InclUDE study finds digital divide in use of accessibility tools in Higher Education
In 2020, during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the abrupt closure of societies and education institutions, required teachers and lecturers to quickly transfer teaching materials and methodologies from classroom-based to online formats. Due to short timeframe, many higher education lecturers were forced to focus on delivering online teaching in a way that suited the majority of their students, with little knowledge on the accessibility features or tools available and how to use them.
Since then, the demand for more inclusive and accessible online teaching has grown and, as a result, higher education institutions are being required to provide the support and resources which enable their educators to deliver accessible online teaching.
Under these circumstances the Inclusive University Digital Education (InclUDE) project has conducted a study on the state of play on the level of awareness lecturers, higher education professionals and university students have of accessibility tools for online learning.
Based on data collected via a survey of 170 higher education professionals, lecturers, students and social service providers between October and November 2021, the study report has highlighted a number of key trends on the use of accessibility tools in universities in Austria, France, the UK and wider Europe.
Encouragingly, the report found that many lecturers and students are already using digital tools to make their learning resources and presentations more accessible generally. However, of those surveyed, only 40% of respondents were using digital accessibility tools to promote the accessibility of online learning teaching.
Those who reported not using digital tools claimed that they did not do so because they did not know enough about them, suggesting that HEI professionals and students require further training on these tools. Not being able to find digital accessibility tools, was cited as a second key barriers preventing the use of such tools in higher education institutions.
The InclUDE project partners will use the findings of the study to develop a number of guidelines for lecturers, to support them in creating more inclusive and accessible teaching materials for all students. They will also work with other stakeholders to develop a set of recommendations, for policy makers, universities, higher education professional and students to promote the use of accessibility tools in schools.
Note to editors
Funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, the Inclusive University Digital Education (InclUDE) project aims to build on the lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide lecturers, higher education professionals, students as well as support service providers with the knowledge and awareness of current online accessibility tools and inclusive practices.
The project is coordinated by the University of Wolverhampton (UK) with Universität Klagenfurt (Austria), Université Rennes II (France) and the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (Belgium) as partners.
To find out more about the project, and its deliverables, visit the project webpage here.