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Making access easier: better by design

Paul Bailey is a senior co-design manager at Jisc
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How many of us have been out and about and been frustrated by something we couldn’t do, by a problem we’ve spotted, or by the sneaking suspicion that, given the chance, we could set something straight and improve things for ourselves and for others?

Now you’ve conjured up that feeling, I’d like to invite you to put yourself in the shoes of someone just starting at a new institution. A learner; a member of staff; a researcher. What would you want to change about the institution you’re working in right now to make it easier to what you need to do?

Now here’s the crux: how many good ideas on how to include more learners, to adapt better to their particular needs, or to integrate their experience into the mainstream of your institution, do you think are being lost – or, worse still, vented as private frustrations at the shortfall?

At Jisc, we’ve just launched a new competition for students and staff to come up with digital solutions that will improve accessibility and inclusion in post-16 education.

Called accessible by design, the competition will invite ideas for how technology could support access and inclusion for UK’s learners, staff and researchers – and the best ones will be offered funding to get their bright ideas off the ground.

Three of the best ideas will receive £5,000 in funding, plus expert support from Jisc, to take them through the discovery phase and help develop tangible solutions.

Past projects; future solutions

We know that technology is a major enabler in supporting accessibility to learning and teaching resources, but we need to do more to make sure no learner is left behind.

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So often in life, the best people to offer ideas on how to improve things are the people who have to tackle the problems caused, often inadvertently, by everyday systems, technologies and tools. In this case, we’re appealing to staff and students who know most about accessibility issues to come forward with their ideas to make things easier.

I’d like to invite you to gather your students’, and your staff’s ideas, and start making changes to improve access across post-16 education.

Specifically, we’re looking for digital solutions that could make life easier not only for specific people and their institutions, but ones that can be rolled out to benefit lots of other people in all kinds of institutions too.

To start you thinking, this year’s Summer of Student InnovationTreloar College put forward an app to support students with learning disabilities to anonymously report any issues, called VoiceIt, which we’ll be supporting this through to development. In the past, we’ve also funded an accessible version of YouTube, accessible e-books, and mobile learning sites.

Think you have a great idea? Get it heard

Any student or member or staff working in accessibility and inclusion in further education (FE), higher education (HE) or skills can enter – either individually or as a team. Your idea could be a completely new invention, or an improvement on something that’s already out there. It could provide a solution for individuals or for a whole organisation. All the submissions must be scalable, however – and, crucially, they must have the potential to benefit more than one institution.

Get your entry in via Jisc’s elevator website by 26 October, and include a short video and summary of your idea. We’ll be putting it to the public vote until 2 November, after which the final projects will be announced at the end of November. Best of luck!

Paul Bailey is a senior co-design manager at Jisc, which provides digital solutions for UK education and research

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