This week Techdis have mailed out to all HEIs a new Senior Manager Briefing resulting from 18 months’ research under the Technology Change for Inclusion project: “12 Steps towards Embedding Inclusive Practice with Technology as a Whole Institution Culture”. I am really delighted to see it and I much prefer the move towards the term ‘inclusive’ rather than ‘accessible’.
For me, ‘accessibility’ is about much more that the pros and cons of word headings, or html markup. Since we work in a university ‘accessibility’ is not a separate consideration than ‘other purposes’ it is simply good practice. The SENDA legislation has applied to our work since 2001 and we work in a values lead industry, so really, no-one should be working in a way which does not make consideration of accessible practice.
People outside HE are also subject to the DDA so it is responsible teaching to ensure that no-one is going through our IT courses without that as a learning outcome. It’s a graduate skill and I wouldn’t want to employ someone who didn’t take it seriously.
‘How accessible’ something is and to which audience is a subjective issue. Making something available online rather than just in hard copy significantly increases its accessibility by making it possible for many people to access it whenever they need. Recognising the widely used and popular software, including Microsoft, packages are exactly that: popular and widely used, means that most users home machines, or assistive software will be able to access the content. Putting up a presentation which is useless without its interpretive notes is inaccessible content in whatever format through virtue of its content being incomplete. A badly designed website will ensure that its content is inaccessible through being unusable. Many so called ‘accessible’ sites are frustratingly unusable. Accessible practice means you consider your content rather than just process it.
‘Inclusive practice’ takes all of these a step further. Working to actively include people is different from making a bare minimum of effort because someone waved a big stick at you. Time to move past the idea that accessibility is a policeman’s role and get to the idea that we all benefit from services which are attractive. Time to look at who doesn’t use your service and think about why, and consider that there may be something you do, which excludes them.
If an accessibility sticker outside tells people to push against an unlocked door, inclusive practice invites people in through an open door into a place where they feel no different from those already inside.