In today's fast-paced digital world, accessibility is not only a requirement, but it is also a key factor in determining the success of an organisation. This is especially true for higher education institutions that provide support services to their students. Digital accessibility means providing equal access to information and resources, regardless of a person's disabilities or impairments. By ensuring that support services are digitally accessible, institutions can improve their students' experience, engagement, and success.
According to a recent survey by the National Center for Education Statistics, over 19% of college students have a disability. This means that approximately 1 in 5 students will need support services that are accessible and accommodating. Failure to provide these services could lead to higher dropout rates, lower student satisfaction, and reputational damage to the institution. It is, therefore, crucial that institutions take a proactive approach to ensure that their support services are digitally accessible.
One of the most critical aspects of digital accessibility is providing accessible websites and online platforms. These resources should be designed to be navigable, understandable, and perceivable by all students, including those with disabilities. Institutions must ensure that their websites and online platforms comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, which sets standards for web accessibility. Compliance with these standards will ensure that students with disabilities can access information, participate in online courses, and utilise support services without barriers.
Moreover, institutions should ensure that their support services are available and accessible to students at all times. This means providing online and remote support services that are accessible through various platforms, including mobile devices. By offering accessible support services, institutions can improve student engagement and success, especially for students who cannot physically access support services due to distance or disabilities.
In conclusion, providing digitally accessible support services is crucial for the success of higher education institutions. By implementing accessible websites, assistive technology, alternative formats, and remote support services, institutions can create a welcoming and inclusive environment that benefits all students, regardless of their abilities. Institutions that prioritise digital accessibility will not only meet the needs of their current and future students but also set themselves apart as leaders in providing exceptional support services.
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