Why is digital accessibility so important?
While more and more people are becoming convinced of the need to make all learning content accessible as the default, there is still much more that needs to be done. This page offers a brief overview of the case for digital accessibility and how it can benefit everyone.
“The one argument for accessibility that doesn’t get made nearly often enough is how extraordinarily better it makes some people’s lives. How many opportunities do we have to dramatically improve people’s lives just by doing our job a little better?”
1. Legal obligation
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
- Ratified by the UK in 2009.
- Article 9 exists to “enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life.”
- States have a duty not only to provide, but to “promote, access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the internet.”
- Defines that access to information, including the Web, is a human right.
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
- CRPD Article 9
- Equality and Human Rights Commission: Information on CRPD
- WAI: International Web accessibility laws and policies
UK Equality Act
- Passed in 2010.
- All organisations have an “anticipatory duty”, to make reasonable adjustments for people who have impairments.
- This means organisations cannot wait until someone has an accessibility requirement and asks for reasonable adjustments, but must make all digital resources accessible as standard.
- GOV.UK: Equality Act 2010 guidance
- Equality and Human Rights Commission: Reasonable adjustments guidance
Public Sector Bodies (Websites & Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations
- Passed in 2018.
- Applies to all public sector organisations, further and higher education institutions and charities who provide services to people with disabilities.
- As well as websites and mobile applications, it also applies to any online content held on them (e.g. Word, PowerPoint, PDF etc.).
- It also applies to online eLearning resources held on them.
- All online content on external websites created after September 2018, must be accessible by September 2019.
- All online content on external websites created before September 2018, must be accessible by September 2020.
- All new content held on intranets and extranets published after 23 September 2019 must be accessible. Existing content on intranets and extranets is exempt, unless there is a major revision to the site.
(For further information about exemptions see GOV.UK information).
- Mobile applications, must be accessible by June 2021.
- All digital resources must comply with W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Levels A and AA.
For more information about deadlines for different types of content, exemptions and disproportionate burden use the links below.
- The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018
- GOV.UK: Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations
- Government Digital Service: How we’re helping public sector websites meet accessibility requirements
- All Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology
- WCAG 2.1 Full regulations
- WCAG 2.1 Quick reference guide
2. Social responsibility
Out of a UK population of 66 million people, there are approximately 13 million disabled people. This means that potentially 1 in 5 of our learners has a disability.
The UK equality and human rights commission, concluded in a 2016 report that;
“Now is the time for a new national focus on the rights of the 13 million disabled people who live in Britain. They must not be treated less favourably than any other citizens. Britain must be a fair and inclusive society in which everyone has equal opportunities to thrive and succeed. To achieve this we must put the rights of disabled people at the heart of our society.”
At eLaHub we believe that making eLearning resources accessible is an important way that we can contribute to giving all of our learners an equal opportunity to thrive and succeed.
3. Future proofing
The ageing population makes accessibility a key strategy in the workplace.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that there are more than 10 million people aged over 50 in employment. This represents 31% of the workforce.
There are currently 11.8 million people over 65 in the UK, but there will be an estimated 20.4 million in 2066.
As Professor Mike Wald from the University of Southampton points out:
“Everybody can think of themselves as only temporarily not having a disability, because at some point in their life, as they get older, they will have some sort of disability.”
4. Competitive advantage
According to GOV.UK, the estimated spending power of families in Britain with at least one disabled person is over £200 billion. Businesses are beginning to wake up to the economic potential that this offers. For example, Barclays acknowledge that, in a highly competitive sector, their mission to become the most accessible FTSE 100 company, gives them a “concrete competitive advantage.”
There is a growing global movement which recognises the economic value of disabled people and is working to put disability on the business leadership agenda.
- Scope: Disability facts and figures
- Management Today: A mission to become the most accessible FTSE 100 company
- WAI: The Business case for digital accessibility
- The Valuable 500
5. Better design
Although it can sometimes feel like a challenge, designing accessible learning content definitely makes you think differently and pushes you creatively. At eLaHub we proved that an accessible course could also be engaging and interactive, with a project we created for the University of Southampton which was shortlisted for the Best learning technologies project – public & non-profit sector award.