to be prepared to work in inclusive environments, and helping them to be informed about accessibility can lead to an increased sense of belonging, engagement with the subject content, and with each other.

By spending a little time to acquaint yourself with the basics, you’ll find that not only is it easy to create accessible content, you can also make big improvements with small measures, while ensuring that you fulfil legal obligations to provide accessible content (you can find out more about the legislative framework in the UTS 2020-2024 Access and Inclusion Plan).

If there’s something accessibility-related that you’d like to learn more about, head to the comments section and let us know!

Feature image by Cliff Booth from Pexels.

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