News and Events


Systematic review protocol published, May 2020

In May we published our Systematic review protocol for research into the accessibility teaching literature in open access journal Social Science Protocols. The paper includes a review of reviews in this area and will be useful for anyone looking to research accessibility teaching, learning or related aspects of accessibility pedagogy (student experience, learning outcomes and…

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Reflections on AXSChat 7th February 2020

On 7th February Sarah and Angharad participated in a discussion with Neil Milliken (ATOS), Debra Ruh (Ruh Global) and Antonio Santos (ATOS) about the teaching of accessibility, as part of the AXSChat series. The discussion gave us the opportunity to introduce ourselves, provide an overview of our research and its aims, and pose questions around the main issues in the field. The…

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#AXSchat Twitter Chat on teaching accessibility – 11 February 2020

On Friday, Sarah and Angharad were in conversation with Neil Milliken, Debra Ruh and Antonio Santos on the Teaching Accessibility project ahead of a forthcoming Twitter Chat – #AXSchat – focussed on the teaching of accessibility. The conversation is available via iTunes AXSchat podcast, in your browser via BuzzSprout, or on YouTube as a Subtitled video.  We hope…

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Accessibility policy analysis published in Disability & Society

We’re glad to announce that our accessibility policy analysis has been published by the journal of Disability and Society. Academics can access the paper via Disability & Society: ‘Accessible at last?: what do new European digital accessibility laws mean for disabled people in the UK?’. An Open Access authors’ pre-print version is also available via our publications page. We are planning further…

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Call: PhD in Education

Would you like to do a PhD investigating the teaching and learning of accessibility? We are currently seeking funding for two outstanding PhD candidates (UK-based or international) to come to work with us here at the University of Southampton, researching the teaching and learning of accessibility. As a doctoral researcher, you will join the Centre…

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Video: Teaching accessibility: 10 messages from research @ Inclusive Design 24, 10 October 2019

Captioned video is now available from Sarah Lewthwaite’s talk ‘Teaching accessibility: 10 messages from research’ at Inclusive Design 24 on 10th October 2019. This talk introduces evidence-based principles from educational research that can be applied in the teaching and learning of accessibility. Abstract: Teaching accessibility: 10 messages from research This is a talk for everyone…

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Video: Learning and teaching accessibility @ London Accessibility Meetup, 23 September 2019

Captioned video is now available from Dr Sarah Lewthwaite’s talk ‘Learning and Teaching Accessibility’ at the 29th London Accessibility Meetup, on the 23rd of September, 2019. This presentation was made alongside Dr Abi James (AbilityNet) earlier talk ‘Digital Accessibility Regulatory Landscape – are you ready?’, on the day new regulations came into force in the…

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Inclusive Design 24 – 10 October 2019

Inclusive Design 24 (#id24) is a free 24-hour online event for the global community. It celebrates inclusive design and shares knowledge and ideas from analogue to digital, from design to development, from planners to practitioners and everything and everyone inbetween. Sarah Lewthwaite will be presenting ‘Teaching accessibility: 10 messages from research’ as one of 24…

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The Accessible Curriculum: Institute of Coding – 30 Sept 2019

Dr Sarah Lewthwaite will be presenting at a forthcoming Institute of Coding Forum focused on Accessible Curriculum on Monday 30th September. Event Summary The new Public sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018 on Websites and Mobile Applications comes into force this month, meaning all publicly funded digital platforms require a statement of accessibility. Is education ready…

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New Research Fellow to join Teaching Accessibility project

We’re delighted to announce that Angharad Butler-Rees will be joining the project full-time in November 2019. Following a competitive recruitment process, Angharad was appointed in August. Angharad is a social scientist currently in the final stages of her PhD in Geography at the University of Southampton (2016-2019). Her doctoral research explores the lives of individuals…

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In May we published our Systematic review protocol for research into the accessibility teaching literature in open access journal Social Science Protocols. The paper includes a review of reviews in this area and will be useful for anyone looking to research accessibility teaching, learning or related aspects of accessibility pedagogy (student experience, learning outcomes and so on).

Lewthwaite, S., Coverdale, A., & Butler-Rees, A. (2020) Teaching Accessibility in Computer Science and Related Disciplines: A Systematic Review and Narrative Synthesis Protocol. Social Science Protocols. 

