As part of the University’s commitment to an inclusive and accessible education for all, we celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). By taking part, we hope to get everyone talking about inclusion and accessibility, to raise awareness of the positive impact of accessible course content and to improve overall digital accessibility at the University. You can test your digital accessibility knowledge with this short quiz.
In 2023, we took part in Blackboard's Fix Your Content compeition and made 543 accessibility improvements on MyAberdeen. The University came 3rd in Europe and 28th overall!
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Global Accessibility Awareness Day Event Recordings
- GAAD 2023 Expert Panel: 'Improving accessibility & strategies for overcoming common challenges'
In celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2023 (GAAD), we ran this event to incease awareness of the importance of digital accessibility and how to ensure your own content is accessible.
The event began was chaired by Jason Bohan and we heard from a range of expert perspectives, including colleagues in Assistive Technology, Training and Documentation Team, The Web Team, The Library and the Centre for Academic Development. The panel discussed improving accessibility for a range of content and strategies for overcoming common accessibility challenges.
- GAAD 2023: Accessibility Workshop
A series of short 20 minute workshops delvered by eLearning, Training and Documentation Team and Assisstive Technology on creating accessible content.
- GAAD 2022 Discussion Panel: Creating Accessible Course Content
One hour session, chaired by Kirsty Kiezebrink, with last year's winner of Fix Your Content Day, Bill Harrison, who discussed how he used this to increase awareness of the importance of digital accessibility and increased staff engagement with the Course Accessibility Report. We also heard from Samantha May and Martin Barker on their experience taking part in the pilot of the Course Accessibility Service. We also had two students on the panel, Rian-James Hiney and Alannah Comerford who discussed their experience as students with digital accessibility of course learning materials.
The Positive Impact of Making your Courses Accessible
- User Story: Jason Bohan, Director of Education, School of Psychology
In the move to blended learning, was accessibility a consideration?
Digital inclusivity is important because as educators we must ensure that teaching materials
are accessible by all students. We had to think carefully about this in our swift move to
blended learning and whilst this was stressful for many of us the positive was that it allowed
us to review our teaching materials and question if they were appropriate for online delivery
and inclusive for our students.
What was your approach?
In the School of Psychology our approach to digital inclusivity was to think about the whole
online learning experience and think about how students were going to interact with their
course materials. With this in our minds all our lecturers were pre-recorded and released via
the course VLE on a weekly basis so that student learning was structured and workload
controlled across the term – we didn’t want students swamped by giving them too much in
Was your approach evidence based?
Pedagogical research suggests that the traditional hour-long lecture is not optimal for
learners because attention and memory systems are limited, so best practice recommends
structuring material into shorter mini lectures. Adopting this evidence-based approach all
my colleagues chose to restructure their lectures and recorded them in to smaller ‘chunks’ -
crucially they kept all the same content and learning objectives, they just presented their
lectures in a way that was better suited for learners in this context.
Have you had any feedback from students?
Student feedback was extremely positive and helped a lot of our students to engage with their
studies because it was less daunting to watch and learn from two or three 15/20 min lecture
compared to an hour-long lecture.
Were you able to provide video captions?
We also ensured that all lectures were captioned, and this benefitted many students who
learn better by having access to a text version. Captioning required a lot of work from staff,
but they took a lot of pride in making sure that they were as accurate as possible. Ensuring
that learning materials are accessible and digitally inclusive is an ongoing process which we
will review on an ongoing basis, but also best done in collaboration with our colleagues in
Student Support and our students to make sure that we offer an inclusive learning
- User Story: Morgiane Richards, Academic Skills Adviser (Maths), CAD
How are learning materials that contain maths produced?
In STEM disciplines, and disciplines where mathematics are used extensively, LaTeX is
widely used to write teaching material. LaTeX produces high-quality advanced mathematical
content; however, it generates PDF documents that cannot be processed correctly by text-to-speech
What options are available to staff creating learning material with
Recommendations are that course material be converted to HTML format, with MathJax to
What is the best way to convert existing learning material?
Some courses have already been fully or partially converted (Dr Matthew Collinson, Natural
and Computing Sciences, Dr Peter Hicks, Engineering). However, there is currently no
technology that can achieve a complete and error-free conversion; therefore, manual
correction is almost always necessary. The School of Natural and Computing Sciences and
CAD have just been awarded a Learning and Teaching Enhancement Project funding to
investigate which conversion method is most efficient for which type of lecture material and
to create guidance for staff. We also aim at documenting the performance of common textto-
speech pieces of software in reading MathJax mathematics.
- User Story: Ibiere Jumbo, PGR student with a visual impairment
How do you navigate online?
I use a screen reader called Jaws to navigate online systems and my learning material. The
accessibility of MyAberdeen has greatly improved, since I did my masters in 2017, although I
sometimes find StaffNet can be difficult to navigate.
How to you find the accessibility of your learning materials?
I find many PDFs inaccessible, so I usually begin by converting PDFs to Word, as this is
much easier for me to navigate using Jaws.
What aspects are important for teaching staff to be aware of?
The use of heading styles and alternative text for images in documents is important for me –
otherwise the content can be inaccessible. Tables can be really difficult to navigate. Videos
are usually converted into an audio version having background description. This is usually
done separately otherwise it might be too much information for a sighted person.
Further Accessibility Resources
Interested in finding out more about creating accessible content? Please see some resources below.
- This Toolkit guide on Accessibility for Authors/Creators provides information and tips on creating accessible content.
- The Inclusivity and Accessibility Checklist will help you ensure that your courses are inclusive and accessible online.
- Get an overview of accessibility issues within your MyAberdeen course area using the
Blackboard Ally Course Report. The report will flag up accessibility issues, suggest ways to
fix them and point to "how to" guides.
- Find out more about how Blackboard Ally can improve the accessibility score of your course.
- eLearning offer a Course Accessibility Service where an eLearning Support Assistant will audit your course and make accessibility related changes to your digital content.