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Digital Accessibility project

This project was initiated in response to new legislation came into force in September 2018 which applies to university websites, intranets and applications. The aim of the legislation, known as the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations (2018), is to ensure public sector websites and mobile apps are accessible to all users, especially those with disabilities. It was accompanied by an ‘Accessible VLEs’ briefing paper aimed at universities which was prepared by an all-party parliamentary working group and published by ‘Policy Connect’. It says that our websites need to be fully accessible - i.e. perceivable, operable, understandable and robust; this can be demonstrated through compliance with the European standard ETSI EN 301 549 which is aligned to WCAG 2.1 Level AA. Compliance is being monitored by Government Digital Services (GDS) and the enforcement body is the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). 

Making a website or mobile app accessible means making sure it can be used by as many people as possible including those with impaired vision, motor difficulties, cognitive impairments or learning disabilities and deafness or impaired hearing.  At least 1 in 5 people in the UK have a long term illness, impairment or disability. Many more have a temporary disability. 

Accessibility means more than putting things online. It means making your content and design clear and simple enough so that most people can use it without needing to adapt it, while supporting those who do need to adapt things. 

The project identified the St Mary’s websites, intranets and applications in scope of the regulations.   

Tools for running in-house accessibility audits were investigated and a tool (Microsoft Accessibility Insights) was selected.

A database for running and tracking accessibility audits (both for the project and on an ongoing basis) was created.

The sites and apps were audited for digital accessibility using a combination of in-house resources and the services of a third-party auditor (All Able).

The regulations dictate that accessibility statements had to be published by 23rd September 2020 for in scope sites & apps using a format issued by Government Digital Services which provides users with information regarding how it was audited, what digital accessibility issues exist with it and when we plan to address those issues etc.

Accessibility statements were published on the main St Mary’s website for: Staffnet, SimmSpace, Sharepoint, SMRS, Password Reset, IT Forms & Moodle.  In addition, Group Accessibility Statements (were also published for the third-party systems we use (grouped by public, staff, student and SITS). 

An accessibility statement for the Students Union (SMSU) website was published on the SMSU website.

Epiphany (third-party website provider) published accessibility statements on the websites they provide for St Mary’s (The Art of Dying Well, Catholic Social Thought, Education Partnerships Portal and The Exchange).

Where possible in-house accessibility issues identified by the audits were fixed prior to 23rd September 2020.

Where this was not possible, plans to fix these have been put in place.

However, where systems/apps are produced by third-parties we cannot remediate them ourselves and so we have raised the issues with the suppliers and we await their fixes/upgrades.

Introductory presentations to staff were held with departments.

Comms & Guidance was published on Staffnet and included in fortnightly staff e-newsletters.

Bookable ‘clinic’ sessions were also held for staff.

A VLE Accessibility Tool was identified as being key to helping academic staff ensure that the teaching & learning materials they upload into Moodle are digitally accessible.

A review of the available tools on the market (x2) was conducted and as a result “Panorama” from Yuja Inc. was selected and procured.However, testing and implementation of Panorama was delayed whist resources were focussed on the implementation of the new Student Records system (SITS).

Policies have been updated to ensure that as we buy or develop new sites or apps in the future, and when we renew contracts for existing ones they are digitally accessible.

Digital accessibility is not a one-off exercise: it is the way our sites and apps and documents we upload online must be henceforth.

Responsibility for making documents, forms, e-forms & videos accessible lies with the owner/producer of those documents. 

All new or substantially revised documents, forms, e-forms & videos published online must be digitally accessible at the point at which they are published. 

In addition, any documents published online after 23rd September 2018 need to retrospectively be made digitally accessible too. 

Documents published online before 23rd September 2018 only need to be made digitally accessible if they are still in active use and essential to providing our services e.g. policies, procedures and forms.

A Digital Accessibility Working Group meets quarterly to: 

  • To oversee the auditing, and remediation of our sites & apps for digital accessibility, including where we are reliant upon fixes/upgrades from third-party suppliers.
  • To oversee complaints about digital accessibility from users and requests for alternative digitally accessible formats from users.
  • To oversee and track (via Panorama) the digital accessibility of teaching and learning documents (since Sep 2019) in St Mary’s Virtual Learning Environment (Moodle). 
  • To identify and mitigate or escalate to Heads or Department/Service and/or University Operating Board any risk resulting from the above. 

Remediation of remaining digital accessibility issues with our own and third-party apps/site is being managed by the IT Applications team.