Accessibility Series: What is accessibility?

Over the coming months the learning technology team will be posting a series of articles on developing accessible practices when using learning technology. Starting with a bit of background the posts will also look at some practical tips on how to build accessibility into your everyday practice.

We will start by looking at:

What is accessibility?


Image by Zebble shared under CC BY-NC 2.0

“Accessibility is about removing barriers to participation and engagement.”

(JISC TechDis, 2005)

Although accessibility can be applied to all types of learners it is often used to refer to disabled students. In order to understand why accessibility is so important to these students it can be helpful to consider how thinking about disability has evolved. There are two main models of disability and these models are frequently used to shape how services respond to the needs of disabled students.

  • Medical Model – tends to define the person based on their illness or medical condition. It focuses on the idea that these can be cured or managed in order to help disabled people live a more ‘normal’ life.
  • Social Model – sees disability as a product of the physical, organisational and attitudinal barriers in society. The barriers are the ‘problem’ not the disability.

It is commonly accepted that the Social Model of disability should be used as the basis for any educational provision and organisations should aim to remove barriers so disabled students have the same access to education as everyone else (ETTAD, 2007).

The next post in the series will look at ‘Why is accessibility important?


JISC TechDis (2005) What is accessibility? [online] (5 November 2012).

ETTAD (2006) Models of Disability [online], (1 February 2013).

2 thoughts on “Accessibility Series: What is accessibility?

  1. I am looking forward to this series of posts. When I worked at Derby between 2005-2007 I did a lot to incorporate accessibility awareness into the e-learning staff development I was coordinating and delivering, and it will be interesting to see how things have moved on since then.

  2. Pingback: Thinking about accessibility | Technology Enhanced Learning Blog

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