The accessibility of administrative processes: Assessing the impacts on students in higher education

Coughlan, Tim and Lister, Katharine (2018). The accessibility of administrative processes: Assessing the impacts on students in higher education. In: Proceedings of the 15th International Cross-Disciplinary Conference on Web Accessibility (Web4All 2018), ACM Press, New York.




Administrative processes that need to be completed to maintain a basic standard of living, to study, or to attain employment, are perceived to create burdens for disabled people. The navigation of information, forms, communications, and assessments to achieve a particular goal raises diverse accessibility issues. In this paper we explore the different types of impacts these processes have on disabled university students. We begin by surveying literature that highlights the systemic characteristics of administrative burdens and barriers for disabled people. We then describe how a participatory research exercise with students led to the development of a survey on these issues. This was completed by 104 respondents with a diverse range of declared disabilities. This provides evidence for a range of impacts, and understanding of the perceived level of challenge of commonly experienced processes. The most common negative impact reported was on stress levels. Other commonly reported impacts include exacerbation of existing conditions, time lost from study, and instances where support was not available in a timely fashion. Processes to apply for disability-related support were more commonly challenging than other types of processes. We use this research to suggest directions for improving accessibility and empowerment in this space.

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