Accessibility guidelines

Why do we need to make our web pages accessible?

It is a legal requirement

  • The Disability Discrimination Act of 1995, extended to include education providers by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001, places on us as an institution the legal responsibility not to discriminate against disabled students, staff or other users of our services by treating them less favourably in our provision of services and facilities. It also obliges us to make reasonable adjustments to avoid placing people with disabilities at a substantial disadvantage by being denied access to services and facilities that are available to those who are not disabled.
  • Amongst the services we provide to current and prospective students is the provision of information and services, both educational and non-educational, on the University website. We are required by law to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to enable equal access for all to the information and services we provide via the web.
  • As a university there is a further obligation on us to maintain the accessibility of our website through the QAA’s Code of Practice for the Assurance of Academic Quality and Standards in Higher Education: Section 3 Disabled Students, which states: ‘Websites and any other sources of computer-based information for prospective students, current students and alumni should be designed according to professional standards of accessibility.’
  • The legal obligations on us mean we must:
    • take steps to anticipate and prevent predictable barriers to access to information and services on the website by making appropriate adjustments to avoid potential problems for access
    • respond to the needs of particular individuals who make known to us any specific barriers they encounter when trying to access web-based information and services.

It is a social issue

  • Making information about the University accessible to this wider audience through an accessible website helps to further one of the key strategic themes of the University’s strategic plan -- to be ‘tolerant, humane and liberal minded, with the pursuit of truth, openness and equality and diversity at the heart of what we do’.
  • It is essential for our equality and diversity, which is also an important aspect of our corporate social responsibility.
  • Web accessibility focuses on people with all types of disabilities - visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities - including older people with age-related impairments. Accessibility barriers to print, audio, and visual media can be much more easily overcome through web technologies, providing people with disabilities with more effective and efficient access to information through accessible websites so they can more actively participate in society.
  • The main focus of web accessibility may be people with disabilities, but accessibility benefits people with or without disabilities. For example:
    • People who are not fluent in English
    • People with low bandwidth connections or using older technologies
    • People using newer technologies, such as web-enabled mobile phones and personal digital assistants
    • People working in a noisy environment
    • People who do not have or are unable to use a keyboard or mouse
    • People with temporary disabilities due to accident, illness or ageing
    • Older people
    • People who have difficulty reading or comprehending text
    • New and infrequent users

It makes our pages more usable for all users

  • Accessible websites are more easily navigable, more flexible and easier to understand.
  • Improving web accessibility has been shown to result in web pages that are more easily findable by search engines. This makes our pages more effective both for the University’s internal search and in the wider World Wide Web, thereby also increasing the number of users to whom our pages are available.
  • Increased usability means our site allows users to achieve their goals more efficiently, effectively and satisfactorily.

It makes good business sense

  • By making sure that the meaningful content of our web pages is freely available to as wide a range of users as possible, we maximise our audience reach, and thus potentially reach a wider market.
  • Greater compatibility and future proofing can help web pages remain accessible as browsing software and web standards change, saving on work needing to be done to amend sites in line with such developments.
  • Simpler, cleaner code and content make pages easier to maintain.
  • If users have a positive experience of our site they are more likely to use it thoroughly, return more often and tell others about our site.

It improves our site’s technical performance

  • For example, the use of stylesheets for presentation and proper mark-up for content outlined in the guidelines means our pages load more quickly, as page file size is reduced, and when developing new pages in the corporate template time and effort is also saved on design.
  • Our pages work more reliably across different browsers and older technology if they are constructed according to published technical standards.

Source material: Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization, S.L. Henry and A.M.J. Arch, eds. World Wide Web Consortium (MIT, ERCIM, Keio), June 2009.