Picture this, 5 months studying in Norway, exploring new places, feeling refreshed ready to start the second half of my third year of University back in Southampton. I managed to have all of January off as I didn’t have exams, so was eagerly waiting to get back into the lecture theatres with my friends ready to continue studying what I love. Little did I know that 5 weeks later, a global pandemic would be declared, and I would resort to studying in my box room at my uni house with so much anxiety and uncertainty about what was happening. The beginning of online learning in 2020 was a large change that I had to adapt to very quickly as I had a dissertation deadline looming. Learning how to use Teams, Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate was a key task in adapting to this new way of learning, along with the endless amount of Zoom quizzes to help us all keep our sanity.
For me, this is when issues with digital accessibility really came into the light. I have a hearing impairment, which created a whole new set of issues than just dodgy Wi-Fi connections. I found it took me longer to go through the content than it would do in person, as I had to rewind recordings to catch what they were saying, rather than just ask them to repeat like I would in a lecture. Whilst contacting Enabling Services to figure out how to sort out the issues I was having, an internship with Digital Learning was mentioned in working within digital accessibility… and now here I am.
The past 11 weeks in this internship has really opened my eyes to digital accessibility and I have learned so much about how to make accessible content. Coming into the role, I was under the impression that all day every day would be just liaising with academics and helping fix their content. However, I had a very nice surprise to find out that work within outreach and media would be included also. From filming podcasts, having my acting debut in promotional videos, and creating digital content, everyday is filled with different work so it is never repetitive.
For me, in the first week when I realised, I was the only non-computer since student and the only graduate, I was a bit concerned about being excluded and perhaps needing more help on the tech side of things but luckily the whole team are very nice and super supportive. The whole Digital Learning Team have been really welcoming and made me feel very included, along with the other interns who I am sure I will keep in contact with after this internship.
I am going to end this with a few top tips that I have learned for accessibility!
- Check your colour contrast, to make sure text is legible; plain backgrounds are best
- Use headings to make documents easier to navigate
- Use the built in Accessibility Checker in Microsoft to improve your document and learn some more about digital accessibility.