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Integrate accessibility into teaching practices, says field expert

Accessibility should be weaved into more educational curriculums and demonstrated in teaching, a specialist consultant told delegates at a recent conference.

Speaking at the ‘Digital Accessibility in Higher and Further Education Conference 2016’, David Sloan, a user experience engineer from accessibility agency The Paciello Group, said that accessibility needs to be integrated into the fabric of any curriculum featuring digital content creation, and can no longer be taught in isolation.

“It’s not something we can treat as a specialism, that inevitably becomes a class that somebody can skip because they are busy or doing something else,” Sloan said.

He went on to say that accessible communication is a “core digital literacy” that everyone should develop. “It’s not something we [can] leave to computing science to teach and everyone else can forget about. If we are thinking about digital literacy as a general concept that we want our employees of the future to acquire and use, then accessible communication needs to be part of that,” Sloan said.

Another crucial challenge, said Sloan, is for educators to directly apply inclusive practices when teaching: “Too often, I have seen [a situation] where somebody will stand up and talk about accessibility, saying something like: ‘Here’s an example of an inaccessible image that doesn’t have appropriate alt text, as you can see in the slide beside me.’ Hang on a minute, you are talking about an accessibility issue and assuming that everybody can see the slide on the screen.”

Addressing these kinds of oversights through inclusive teaching should be a “core professional skill” among educators, said Sloan: “A failure to do that weakens the message that digital accessibility is a core skill that our learners should be acquiring.”

The conference was sponsored by BCS (the British Computer Society), and took place in London. More information about the presentations can be found at the following link to the BCS website:
http://eab.li/l .

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