The Importance of Accessibility in Higher Education

Accessibility in Higher Education

Assisted technology and accessibility is a huge topic and one where many research studies have been carried out both with different technology and varied impairment levels.

 

What is Accessible Technology?

 

Accessibility is the term used in reference to individuals with disabilities including visual impairment, mobility limitation, hearing impairment, cognitive difficulty and accessible technology looks at how software and equipment can be adapted so that it can work at its best for all individuals.

 

These technologies can help improve quality of life, personal dignity and independence for individuals but can also completely overhaul the way in which higher education organisations operate internally, making them more progressive and cost effective.

 

In America, it is reported that over 20% of the population has a disability. Whether this disability is auditory, visual, physical, cognitive, short or long term, individuals with disabilities often require additional care and attention, especially when it comes to the technology they have access to. Organisations must be able to reassure individuals with disabilities that access to the information they need is available and set themselves up in such a way which allows this to be delivered.

 

The Impact of Covid-19

 

The pressure for a rapid shift to remote learning that was posed by Covid-19 has had a. significant impact on students with disabilities or learning difficulties. Most significantly, the pandemic saw an extreme risk of a widened learning gap, as students are forced to study from home and their learning be entirely reliant on technology does not support their individual needs.

 

How Is Accessible Technology Utilised in Higher Education?

 

Here are a few examples of how HE organisations are deploying accessible technology…

 

  • Consideration of readability in student resources, including readable fonts and embedded links carrying alternative text for students who use screen readers. Portable Document Format (PDF) files can also be made accessible to screen readers by properly tagging alternative text, table headings, and structural elements.
  • A new innovative technology for individuals with disabilities has been launched by Microsoft and is called Seeing AI. This app recognises facial expressions, physical movements and reads documents. The app was designed by Saquib Shaikh, a Microsoft Software engineer who is blind.
  • Telephone systems provide digital assistants who can respond to voice to text search queries and voice recognition instructions. These systems allow people with disabilities to communicate through their phone when ordinarily they wouldn’t be able to.
  • Students use media players such as Able Player to support closed captions, support audio description that enables users to toggle the narration on and off and has buttons and controls that can be labelled or operated without a mouse.

 

Seeking Help from an Accessible Technology and Unified Communications Expert

 

Accessible technology in higher education is becoming increasingly important, especially as the remote working pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic heighten the risk of a learning gap emerging as students are forced to study from home with technology does not support their needs.

 

To find out more about how your higher education institution can utilise accessible technology in order to provide a more inclusive learning experience, contact 4C Strategies on 01858 438938, or email webenquiries@4c.co.uk, and one of our specialised ICT and unified communications consultants will be happy to speak with you.