Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)

Published: Thursday 19 May 2022

This Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), we want to share our approach to digital content accessibility and highlight some of the work going on across AQA.

We know that one in five people have some form of permanent or temporary disability that affects the way they engage with our website.

This could be anything from vision loss, hearing loss or dyslexia to a migraine or broken arm. To help this, they may need to use screen readers, keyboards or other assistive technology to move around our website and access information.

We also know that many people visiting our website are teachers who may be stressed, students who may be anxious and parents who may be concerned or confused. Some may have a poor internet connection, a cracked screen or an old computer. For others, English may not be their first language. All of these factors, and more, can affect someone’s ability to access complex information online – of which there's plenty when it comes to exams.

Because of this, we work hard to make sure our website meets AA standard Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Among many things, this means ensuring that:

  • we use a large, clear font
  • pages are structured well with correct html tags
  • content is organised with informative headings in a useful sequence
  • there are text alternatives for non-text content (like transcripts for audio, closed captions for video and descriptions of images)
  • colours have a high contrast ratio
  • users can adapt, resize or simplify the page without losing information or functionality
  • there is nothing which could cause seizures (such as heavy flashing).

As one in ten people have dyslexia, the words we use are important too.

We try to use:

  • simple, plain English and common vocabulary
  • short sentences
  • simple grammar
  • informative headings
  • bullets lists
  • meaningful link text ('how to submit marks' instead of 'click here').

We try to avoid:

  • block capitals
  • bold, italics and underlining
  • ampersands (&) and other symbols
  • headings phrased as questions
  • complex grammar (especially negative contractions like 'shouldn't've')
  • unnecessary punctuation.

To make sure we’re doing all of this, we use a range of in-built accessibility checks, readability scorers and visual simulators. We test across different browsers and devices, and – of course – with our users.

Because of all this, year after year, we receive the Plain English Campaign’s 'Internet Crystal Mark' – the only internationally recognised award for the clarity and readability of digital content.

But we still want to do more. So, over the next 12 months you'll see us:

  • reducing the use of PDFs in favour of accessible html webpages
  • improving usability on mobile devices
  • striving for consistent AA standards across other AQA sites (such as Centre Services and Associate Extranet).

All across AQA other teams are looking into how they can improve accessibility too.

Recently, for example, our Content and Resources team reviewed all Qualification support materials to see if they could be more accessible. In particular, they identified the use of student responses.

At the moment, we often include student responses as a screenshot within examiners' reports and training materials. However, because these are images, they cannot be read by screen readers.

So, moving forward, we aim to type out all student responses to make them more accessible.

This is a small but important step in making such valuable resources available to more teachers, and there's more to come.

Find out more about Global accessibility awareness day, the Plain English campaign and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Or if there's anything you think we could be doing better, please contact digitalteam@aqa.org.uk

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