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</Looking at accessible curriculum with Manchester Metropolitan University and diversity experts>

Published on 18 October 2019 by web editor

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“Why haven’t I heard this important information before?” asked participants at the Accessible Curriculum Forum, an Institute of Coding event to discuss diversity and inclusivity in education in relation to visible and non-visible disabilities.

On 30th September 2019, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU)’s Institute of Coding (IoC) team held a well-attended forum in London. The event, which is part of a series of MMU-hosted diversity related forums and workshops, exploring inclusivity in education and how we can make curricula more accessible for people with visible and non-visible disabilities.

Neil Milliken

Neil Milliken, Chair of the IoC’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board, kick-started the day by discussing the importance of accessibility and how the employment gap is growing for people with disabilities, currently standing at 50%.

Neil was followed by accessibility consultant Molly Watt, who gave personal insight into her experience growing up with Usher Syndrome in the educational system. Her talk, titled ‘The Educational Pathway to Inclusion,’ highlighted that higher education systems are not equipped to support many disabilities, and schools often don’t have the incentive to learn more about them.

Molly Watt

Other speakers included:

  • Paul Smyth, Head of Digital Accessibility at Barclays, talked about the practical ways of delivering inclusive learning and how to make events more accessible;
  • Lucy Ruck, Taskforce Manager at Business Disability Forum, shared a range of materials which help organisations understand how well they have embedded accessibility features in areas such as IT governance and procurement;
  • Dr Sarah Lewthwaite, Research Fellow based in the Centre for Research in Inclusion, spoke about the pedagogy of digital accessibility and asked delegates to discuss in groups how pedagogical culture could develop accessible education;
  • Emanuela Gorla, Accessibility Manager at Barclays, explained how Diverse Personas are used at Barclays to understand and create empathy for employees and customers who have visible and non-visible disabilities;
  • Gareth Ford Williams, Head of User Experience Design and Accessibility and Assistive Technology at the BBC, discussed the design framework GEL and how providing a consistent user experience across multiple BBC services is vitally important;
  • Richard Eskins, Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, provided a talk titled, ‘Are we still talking about this stuff?’ where he stressed that accessibility should be instilled in all web developers;
  • Dr Lynne Blair, Senior Lecturer at the School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University, facilitated a sense of belonging workshop.

After hearing and learning from educator, learner and employer perspectives, the Forum participants came together in workshop sessions that explored their current understanding and practices in relation to accessible education. They also explored areas for improvement and future work.

The worksheets from these group sessions are available to view on the Wakelet, along with the presentation slide decks.

Richard Brooks, Senior Research Partner for Special Projects and Programmes at Coventry University said, I got a lot out of the session[…]the event was very useful and helpful for shaping some of our thinking in Coventry on accessibility.”

Other participants rightly questioned why they hadn’t heard more about accessible curricula before, and expressed a desire to keep learning. One participant stated they would “implement [accessibility] across various projects and practices in [their] departments” and “be more proactive about soliciting feedback from students with specific needs”.


To find out more about the IoC at Manchester Metropolitan University and their future schedule of forums and events, email ioc@mmu.ac.uk.

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