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Computer Accessibility

Are you meeting legal requirements for computer accessibility?

In October 2014, the Scottish Government published Statutory Guidance for education authorities on planning improvements for disabled pupils’ access to education. The Guidance provides advice on how education authorities and schools can meet obligations to improve access to education required under the Equality Act and the Education (Disability Strategies and Pupils' Educational Records) (Scotland) Act 2002.

The Guidance includes advice on providing accessible ICT in the form of two Appendices that can be used to audit the accessibility of school ICT. To help schools and local authorities implement these measures, we have taken each point in the Checkist for planning ICT, and added information on how they can be addressed.

Ensuring that school ICT is accessible to all learners is not just a legal requirement: it is also good educational practice, and improves attainment for all learners.

For example, the Dyslexia Learning Trail recommends that "Children and young people with dyslexia have access to specialised technology aids and ICT provision" and following the guidance will help to ensure that learners with dyslexia have "dyslexia friendly computers".

Learners with disabilities who require technology to access the curriculum need three things:

Increasingly, technology is used in assessment and evidence from schools using SQA digital examinations shows that technology provides a more independent and cost-effective method of support than human readers and scribes. In the case of National Literacy Assessment, human readers and scribes are not permitted as a reasonable adjustment, but computer readers are – therefore school computers should have computer reader software and the free Scottish computer voices installed. Looking forward, it seems likely that the proposed national standardised assessments will be delivered digitally, and so school computers must have satisfactory accessibility tools and facilities available for learners with additional support needs to be able to access the assessments.

What is an accessible computer or device?

ICT Accessibility Checklist

Access to ICT and Assistive Technology (AT)


The school or local authority’s stock of shared netbooks, laptops or tablets can be booked out by pupils with disabilities for specific learning tasks.

Schools should have devices available for students who require ICT to access the curriculum. Some students only need the device for specific tasks or classes, but others will need a device personalised to their needs at all times.

The school or local authority has a pathway or procedure and staff with expertise to:

  • Identify pupils who require ICT and/or AT to access the curriculum.
  • Assess and provide appropriate ICT and/or AT.

Many local authorities have an ICT ASN specialist or team: refer to the ICTSLS web site to find out who your advisor is.
All teachers have a responsibility to support learners with ASN and this includes learners who use ICT to access the curriculum.

Accessibility of school computers and ICT


All school computers have text-to-speech (TTS) software installed for reading documents and web pages.

Refer to CALL's text-to-speech web pages to find out more about TTS software. Schools, parents/carers and learners can download free TTS software from the site. 
This case study from Denny High School provides useful insights on the benefits of providing TTS across the school.

All school computers accessed by pupils have the free Heather and Stuart voices installed.

Schools, parents/carers and learners can download free high quality Scottish computer voices for Windows and MacOS from CALL's Scottish Voice web site. 

Headphones are available for use with TTS where required.

Schools can provide headphones, or learners can use their own. As well as headphones, schools should ensure that computer sound cards are installed and working. 

Control Panel settings can be easily and quickly changed to enable access for each disabled pupil, including where needed. Such adjustments can be saved with the user’s profile.

Sometimes, all that's needed to enable access is to make small adjustments to the computer using the built-in Ease of Access Control Panel (Windows) or the Accessibility Preferences in Mac computers. In some schools, access to Control Panels is restricted - this is not good practice and these tools should be made available on school computers.  

Specialist software required by learners with disabilities can be easily and quickly installed and used on school computers.

ICT policies and procedures should make reasonable adjustments to ensure that specialist software required for access can be installed in good time. For example, one local authority gives highest priority to requests to install accessibility software.

Specialist hardware required by learners with disabilities can be easily and quickly installed and used on school computers.

ICT policies and procedures should make reasonable adjustments to ensure that specialist hardware required for access can be installed in good time.

Computer refreshes or re-imaging are planned to accommodate existing assistive software and hardware used by disabled pupils.

ICT policies and procedures should record instances of specialist installations and adaptations so that assistive technologies can be re-installed following refresh.

Where computer refresh or re-imaging will result in current assistive technology not being usable, replacement or upgrade takes place so that the disabled pupil is not disadvantaged.

ICT policies and procedures should ensure that assistive technologies can be upraded, if required, following refresh.

Access to Learning Resources


Learning resources (e.g. textbooks, reading books, teacher- generated materials, assessments, homework) can be provided in a format that learners can access, such as Digital, Audio, Large Print, on Coloured paper, Braille, etc.

Provision of accessible books and leaning resources is regarded as a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act. 
Schools can download textbooks in accessible formats free of charge from:

Schools and local authorities policies and procedures should ensure that learning resources created by teachers are made available in accessible formats.
Visit CALL's Books for All site to find out more.

Online learning resources and online assessments used can be adapted so that they do not disadvantage disabled pupils.

Increasingly, learners are making use of online digital learning resources and these should be accessible. Sometimes this will involve making adjustments to Control Panels  or installation of specialist software of hardware  (see above).

Learners can transfer work to and from school and home using e.g. file sharing on the intranet or Internet, or on a memory stick.

Schools can make use of file sharing mechanisms such as Glow, Edmodo, Showbie, Google Drive etc so that teachers and learners can transfer resources and materials.

Learners who use ICT for writing and recording can print their work.

Learners with additional support needs who rely on technology to access the curriculums should be able to print out the work quickly and easily.

Staff and pupil awareness and expertise


Staff (teaching, support, librarian and technical) are made aware of legal obligations to provide access to the curriculum and to curriculum resources under Equality Duties, with particular reference to Guidance on Auxiliary Aids and Services.

Build accessibility and disability awareness into school and local authority development plans.

Procurement decisions for hardware and software have due regard to accessibility and reasonable adjustment duties under the Equality Act. In particular, no extra cost should be charged for changes made to systems as part of reasonable adjustments made.

Build accessibility and disability awareness into school and local authority development plans.
Ensure that ICT development teams are aware of obligations for reasonable adjustments.
Where ICT provision is contracted out of the authority, contracts must not discriminate against learners with disabilities – for example, the contract should not result in excessive delays or costs attached to installation of accessibility software.

Staff and pupils are aware of specialist hardware and software installed and Control Panel options on schools computer, to enable access.

Build accessibility and disability awareness into school and local authority development plans.

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