Student Unions Drive to Support All Students Online

Student Unions are at the heart of all Universities, providing students with the services and support they need to make everyone feel included and make sure they have a fulfilling experience.

Throughout their time at University students want to be heard and listened to. A Student Union is their voice and plays a crucial part in highlighting the interests and opinions of the student body. This has rarely been as important as it is during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Student Unions are at the forefront of providing support to those that may face challenges with remote learning and access to online resources. For some students there can be barriers online in accessing information. This can be due to temporary or lifelong disabilities. Those with learning difficulties, vision deficits, language issues, and cognitive or neurological disorders can also face obstacles online if they do not have the tools they need to consume information online as others do.

Reasons include:

  • Not being able to read the text due to font, text size, or text spacing.
  • Not being able to read the text due to poor colour contrasts between background and foreground.
  • Not being able to use a mouse or touchpad.
  • Not being able to focus on the relevant section of text.
  • Being distracted by graphics and image carousels.

When you stop to consider these factors, it becomes very apparent that the online world is in fact not as universally inclusive as it could be for all students. This is when badly designed websites and applications create barriers that prevent a significant number of people from using them.

How Technology Can Help

For students that face barriers online, it can be difficult to read and understand online information. Using assistive technology can give those students a voice and give them the support they need to play an active part in the digital world.

By embracing technology universities can remove online barriers and enrich the online experiences of all students.

If students are enabled with online resources, they have on-demand access to both learning materials and tutor assistance should they need it, but without needing to be within physical reach of their teacher.

With online resources, education doesn’t have to stop when the school day finishes. With more independent online learning solutions, students can work at their own pace, while also having access to lecturers, resources, and assignments anywhere they have an internet connection.

It has been proven that more technological ways of learning promote practical thinking and collaboration skills in students, rather than them simply memorising information. Plus, simultaneously, they are assimilating additional skills in the use of technology itself.

“Accessible to all, rather than just available to all”
Barriers Students Can Face

While the use of technology may encourage individual learning, it is important to consider that not everyone learns in the same way. Different learning styles and different abilities must be accounted for, and digital materials must be inclusive of everyone with different needs. So education providers must ensure that information is accessible to all, rather than just available to all. Again, this is no easy task when you consider that:

  • In the UK, there were approximately 94,120 (13%) new students who had a disability and started in 2017/18.
  • Approximately 200,000 children in England alone have special education needs
  • One in every five children has attention issues
  • At least 10% of all UK children are dyslexic
  • Some students learn in a second language

All of these students are disadvantaged in different ways in an online environment, as it is almost impossible for any stand-alone online learning portal to accommodate the broad spectrum of barriers that face these students. That’s where assistive technology can help.

Using Assistive Software to Promote Inclusion

Studies have shown that remote learning can be effective, however, large scale remote learning is not something that many education providers were set up for prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is especially true when considering the number of university students with varying accessibility needs. Providing equal access and the same level of inclusion online as with in-person teaching is a challenge without assistive technology to break down those accessibility barriers.

At Recite Me, we are firm believers that university students need to be supported. Our unique assistive toolbar is an accessibility solution that allows students to customise a website in the way that works best for them, and in doing so compensates for numerous access barriers including:

  • Visual impairments
  • Deafblindness
  • Colour blindness
  • Dyslexia
  • Hyperlexia
  • Dyspraxia
  • Autism
  • ADHD
  • Speaking English as a second language
  • Epilepsy
  • Mobility and physical impairments

How Does Recite Me Assistive Technology Help?

Personalise font size

Recite Me’s assistive toolbar supports a diverse range of students by providing a variety of tools that allow web users to create a fully customisable experience. Students can get student union information with ease barrier free.

The Recite Me toolbar comprises a number of accessibility features that can either be used individually or combined to make multiple adjustments for ultimate ease of use. Users can:

  • Personalise font size, type, and colour options to make each web page easier to read. 3.7 million educational web pages
  • Utilise the mask screen tool, which isolates parts of the page to help with focus.
  • Use the ruler tool to make reading easier.
  • Download content as an audio file as an alternative to reading.
  • Convert page content into over 100 different on-screen languages.
  • Have the page read aloud in a choice of 35 different languages.
  • Customise PDF documents and have them read aloud or translated.

As people switched to online learning, Recite Me saw 3.7 million educational web pages viewed using the assistive toolbar. The spike in toolbar usage soared to over 18,000 unique users in May, an increase of 50% from January. Over the past 12 months, a staggering 625,000 toolbar launches were made supporting over 100 educational institutions including the University of London, Sunderland University, and Liverpool College.

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