ABSTRACT

Background: Imperatives for digital inclusion mean there is growing demand for graduates with the knowledge and skills to produce digital services that are accessible to disabled people and older populations. Accessibility is mandated by a body of laws that constitute digital disability rights, and internet use among disabled people is increasing (ONS, 2019). However, a lack of progress in the delivery of accessible mobile web-based services, tools and resources mean disabled and older people face persistent digital barriers. There is a pressing need to develop accessibility capacity in the digital workforce. To this end, this systematic literature review seeks to establish what is empirically known about the effective teaching and learning of digital accessibility through the lens of pedagogy.

Methods/DesignThe review will consider research (1999-2019) which focuses on the teaching and learning of digital accessibility in higher education and the workplace. The focus is on how pedagogy is enacted – the pedagogic practice of teaching – rather than curriculum development or other activities that relate to planning or governance. Two databases will be searched, using identified keywords. To identify further papers, backward- and forward- citation analysis is used. Researchers will work iteratively with the data, to ensure no loss of context through data extraction. A narrative synthesis of the findings will be presented.

Discussion: The review will collate literature on the pedagogy of accessibility education, reporting on how the teaching or learning of digital accessibility is effectively undertaken. It will identify the empirical basis for accessibility pedagogy.

On 7th February Sarah and Angharad participated in a discussion with Neil Milliken (ATOS), Debra Ruh (Ruh Global) and Antonio Santos (ATOS) about the teaching of accessibility, as part of the AXSChat series. The discussion gave us the opportunity to introduce ourselves, provide an overview of our research and its aims, and pose questions around the main issues in the field.

The discussion was followed by a live Twitter Chat on 11th February. As part of the chat we posed 6 questions:

  1. How did you first start to learn about #accessibility? What helped you on your learning journey?
  2. How do you continue to learn about #accessibility? Has this changed over time?
  3. How can someone starting out get from #accessibility basics to a specialist/expert level? What does it take in terms of support, mentors, time and resources etc?
  4. How can the lived experiences of disabled people be best drawn upon for #accessibility training and teaching?
  5. How can current #accessibility teaching and training be developed? What feedback, networks, events and conversations are needed to do this?
  6. What does excellent #accessibility teaching and training look/feel like? Are some formats (hackathons, sprints, MOOCs etc) better than others? Why?

The Chat helped draw attention to the current state of accessibility teaching, with around 200 users engaging in the chat, including accessibility leaders, practitioners and advocates at various levels, across the UK, Europe and the US. Discussion explored the nature of accessibility learning journeys and what might constitute ‘good’ teaching and learning in this sphere. Themes from the Chat included the importance of mentoring, apprenticeship (that is, working closely with experts) and the role of informal learning events/communities, in supporting individuals in their learning journeys. We summarise these below:

Routes into Accessibility

Participants expressed accessibility journeys that were often spurred on by a personal experience of disability (either through being disabled themselves or supporting someone else with a disability) or working in disability-related fields (such as Special Educational Needs), corresponds with many faculty experiences, reported by Shinohara et al (2018) Survey of US Computing Faculty. Learning journeys began based on intrinsic motivation. Notably, no-one identified a route into accessibility instigated by an extrinsic legal or business imperative. Whilst it would be unwise to generalise from this discussion, the focus on intrinsic motivation says something about the routes to engagement for those contributing to informal accessibility networks such as AXSChat – people who are passionate about accessibility and engaging in additional learning opportunities outside of the workplace. For educators, this highlights the importance of harnessing personal experiences to engage learners, and (potentially) the difficulty of educating accessibility ‘conscripts’, those without intrinsic motivation or authentic experience of inclusion. Further, those involved in the Chat frequently noted the importance of engaging with disabled users in order to increase their understanding of accessibility, identify areas of priority and address missing voices. Maintaining contact with disabled users was reported as pivotal in driving individuals’ activities/ambitions along with ensuring a continued passion for accessibility. 

