The DDA requires that education and training organisations provide access that is as non-discriminatory and as dignified as possible. Physical accessibility relates not only to wheelchair access but also to issues such as signage, lighting, parking and emergency procedures across all facilities and services. Students can also be excluded by inaccessible computers or libraries so it is just as important that housing, student union and support services take full account of the needs of all students.
Improving building accessibility and observing OH&S standards will help meet the needs of students and staff with disability, and make life easier for those without. If physical access cannot be ensured,for instance because of the physical terrain, other measures such as relocation of classes should be considered.
If the principles of accessible web design are not implemented people with vision impairments for example will find it difficult or impossible to access web pages. Web pages can be designed so that they can be navigated and read by everyone regardless of disability, experience or the type of computer technology available and still be visually appealing.
Creating accessible websites should be an integral part of the design philosophy of web developers with accessibility features incorporated in to all aspects of the design process. Testing for accessibility should also be incorporated in to all testing regimes and not be seen as an isolated event that can occur after other user testing has taken place. The W3C guidelines provide a useful starting point for ensuring accessibility.
Computer Access and Assistive Technology
Assistive technology includes devices, tools, hardware and software that enable people with disability to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible. Developments in assistive technology have significantly improved opportunities for access to information and education for people with disability but each student’s needs are different and should be individually evaluated to ensure successful outcomes.
Keys to improving the quality of ICT support for students with disability are a better understanding of their needs and improved knowledge of specialist software and hardware. Wherever possible, specialised software and hardware should be available where students regularly work ie in libraries, common rooms and computer labs rather than in specialised facilities.