Digital technology is becoming increasingly crucial in higher education and has revolutionised the way students apply, study and interact with a university.
As an example, recent developments have seen paper admissions dropped in favour of streamlined and adaptable online application portals. In an instance like this, technology makes the application experience simpler, more intuitive and time-effective for students.
However, not all students interact with technology in the same way and don’t all have the same requirements. The equality in higher education: statistical report 2014 suggests that 9.5% of UK first-year students disclose a disability, which equates to over 200,000 students in total.
To make sure all students can participate equally and have the tools to meet their needs, universities must ensure accessibility is at the core of all of their services.
The application process often provides the first impression a prospect receives of the technology a university uses. It’s a core part of how prospects interact with a university and it’s crucial for every university to all students’ requirements. Here are three four things you need to consider to make sure your university’s application process is accessible for every applicant.
Applicants using keyboard-only navigation must be able to access all interactive elements, not just the main navigation or in-line links. This means that form elements, drop-down menus, buttons, dialogue boxes and other widgets all have to be accessible by tabbing through the interface.
Applicants with visual impairments may require an audio interface to engage with web content. Rather than displaying web content visually for users in a window on the monitor, audio interfaces convert text into synthesised speech which users listen to. Audio interfaces present content linearly to users, one item at a time. Users should be able to set the speed rate of speech to suit their personal preference.
Although sighted users can scan an entire screen almost instantly, comprehending the overall layout and other aspects of the content, users with visual impairments cannot comprehend these macro-level aspects as quickly. Bear in mind that applicants using an audio interface can only progress through the elements of a web page in a step-by-step manner.
Braille displays are electro-mechanical devices which present braille characters for visually impaired computer users. This is usually achieved by means of round-tipped pins raised through holes in a flat surface.
Some universities also have braille embossers which emboss special characters onto paper. Braille translators are also useful for translating electronic text.
Not all event venues offer accessible access. This is something your university should consider when organising admissions events. If it’s not possible to book a fully accessible venue, hold webinars or online info sessions so that students who can’t attend a physical event don’t miss out.
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