Informal Learning Events

With the majority of accessibility practitioners within the Chat being self-taught – informal learning opportunities and events such as A11y LondonCSUN and ID24 conference, were deemed as useful components in individuals’ learning pathways. These settings were said to offer new routes to learning across organisational, disciplinary and national boundaries. Such events were also reported to encourage the sharing of practice, something which was deemed as much needed within this sphere, where accessibility training can often be too expensive and teaching resources frequently only shared internally within organisations.

Online Accessibility Platforms and Communities

Contributors recognised that learning was a continuous process and one that required continuing professional development throughout their career to ensure knowledge is up-to-date. Open online communities operating through platforms such as Twitter (i.e. #Accessibility#ATChat@AXSChat#A11y and #SpEdTechChat) and resources available through GitHub, Slack and YouTube were therefore deemed as valuable, in connecting with others in the field and aiding in the sharing of knowledge and resources. Many also saw value in following big names within the field and keeping up to date with their activities through Twitter. 

Mentorship

Participants also noted the role of mentorship and the importance of working in excellent teams in advancing their learning, advising them on appropriate training/events and providing them with both a soundboard and role model. Some of this incorporated the values of apprenticeship – that is, the gains of working closely with experts – observing their work processes, modelled behaviours and decision-making processes. Mentors were highly valued and unsurprisingly in great demand! Notably we are seeing some big names in the industry (e.g. Matt May at Adobe) offering open Office Hours for mentoring and Q&A sessions as a way of contributing to the community.

Formal Learning

Whilst a surprisingly large part of the discussion focussed on informal learning, there was also recognition of formal routes to learning (those which were certified and professionalised) such as the IAAP certification. There appeared to be a great desire for further certifications of this kind and for the establishing of an accessibility Apprenticeship  in the UK. Apprenticeship is meant here in terms of a vocational course with a formal qualification, through which someone learns a job, art or trade under guidances. Several contributors noted that such accessibility training should not solely focus on developing technical skill but the soft, interpersonal-skills that are crucial for those working in the field. 

There was also a call amongst participants to ensure inclusive training to be developed, catering towards disabled people as learners. As one practitioner @SarahGBoland noted, ‘accessibility training and teaching should be universally accessible and have the capacity to support anyone who wants to learn at any level’.

Along with formal and professional training, attendance at professional conferences such as CSUNSIGSCEand ITiSCE were reported as useful experiences, spurring and deepening learning, and helping to broaden their networks and informing them of recent developments in the field. The cost of attending these conferences was however commented upon as being prohibitively expensive, making them out of reach to some. 

Every journey is different and includes a patchwork of formal/informal learning driven by learners

The Chat suggests that for the community that engages in AXSchat each accessibility journey is different, incorporating a combination of informal and formal learning (e.g. IAAP certification) driven by the learners. Whilst the chat only provided us with a small window into individuals’ reflections, and cannot be construed as research data, it appeared that there were a few common threads, again, these include – the importance of mentorship/role models, the role of informal learning through networks and communities and an expressed need for more formal and certified learning pathways and training. 

In terms of teaching quality, Chat participants associated the following factors as important in constituting ‘good’ accessibility teaching/training: 

  • Experiential learning (providing students with first-hand experience of solving an accessibility problem)
  • Inclusive and adaptable teaching (catering to students varying experiences and abilities)
  • Accessibility teaching should be grounded within the experiences of disabled people with disabled people included in the development and delivery of training and
  • incorporate both technical and soft skills. 

Overall, our experience of engaging in AXSChat was a positive one, igniting conversations around accessibility pedagogy, providing us with some insight into the diversity of accessibility learning journeys and connecting us with others in the field. We thank AXSChat for inviting us and for the opportunity to be involved in this welcoming and vibrant community.  

On Friday, Sarah and Angharad were in conversation with Neil Milliken, Debra Ruh and Antonio Santos on the Teaching Accessibility project ahead of a forthcoming Twitter Chat – #AXSchat – focussed on the teaching of accessibility. The conversation is available via iTunes AXSchat podcast, in your browser via BuzzSprout, or on YouTube as a Subtitled video

We hope that those of you on Twitter will be able to join the conversation tomorrow, Tuesday 11th Feb, 20:00-21:00 GMT / 15:00-16:00 EST. To do so, follow the questions via @AXSchat and tweet using the hashtag #AXSchat.

