Within the Guidelines ‘accessibility’ is understood as described in Article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as:

… appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas (United Nations, 2006, p. 8).

This is a wider concept covering many environmental and physical factors. The Guidelines focus on one area within this definition – the accessibility of information.

Within the Guidelines, information is understood to refer to a message or data that is communicated concerning a specific issue. Specifically, these Guidelines focus on the aim of sharing messages to inform learners and build knowledge in a learning environment.

Within the Guidelines the different types of information considered are text, image, audio and video. These types of information can be shared or delivered through different media channels, such as electronic documents, online resources, videos and printed material.

These media channels usually contain different types of information simultaneously.

In relation to media channels, the Guidelines consider how information is converted or packaged into a certain format using (for example) text-editing programmes – and delivered or presented to the user.

In education, the types of materials this applies to include (but are not limited to):

  • Learning materials
  • Course content
  • Course descriptions
  • Registration information and registration systems
  • Research material
  • University and library websites
  • Catalogues and repositories
  • e-learning software and learning platforms.

Accessible information is understood as information provided in formats that allow every user and learner to access content ‘on an equal basis with others’ (UNCRPD). Accessible information is ideally information that:

  • allows all users and learners to easily orientate themselves within the content; and
  • can be effectively perceived and understood by different perception channels, such as using eyes and/or ears and/or fingers.

Accessibility is not the same as usability. Accessibility is about ensuring people with disabilities and/or special needs have access on an equal basis as everyone else. Usability is about creating an effective, efficient and satisfactory user experience.

Full 100% accessibility of information for every user or learner is an ideal that is not easy to achieve. However, technology allows us to create and share information in a way in which the content is adaptable by the user, which means users may change the content according to their needs.

Numerous additional terms related to accessibility appear throughout this resource. All relevant terms are defined in the glossary.