Organisations may invest large sums of money in digital resources. In theory, these ought to be a significant part of your “inclusion armoury”, allowing users to access information in an accessible way.
Providing information in accessible formats is one of the key requirements of the equality act. However, lack of awareness or lack of training can turn an accessibility solution into an accessibility problem.
This section explores how organisations can turn their mainstream tools, technologies and practices into assistive technologies and productivity tools for everybody.
Documents and presentations
There are a few basic accessibility practices that can be taught in minutes but make a substantial difference to people with print impairment.
Our six tips for teaching staff, from our accessibility blog, explores this further.
Spreadsheets can be daunting especially for people with dyslexia, dyscalculia, visual impairment or learning difficulties. But it is possible to make spreadsheets more user friendly.
Making use of the in-built functionality can help learners make sense of numbers. Microsoft Excel for example enables you to create engaging interactive resources for learners that represent numbers visually (such as graphs and charts) making them easier to interpret.
When you are creating a spreadsheet for others it is worth knowing about some simple practices and shortcuts that make life easier.
These range from merging cells to help with layout through to naming sheets with meaningful names. You can also duplicate cells quickly or fill in ranges automatically and add simple formulae.
A navigation sheet can make it easier to find your way around complex data.
Creating accessible spreadsheets
Use colour or shading to highlight key areas and add relevant images. Add pop-up comments where appropriate to give explanations or instructions.
You can use data validation to reduce the likelihood of learners accidentally adding the wrong values and conditional formatting can help to highlight key values.
When presenting learners with large spreadsheets make them aware of pivot tables and how they can help to easily navigate complex data sets.
When users are dealing with a large spreadsheet they can work more productively and efficiently if they know how to freeze panes, filter and sort columns. Although these are not specific accessibility features they reduce barriers for people who lack confidence or are easily overwhelmed by numbers.
If learners collect results and add them to the spreadsheet, set up a graph to plot the values from the results table. As the data is entered learners will see the developing trends on the graph. This helps them move beyond numbers to what the numbers actually mean.
By using slider bars you allow learners to experiment with different values on a graph or in a formula. The use of 'IF statements' can allow you to create self-marking exercises and multiple choice exercises.
Spreadsheets don't suit all learners and they can cause problems for blind users so it is important to understand the primary teaching objectives of an exercise before adapting the resource. An interactive economics graph showing demand varying with price adds great value for a dyslexic learner but could be far more effectively explained to a blind person using pipe cleaners or Wikki Stix.