Accessibility Statements for schools

Accessibility statements are appearing in the tourism sector, so is it time to have accessibility statements for schools and universities? Well, why not ask staff and students? That’s just what two educational researchers did in the UK.

Teaching materials were checked for accessibility including digital media. Classroom delivered lectures came out best. The pandemic forced improvements for accessible online material.

Teacher and students are in black silhouette looking at a board with an mathematical equation for physics. Accessibility statement for schools.

The research on the accessibility statements was carried out at the University of Birmingham.

Captioning videos turned out to be a problem for staff because the microphones didn’t always work in the lecture rooms. This led to a lot of time being spent on re-doing captions. Some staff preferred to wait until they were asked for special interventions rather than do them automatically. However, the aim should be to remove barriers before someone finds them.

Students were given the opportunity to comment on the accessibility statements as they were being devised. However, no comments were received. Once published they were circulated by email and received positive comments. Many thought it was good for the school to provide these and that they were well thought out and clear. Some students felt the same as some staff – wait until someone needs the extra access features.

The researchers countered the reactive approach by saying that in the long run, making everything accessible saves time and prevents barriers and negative attitudes. As other research has shown, not everyone is keen to disclose a hidden disability. This is in line with the Principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

From the conclusions

“Creating School-level statements allows a Department to demonstrate how accessibility is embedded in their teaching philosophy. Over time, this willingness to be demonstrably open and to proactively address differences among students can hopefully boost student recruitment.

“We found that misunderstandings still exist and they tend to weaken efforts to enhance accessibility in teaching and learning. For instance, some staff believe that accessibility only concerns individuals with specific learning needs. Or that student concerns should only
be acted upon when they request support or particular adjustments.

Next steps involve focusing on raising awareness of accessibility statements across the School communities and providing extra staff training.

An easy to read paper that highlights the need for accessibility statements as a given rather than an exception across all educational institutions. The title of the paper is, Example of practice: Accessibility statements for inclusive education.

From the abstract

This paper provides an example of practice that outlines the benefits and challenges of creating School or Department level accessibility statements. Like all methods of improving accessibility, there is no one-size-fits-all statement. Through demonstrating one possibility, we show how to create an accessibility statement.

The discussion is informed by the results of a staff and student evaluation of accessibility statements issued by two Schools at the University of Birmingham. These Schools issued accessibility statements to show their commitment to accessibility. They created open dialogue around students’ varying requirements, and explained the accessibility features/limitations of their teaching and learning resources.

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