The session was led by Syd King (he/they), the Disabled PTO for the Students’ Union. Chair of the Disabled Students’ Society & Disability Representative for the National Union of Students and covered the topic of Accessibility in Academia. With 19% of students at the University of Manchester being DASS registered (and more being disabled), accessibility in academia is an important area that every academic needs to proactively consider. Accessibility is defined as “the design of products, devices, services, vehicles, or environments so as to be used by disabled people. The concept of accessible design and practise of accessible development ensures both “direct access” (i.e. unassisted) and “indirect access” meaning compatibility with a disabled person’s reasonable adjustments“. The session covered types of disabilities, common reasonable adjustments in Universities, common barriers to accessible academia, how the University of Manchester is doing from a student perspective & best practise in teaching. 

Areas of improvement for the University identified were:

  • Assessment design & delivery
  • Ensuring teaching regarding disabilities & mental health issues is accurate and sensitive
  • Ensuring individual academics try their best to fulfil basic access needs, and do not rely on DASS where possible
  • Increasing accessibility of lecture content & handouts, both in-person and online

At the beginning of the session, participants were presented with four options and rated how confident they felt with proving accessible educational content:

  • 0% rated that they were Very Confident, defined as ‘every disabled person can access my content’
  • 83.33% rated that they were Quite Confident, defined as ‘most disabled people can access my content but not all’
  • 16.67% rated that they were Not Very Confident, defined as ‘most disabled people cannot access my content’
  • 0% rated that they were Totally Lost, defined as ‘I have no idea how to make accessible content, please help!’

At the end of the session, participants were asked to re-rate their confidence:

Feedback from participants who voted that they were Quite Confident (vs Very Confident) included that participants knew they had more to learn – emphasising upon a part of the masterclass in which Syd stated that Accessibility is a constant work in progress, and cannot be taught fully in 2 hours.

Accessible Academia