If you ask any student if they have access to some sort of technology, whether it be a computer, laptop, tablet, or mobile device; chances are the answer will most likely be yes!
The majority of individuals are using digital technology and online services as a means of work, communications, entertainment, research and more. This begs the question: why do sensory disabled individuals still face obstacles when accessing online media?
With Verbit’s unique offering, we aim to help tackle most obstacles in education and all markets when it comes to accessibility and accuracy of video and audio.
The US census figures for 2000 show that “20% of Americans have a disability that impairs access to websites and internet content”.
The effect this has had on the sensory disabled population has become more and more apparent. For example, studies show that when enrolled in 4 year educational institutions, 33% of disabled students graduate with bachelors of arts honor degrees, whereas 48% of those without disabilities leave university with a bachelors degree. The difference in such figures is enough for educational institutions to review and ensure that digital media meets the needs of all students and is just as accessible for all students without alienating the sensory disabled population.
It is also important to highlight that as the disability population is estimated to increase within the next 50 years, the legislation around accessibility will become more prevalent and enforced during this time.
The spectrum of accessibility for disabled students is often narrowed down to transportation, building construction, and general facilities such as toilets and wash basins. The same such consideration will be acknowledged when it comes to websites and online content.
The DOJ broadened the ADA’s scope to include, “private entities of all types providing goods and services to the public through their websites operate as places of public accommodation under the ADA”. Thus, online courses and programs at universities are viewed as places of public accommodation.
Be sure you are aware of the legislation in your state, as educational institutions with strict accessibility legislation will need to ensure that they are utilizing clear and concise captions and transcripts across all online video media content.
Enhancing and enforcing standards of website accessibility is not an easy task and it requires professionals from various institutions to work together cohesively. Different roles and structures of the educational organisation may vary but each have an import role in the change for accessibility.
Creating partnerships with like minded organisations that support accessibility is effective and will help raise awareness. Disability organisations are particularly good to connect with for evaluation, analysis, and strategic consultations.
Informing educators around this need is also beneficial for them to become more self aware of the obstacles sensory disabled students face online. As educators tend to not fully realize such difficulties until brought up by a student, they will need to be trained in order to become an advocate for accessibility.
Making online content accessible creates a foundation for public accommodation, but the teachings behind it is just as important and also to be taken into consideration. Web accessibility has been divided into three main components which are hardware, software, and content.
Hardware barriers can included blind students being unable to switch on their devices. Software barriers include blind students being unable to see what is on screen. Content barriers include blind students being unable to access programs and files such as word documents.
For accessible web designs and accessible text documents to be realized, some small changes will have the greatest impacts. For example, the use of alt text to images and objects, short titles in headings, structured layouts, standard page formats and fonts, color, dark text on light backgrounds, and more. Testing these on different devices, web browsers, and computer platforms is the most accurate way of getting validation.
Ensuring that all students are happy and confident using online services is the ultimate goal. Although it can be challenging, institutions should coordinate effectively via networks and also advocate the importance of accessible web design.