The University can provide advice and support for staff and students to enable them to overcome difficulties in using IT equipment, accessing information or to producing accessible materials.
Advice is available on the production of resources and teaching practices that are accessible to people with disabilities. Following inclusive practices shouldn't result in a significant increase in workload and can improve the quality of your resources for everyone. For guidance, see the Creating Accessible Resources online course or book on to a Making Accessible Documents and PDFs training session.
Disabled Student's Allowance funding may be available through Student Finance England or your relevant Funding Council. The Lancaster University Disability Service can arrange an assessment for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Lancaster University, along with many other areas of society, has adopted the social model of disability; i.e. disability is caused by the way society is organised, rather than by a person’s impairment or difference. The social model looks to remove barriers that restrict life choices for disabled people. When barriers are removed, disabled people can be independent and equal in society, with choice and control over their own lives.
It is a legal requirement that documents and course content should be accessible to people with disabilities, You are obliged to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that your content is accessible to all. Your students or other users of your online materials may be affected by any number of disabilities. You cannot make assumptions about an individual's ability to access materials and you need to be aware that many people will not declare a disability. Many people will use assistive technology to access information, but in order for the technology to work, the information should be produced in line with recognised guidelines. If you produce well-laid out, standards-compliant content, you will be able to mitigate against many problems faced by disabled users, and at the same time raise the quality of your content for everyone else.
People with disabilities will have a variety of strategies for making your content easier to access, including use of non-standard software such as screen readers. If you create content to industry standards, the impact on a user who attempts to access your content in a non-standard way will be reduced. Typical strategies include:
- Increasing or decreasing size of text
- Resetting colours, fonts, font size
- Using Windows/Mac built-in assistive tools
- Using additional assistive software and technologies
- Changing profile settings (eg Moodle users)
- Removing the style sheet or using a personal style sheet on web pages
- Navigating using tab keys
It is really important that you know your students and are sensitive to the fact that they may have borderline disabilities or that they may choose not to declare any issues. Be aware that students’ condition(s) may worsen or improve over time. Test the accessibility of your resources if possible, or encourage your students to report issues.
ISS provide online and classroom based training for producing accessible materials (see above). You can also contact ISS if you have any specific concerns about your resources..
The Home Office have produced some brief guidelines for key things to do and avoid when producing information for people with specific impairments:
- Sight impairments (low vision)
- Sight impairments (blind / screen reader user)
- Hearing impairments
- Physical or motor disabilities
- Autistic spectrum disorders
- Specific learning differences (e.g. dyslexia)
This is not an exhaustive list and some individuals will have specific requirements.
Word processed documents
- Use header styles for titles and section headings
- Include a table of contents for lengthy documents
- Font choice should be consistent throughout the document
- Text colour should have good contrast with the background colour
- If background/watermark images are used, do they reduce the clarity of text?
- Do not use colour only to represent information
- Paragraphs should be reasonably short and with space between
- Paragraph spacing should use ‘space after’ and not additional blank lines
- Use page breaks rather than blank lines to move to next page
- Tables should only be used for data and tabular information; not for page formatting
- Hyperlinks should be embedded into the text and not as URLs unless appropriate
- Descriptive Alt text must be added for all images, tables and charts
- Save Word documents as PDF for distribution
- Use the Accessibility Checker in Word
Scanned Documents and PDFs
- Use e-Book references rather than scanned documents if they are available from the Library
- Use the Library’s Digitisation Service to create accessible scanned documents
- If scanning your own documents, use OCR (available in Read&Write and Acrobat Pro) to make the scanned document accessible
- Check the accuracy of the OCR and fix any issues
- Check the reading order
- Use the Accessibility Checker tool in Acrobat Pro to fix any issues
There are several packages available to you via Information Systems Services (ISS) to help improve accessibility. These include:
- JAWS: Screen-reading software for Windows. Available on one specific computer within the library.
- Texthelp Read and Write: Dyslexia support software to assist users in developing skills in reading and writing. Available on all ISS-supported PCs via AppsAnywhere.
- Mindjet MindManager and Freemind: Mind-mapping software. Available on all ISS-supported PCs via AppsAnywhere and can be installed on personal devices.
For more information about the available software provision at the University, please visit the Software page.
We understand that the software installed on university PCs does not address everyone's requirements and you may need to use additional assistive software or use other similar applications. ISS can provide advice and support on a wide range of assistive software, not just the applications provided on AppsAnywhere. If you are experiencing difficulties using your computer and believe that you could benefit from assistive software, please contact ISS.
Applications that we can help with include:
- Dyslexia support software (e.g. Texthelp Read & Write, ClaroRead)
- Mind mapping software (e.g. Mindjet Mindmanager, Mindview, Inspiration)
- Screen Reading software (e.g. Jaws, Window Eyes, Supernova, NVDA)
- Screen Magnification (e.g. ZoomText)
- Optical Character Recognition for the creation of accessible documents
Speech Recognition (e.g. Dragon Naturally Speaking)
If you are experiencing difficulty using your computer due to an injury or impairment, ISS may be able to help. Advice is available on a range of assistive technology and equipment, including:
- Windows PC and Apple Mac advice
- Ergonomic Equipment (e.g. keyboards, mice, screen risers)
- Ergonomic Furniture
- Audio Recording Devices
- Handheld Devices, such as portable scanners and handwriting capture
- Magnification and CCTV systems; desktop and handheld
- Automatic Document Readers
- Hearing Loop Systems and Radio Aids
ISS can provide advice and guidance to improve inclusivity and ensure that IT services are accessible for individuals with disabilities.
IT applications, projects and services that are fundamental to the University's operations can be tested with a range of assistive software, including screenreader, magnification, text-to-speech, speed recognition and other common applications. A report indicating success and failure of key areas will be provided.
This service is primarily for central university IT projects and services, however support can be requested by staff in other departments/divisions.