Aligning Digital Accessibility and Digital Capabilities

You may have recently heard about the new Public Sector Web Accessibility Regulations which put a much stronger emphasis on ensuring all users of websites and intranets across the public sector can have as an inclusive web experience as much as possible.

For most institutions there’s a lot of work underway both on their public facing websites and for those systems such as VLE’s where a significant numbers of individuals need to engage with a range of online content and activities. This blog post isn’t a dissection of the ins and outs of the new regulations. Jisc have been holding a number of accessibility clinics where specific queries can be discussed and the Further and Higher Education Working Group have pulled together a range of advice and support if you are interested in delving into the regulations further.

For me, personally, the aim and principles behind the regulations resonate with the key values of our institution as an inclusive community and also in terms of ascribing to the key professional values articulated within Advance HE’s Professional Standards Framework, as an HEA Fellow.  Ensuring I am “promoting participation in higher education and equality of opportunity for learners” within my role and advocating for it more broadly across the institution through a focus on digital accessibility brings those two elements into closer alignment.

There’s also the link with digital capabilities. The Jisc Digital Capabilities Framework articulates a whole range of capabilities for living, learning and working in a digital world. And here, when we are discussing those elements there again are links into those capabilities that allow us to either

  • have the digital skills to ensure that those digital artefacts we create are as accessible as possible
  • ensure we have considered the impacts of navigating our courses on our learners needs
  • have the digital capabilities to ensure equality of access to digital opportunities or feel confident to be able critical evaluate digital technologies to support access and inclusion. (Something that resonates in part with the arguments Jesse Stommel was making at his ALT-C 2019 keynote).

In my mind, it looks a bit like this Venn diagram.

Venn diagram showing intersection between digital capabilities and Advance HE Professional Standards with digital accessibility at the intersection

The intersectionality of those values we hold to as inclusive educators and the recognition of how through the development of our individual and organisational digital capabilities we can significantly move forward those opportunities for equality of learners is where I see the opportunities that a focus on digital accessibility can have benefit, albeit through the tool of some legal requirements.

For me, this shouldn’t about compliance with another set of regulations but a real, tangible opportunity to develop those capabilities that help us, as a learning community to demonstrate how we put those values we sign-up to as individuals and organisations, into action.

So what do you think? How do you interpret the focus on digital accessibility that the regulations are prompting at the moment?

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