We’ve set six questions that we hope will instigate a conversation that raises useful reflections, resources, and dialogue for everyone involved in accessibility: 

Q1: How did you first start to learn about #accessibility? What helped you on your learning journey?

Q2: How do you continue to learn about #accessibility? Has this changed over time?

Q3: How can someone starting out get from #accessibility basics to a specialist/expert level? What does it take in terms of support, mentors, time and resources etc?

Q4: How can the lived experiences of disabled people be best drawn upon for #accessibility training and teaching?

Q5: How can current #accessibility teaching and training be developed? What feedback, networks, events and conversations are needed to do this?

Q6: What does excellent #accessibility teaching and training look/feel like? Are some formats (hackathons, sprints, MOOCs etc) better than others? Why?

We’re glad to announce that our accessibility policy analysis has been published by the journal of Disability and Society. Academics can access the paper via Disability & Society: ‘Accessible at last?: what do new European digital accessibility laws mean for disabled people in the UK?’. An Open Access authors’ pre-print version is also available via our publications page. We are planning further analysis leading to a longer work, concerning issues of compliance culture and education policy. If there are areas that you think can or should be expanded/deepened, or further work we should be aware of, please do let us know. We appreciate your comments. 

The full abstract and reference follow below: 

Abstract

Recent changes to the regulation of digital services could represent a step-change in the accessibility of public sector websites and applications in the UK and across Europe. Accessibility will be centrally monitored meaning the onus is no longer exclusively on disabled people to issue legal challenges to digital exclusion. How will these changes affect disabled people in the UK, in light of Brexit and the complex relationship between standards and disability?

Lewthwaite, S. & James, A. (2020) Accessible at last? What do new European digital accessibility laws mean for disabled people in the UK?. Disability & Society.

Would you like to do a PhD investigating the teaching and learning of accessibility?

We are currently seeking funding for two outstanding PhD candidates (UK-based or international) to come to work with us here at the University of Southampton, researching the teaching and learning of accessibility. As a doctoral researcher, you will join the Centre for Research in Inclusion at Southampton Education School at the University of Southampton – one of the UK’s best Education departments. Here, you will work on new research into the teaching and learning of digital accessibility. Potential topics for pedagogic research include learner perspectives on accessibility; or ageing in accessibility education.

Proposals can either be candidate-led (initiated by you) or developed with us. We are currently seeking funding from the South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership and Southampton’s Presidential Scholarships through a competitive process, with a view to PhDs beginning in Autumn 2020/Spring 2021. 

For more information, please get in touch with Principal Investigator and project lead Dr Sarah Lewthwaite.

Captioned video is now available from Sarah Lewthwaite’s talk ‘Teaching accessibility: 10 messages from research’ at Inclusive Design 24 on 10th October 2019. This talk introduces evidence-based principles from educational research that can be applied in the teaching and learning of accessibility.

Sarah Lewthwaite presentation to Inclusive Design 24: 10 October 2019

Abstract: Teaching accessibility: 10 messages from research

This is a talk for everyone who talks about accessibility. People need to know more about accessibility, but it can be challenging to teach. It requires a unique mix of conceptual understanding, technical skill and procedural knowledge. In this talk I will introduce 10 teaching tools – principles and strategies for effective pedagogy – that are drawn from more than a decade of empirical academic research in education. Join me to expand your educational repertoire, so you can more effectively share accessibility with colleagues, teams and wider audiences.

Other talks from this wide-ranging and dynamic conference are available via ID24’s YouTube channel.

Captioned video is now available from Dr Sarah Lewthwaite’s talk ‘Learning and Teaching Accessibility’ at the 29th London Accessibility Meetup, on the 23rd of September, 2019.

Sarah Lewthwaite presentation to London Accessibility MeetUp, 23 September 2019

This presentation was made alongside Dr Abi James (AbilityNet) earlier talk ‘Digital Accessibility Regulatory Landscape – are you ready?’, on the day new regulations came into force in the UK and Europe.

