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How we are striving for digital inclusion at the University of Sunderland

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As we move into 2021 and beyond it is clearer than ever that we are living in unique times. Over the last year we have seen our online habits change dramatically, as we make the shift from physical connections to virtual ones.

Throughout 2020 we were forced to move our teaching, learning and working online and we worked hard to ensure that our students and staff felt fully supported throughout this change. At the University of Sunderland we’re immensely proud of the work that we’ve done and will continue to make sure our students and staff have the best experience possible.

As a university we are committed to making our online platforms accessible to everyone and in order to do this we have introduced additional inclusive software to our website in the form of ReciteMe. This toolbar has been developed to support users with a range of features including a screen reader, translations and adapting styling. After introducing this toolbar, we have been able to support over 30,000 people to read and understand our website content better in 2020.

A screenshot of the ReciteMe accessibility toolbar

The ReciteMe toolbar allows all our website visitors to get the best out of their experience. The data collected throughout 2020 shows us that over 180,000 pieces of text had been read aloud using the screen reader and over 11,000 pages had been translated into different languages including Arabic and Afrikaans. Another useful feature of the ReciteMe toolbar is the ability to adapt styling to suit your needs; this includes altering the font type, size and colour of sections of content. We’ve also found this feature to be popular, with over 12,000 visitors using it in 2020.

Studies show that 1 in 5 people have impairments that make accessing online information more challenging. At the University of Sunderland, inclusivity is at the heart of everything we do so it is important for us to take these steps towards our website being fully digitally inclusive. As the Covid-19 pandemic forces more of us to move our lives online, it’s now more important than ever to make sure that website accessibility is a top priority during 2021 and after. As an institution we are extremely proud to be paving the way as one of the first organisations in our sector to install assistive technologies on our web pages in 2020.

We have made the choice to install ReciteMe to make sure that our university website is truly inclusive to all. We recognise that using the internet can be intimidating to those with disabilities or anyone lacking the tools they need to fully understand or communicate. This includes - but is not limited to - internet users who have decreased vision, struggle with literacy, are autistic, speak and/or read English as a second language, suffer from attention disorders, have a learning difficulty, or are affected by physical disabilities.

We’re very pleased with the progress we have made as a university and we are proud to have a digitally inclusive website. Find out more about how the University of Sunderland values Equality, Diversity and Inclusion here.

Published: 1 March 2021