Public sector organizations in the UK, including universities and higher education institutions, are facing a new set of digital accessibility requirements known as the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018. These requirements apply to websites, apps and all aspects of the digital experience, including virtual learning environments.
Luckily for the UK, their accessibility standard: EN 301 549 was updated to adopt Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 — the international standard followed in the U.S. that our team knows inside and out.
Our experts recently presented to members of Jisc, an organization that champions the importance and potential of digital technologies for UK universities, colleges and learning providers, to break down the best practices learned from our work guiding US universities and organizations. These were the three areas of focus:
Inclusive design - As soon as you begin discussing a new website, that’s when you discuss accessibility. By including accessibility in the conversation from the start, you’ll save time and money down the road. That way, you’re launching something that is already accessible and doesn’t require remediation.
Accessible building blocks like component libraries and style guides help organizations be proactive in their design. When choosing colors for a website, for example, it’s important to choose colors that have accessible contrast ratios. That way, you’ll know up front that, when you’re using your organization’s style guide, you’re working with accessible options. Having accessible components ready to go in your component library will help you build accessible experiences that will require minimal retesting once they’re in place.
Accessible multimedia - A major lesson learned from our experience is that auto-captions (or AI captions) can be part of the workflow, but should never be considered the end product. Depending on the software, auto-captions are typically only accurate about 60 - 85% of the time, and should always be reviewed, edited and corrected prior to uploading them with the video.
Audio descriptions are another important piece of the puzzle when it comes to accessible multimedia. One often overlooked solution in educational settings is to train lecturers to speak descriptively. For example, a lecturer should speak what they write on the board and describe what they demonstrate. The payoff of audio descriptions goes beyond blind and visually impaired students to anyone who can listen, but is unable to watch.
Creating a strategy - It’s crucial to approach accessibility at an organizational level and then inventory and prioritize content across each group. What to tackle first often starts with student-facing experiences, as those are high impact. Training and especially role-based training are important steps in order to sustain accessibility — audits and remediation are important, but an inclusive-design approach makes sure that content going forward continues to be created in an accessible way.
Lastly, organization-wide buy-in is critical to a successful accessibility strategy. One misconception to bust at the highest level of your organization is that accessibility is about accommodating a small population — accessibility is actually about making a digital experience usable for the largest possible audience.
Is your organization ready to embrace digital accessibility? Whether you're located in the U.S. or internationally, the experts at Perkins Access can help. Get in touch today.