The iSolutions Digital Accessibility Community of Practice began in December 2020. It aims to share practices, provide peer support, and raise awareness of digital accessibility within the department. Using results from a survey of community members, this post reviews the past year and looks forward to the year to come.
- The iSolutions Digital Accessibility Community of Practice now has 77 members.
- Seven peer tutorials covering a variety of accessibility topics had an average attendance of 15 people.
- 91% of members say they have both applied practices they learned in the community and recommended those practices to colleagues.
- It’s unlikely that the momentum of peer tutorials built up in 2021 will be sustained in 2022.
Who is the community for?
The initial focus of this community is iSolutions. IT departments have a unique role to play in terms of digital accessibility. iSolutions is responsible for implementing online services that meet accessibility guidelines.
As word of mouth has spread about the community several staff from outside of iSolutions have joined. The community has grown to 77 members.
In December 2020, community members completed an anonymous survey where they stated a preference for peer tutorials as the format for community sessions.
In 2021, volunteers designed and delivered seven peer tutorials for the community. Attendance varied from a low of 6 attendees to a high of 28 attendees.
|Introduction to Keyboard Navigation and Accessibility
|Introduction to Alt Text and Accessibility
|Towards amazing accessibility!
|Introduction to Blackboard Ally for iSolutions
|How should we talk about disability?
|Making Word accessible using Styles
|Death to “Click Here”
All sessions were recorded and are available to all University staff from the Community’s page on MS Stream where each video has attracted an average of seven views.
In a survey of community members in January 2022, we asked members to consider:
- whether they had applied digital accessibility practices covered within the community,
- and whether they had encouraged their colleagues to apply such practices.
91% of respondents confirmed both that they had applied practices covered within the community and had encouraged their colleagues to do so.
In their own words: what have members been doing, based on what they learned in the community?
- “Updated text when adding hyperlinks, adding alternative text to images, changing colour and contrast and checking it when developing icons/graphics”.
- “I have checked PPT presentations for accessibility, amended alternative text on images and checked site pages for keyboard accessibility”.
- “I’m using information about accessible websites to try and ensure our team’s new SharePoint is accessible to screen readers”.
- “Now very conscious of ensuring that I use strongly contrasting colours in presentations”.
- “Avoiding the use of ‘click here’ on SharePoint sites!”
- “Better hyperlinks”.
- “Ensuring to use MS headings instead of formatting in MS word”.
- “I have put consideration into alt text for images and making documents and slide shows accessible”.
In their own words: how have members encouraged their colleagues to apply digital accessibility practices?
- “When evaluating projects, starting to talk about ‘what if this person is…’ and then considering the impact on how the project may be excluding others”.
- “Socialised the techniques to the O365 community team via webinars”.
- “I have reshared articles posted on the CoP and started conversations about creating accessible documents”.
- “Only small things. For example, raising the question of how we address accessibility when rolling out change initiatives; we don’t necessarily have the answers but it continues/develops the thought process. Flag the importance/provide feedback on contrasting colours in slide decks”.
- “Using accessibility checker in PPT and guide academics to create accessible content”.
- “Reminded my team members in general that we need to be mindful of accessibility practices”.
- “I have put more effort into making sure my team consider the need for accessibility to be thought about at the beginning of the development process in order for it to baked in throughout the process”.
In their own words: where members encouraged their colleagues to apply digital accessibility practices, what was the impact?
- “When they ask for feedback, they have already considered what needs adjustment for accessibility and let me know, before I point out what they might not yet have done”.
- “Not sure but hopefully positive”.
- “Too early to say!”
- “Little impact however optimistic that repetition of the need to consider accessibility requirements over time will make a difference”.
- “They understand more about accessibility now, and they are trying to create more accessible presentations”.
- “We’ve considered how we can present information differently”.
- “I think it has had a positive effect. We spend time discussing the projects at the beginning which gives the opportunity to discuss accessibility as well, and we have agreed that if we make things more accessible it is not just the people who require it that it benefits”.
What next for the Digital Accessibility Community of Practice?
We asked respondents on what topics they would like future peer tutorials.
- “Upcoming changes to WCAG and what this might mean for developing content – can we start to introduce changes now to future proof?”
- “Nice to have someone who has to use the accessibility features to feedback to us the best way to proceed”.
- “Best practice in SharePoint / Teams sites”.
- “Quick reference ‘How to’ guides are always helpful in jogging the memory when short of time in pulling together documents, presentation slides, websites”.
- “I guess maybe making stuff that works well with screen readers?”
- “Digital accessibility in authoring digital content for people with learning disabilities (dyslexia, ADHD and autism)”.
- “What progress is the University making in its obligations to be more accessible, what are their plans going forward?”
- “Best practice sessions”.
The challenges of maintaining a community of practice
We also asked for volunteers to prepare and run future sessions, within the group that responded to the survey no one volunteered.
Researching, creating, and delivering high quality peer-tutorials is time-consuming. A topic like accessibility is too important to teach without preparation or without sufficient knowledge.
Evidence from our survey shows that the Digital Accessibility Community of Practice has been useful to its members. Members have taken on accessible practices and shared them with their colleagues.
It’s doubtful that the momentum of 2021 can be sustained in 2022. Without volunteer presenters, and without time set aside for them to research and prepare, future tutorials will depend on the same small group spending personal time on this extra activity.
In the survey, respondents were asked if there was anything else that they wished to add:
- “I’ve really enjoyed taking part in the community”.
- “Very useful please keep it going”.
- “Thank you to the admins and community members who make the CoP so welcoming – I never feel stupid here!”
- “A brilliant COP! My eyes have been opened to so many issues and opportunities. The links to legislation and corporate USP have been great – so accessibility from an individual perspective but also benefits to the University in considering the needs of its people. Meetings have been well thought out and managed. Congratulations and thank you to the whole team and community”.
- “Thank you to your team for being so positive, friendly and helpful. You are one of our ‘sunshine’ teams :)”