Abstract: Learning and teaching accessibility (Dr Sarah Lewthwaite, University of Southampton)

Digital technologies have revolutionised daily life, yet the capacity for accessible tools and services has not kept pace with demand, resulting in the ongoing exclusion of disabled people and older people. Despite the social cost, new legislation and a trajectory of growing demand for accessible digital services, there is still a lack of detailed understanding of how accessibility can be effectively taught, learned and scaled.

This talk introduces new research into the pedagogy of accessibility – reporting on a systematic literature review of published work in this field. Together we will consider what is known about the teaching and learning of digital accessibility, what makes it distinct and challenging, and how we – as practitioners, trainers, educators, advocates and experts – can work together to build upon this knowledge, to cascade our skills and understanding more effectively to co-workers, colleagues, clients and others.

Sarah’s talk begins at 1hr 15 minutes.

Inclusive Design 24 (#id24) is a free 24-hour online event for the global community. It celebrates inclusive design and shares knowledge and ideas from analogue to digital, from design to development, from planners to practitioners and everything and everyone inbetween.

Sarah Lewthwaite will be presenting ‘Teaching accessibility: 10 messages from research’ as one of 24 presentations at 14:00 UK time (13:00 UTC) on 10th October 2019.

“This is a talk for everyone who talks about accessibility. People need to know more about accessibility, but it can be challenging to teach. It requires a unique mix of conceptual understanding, technical skill and procedural knowledge. In this talk I will introduce 10 teaching tools – principles and strategies for effective pedagogy – that are drawn from more than a decade of empirical academic research in education. Join me to expand your educational repertoire, so you can more effectively share accessibility with colleagues, teams and wider audiences.”

No sign up or registration is required to follow or participate in sessions. Sessions are streamed live and publically on YouTube. Live captions are available for each session. Videos are available after the event.

This is a fantastic annual event, with a wonderful video back-catalogue that is worth exploring. Do visit the Inclusive Design 24 site to take a look at the full schedule and find out more about how to get involved.

Dr Sarah Lewthwaite will be presenting at a forthcoming Institute of Coding Forum focused on Accessible Curriculum on Monday 30th September.

Event Summary

The new Public sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018 on Websites and Mobile Applications comes into force this month, meaning all publicly funded digital platforms require a statement of accessibility.

  • Is education ready for this?
  • Is the tech talent we are producing skilled up to meet these requirements?

This forum will explore inclusive education and the ‘Accessible Curriculum’ in relation to visible and non-visible disabilities, from two perspectives:

  • Is higher education accessible?
  • Are students learning to develop accessible digital products?

The forum brings educators and employers together to generate advice and case studies.

We aim to both share expert knowledge and inspire and support those who are new to this field, and want to improve the accessibility of their offer.

The day will be full of opportunities to share your own experiences and learn new perspectives on how accessibility can be integrated into the workplace and education.

People should leave the event with more and shared knowledge about the different practice of accessibility and understand the identification of required actions.

Please note that this event is only open to:

  • Teachers, lecturers & education professionals
  • Learning technologists
  • Disability service managers
  • Designers and developers of educational products and services (private & public sector)

To register visit the IoC EventBrite pages.

We’re delighted to announce that Angharad Butler-Rees will be joining the project full-time in November 2019. Following a competitive recruitment process, Angharad was appointed in August.

Angharad Butler-Rees
Angharad Butler-Rees

Angharad is a social scientist currently in the final stages of her PhD in Geography at the University of Southampton (2016-2019). Her doctoral research explores the lives of individuals involved in disability activism at a time of austerity. She brings a wealth of qualitative and inclusive research experience to the project, developed in her doctoral work and other projects.

Angharad has a longstanding interest in disability issues, having worked for Leonard Cheshire Disability and UCAN Productions (a creative arts co-operative for blind and partially sighted young people). Angharad’s interest in digital accessibility has been driven in part by her personal experiences of encountering barriers to technology as someone with a visual impairment, and further fuelled through her previous research in developing accessible Apps for blind and visually impaired people.

Angharad’s PhD research has sought to uncover the roots, spaces and experiences of individual’s advocacy. In doing this, she has explored whether the development of more personal and private forms of resistance are gradually beginning to challenge conventional understandings of ‘activism’.

Angharad comes from Wales, is a Welsh speaker and enjoys walking, travelling and spending time by the sea.

Welcome, Angharad!