Contextual Accessibility in Institutional Web Accessibility Policies [B4]


Institutions are required, by the DDA 2005, to implement and publish a Disability Equality Scheme that documents a plan to maximise inclusivity for disabled staff, students and others who come into contact with the institution. The DES should include steps for optimising the accessibility of digital resources, and for monitoring progress towards meeting these objectives.

Conformance with technical accessibility guidelines might seem like the most appropriate way of mandating a minimum level of conformance, and monitoring adherence to that level. In practice, however this can lead to a number of different problems, including the validity and applicability of the guidelines, differences in interpretation, and also the potential rejection of valuable resources, particularly for teaching and learning due to their apparent failure to meet the mandated level. The obsolescence of much of W3C WCAG 1.0, and the controversy over its planned replacement WCAG 2.0, also provides a practical problem over how to define and refer to ‘accessibility standards’ in policy.

This has led to the promotion of the concept of contextual accessibility, which encourages a more holistic view of web accessibility in a wider context of delivery of information, services and experiences in an inclusive way (for more on this see How, though, do we promote contextual accessibility as an institutional standard? How can we encourage web authors to use diverse solutions to optimise accessibility, while making sure that basic principles of accessible design are met?

Learning Objectives

This session will explore workable strategies for supporting use of the Web in an inclusive way, by:

  • encouraging participants to share current institutional approaches to setting policy and practice for accessible Web authoring and how monitoring of accessibility is carried out;
  • discussing how policy can best support innovative e-learning design while also setting an unambiguous level to which internally authored and externally commissioned work should reach;
  • debating the extent to which such policy should be influenced by, or should influence, web browsing and authoring tools provided to staff and students;
  • considering how a contextual accessibility policy would fit with movements towards the increasing use of accessibility-related profile information, such as the Techdis Accessibility Passport to enable automatic content-negotiation.