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Digital accessibility guide

Explore how to create, design and structure your content to ensure that is is accessible to your students.


This guidance is largely adapted from Dr. Miranda Melcher's "Teaching to Include Everyone: A Practical Guide for Teaching Neurodiverse and Disabled Students", which you can find in full in the References section of this page. A workshop on these principles is regularly available. If you do not see an upcoming workshop on the topic listed, please contact Dr Miranda Melcher

Be specific

Confusion, anxiety, and extra expenditure of energy most often arises when students worry that they do not understand exactly what a teacher means and what a teacher wants. Being more specific about expectations and requirements enables students to more effectively plan their time and energy, thus allowing them to engage more effectively in participating and learning (Broitman, Melcher, Margolis, and Davis, 2020).

Areas for confusion where students may confront an assumption that these are academic skills they already have (Jones, 2017; Starr-Glass, 2020) can include:

  • Knowledge of academic standards
  • What behaviours are expected and encouraged in teaching sessions
  • What "good academic writing" looks like
  • How to plan and structure academic writing and presentations
  • What high-quality discussion participation is expected to look like and why 

While some students may already be aware of these expectations, others may require more explicit guidance on developing them. Assuming all students can acquire this knowledge automatically through observation leads to opportunities for misunderstandings, anxiety, and confusion. This can impact not only student performance but also the amount of assistance students seek via office hours, emails, etc., from teaching staff. By embedding much greater specificity throughout all learning, online and otherwise, all of these issues can be addressed from the beginning.

Be transparent

Teaching staff are encouraged to communicate their own processes more frequently and consistently to students. There is often confusion and anxiety around students simply not knowing what to expect: our guide for accessibility and inclusion encourages inclusion of students in the explanations and information about how the system works.

Staff are familiar with the structure and expectations of teaching and learning, and know why the rules and expectations are developed as they are. So familiar, in fact, that sometimes this information is not clearly communicated to students, many of whom (and not just undergraduates), are new to City and potentially highly-selective university environments. This can be avoided through specific and transparent communication with students, for example in Moodle modules. 

Areas for transparency may be lacking can include:

  • What is included and left out of marking criteria and why 
  • Why assignment feedback may take a particular amount of time to be given to students, and what level of detail they can expect
  • How students should treat Core vs Recommended readings 
  • What students are expected to understand from assigned readings
  • Your detailed expectations for assessments

Be mindful

Small adaptations can in fact make huge impacts on students’ perceptions of accessibility and inclusion. Although it is true that every student is an individual and has individual needs, improvements to accessibility and inclusivity can benefit all students (Irving & York, 1995), and that by embedding mindful practices into teaching in general, fewer students will need extra accommodations and support.

Assume that some of your students will:

  • Have caring responsibilities
  • Be coming from a non-UK educational background
  • Have differing English language comfort
  • Have different kind (neurodiverse) brain
  • Have important priorities alongside their academics
  • Have varied access to technology and internet
  • Be completing academic work in spaces not designed or solely dedicated to learning add another layer of navigation.

There is still a lot of work to be done around accessibility and inclusivity related to disabilities, learning differences, neurodiversities, and mental health, all of which are often invisible and still stigmatised. Ensuring that we considering a range of ways for all kinds of students to engage successfully in learning improves the inclusion of our offering. 


  • Broitman, Jessica, and Miranda Melcher, Amy Margolis, and Jack M. Davis. NVLD and Developmental Visual-Spatial Disorder in Children: Clinical Guide to Assessment and Treatment. Springer, 2020.

  • Jones, Elspeth. “Problematising and Reimagining the Notion of ‘International Student Experience.’” Studies in Higher Education, vol. 42, no. 5, 2017, pp. 933–943., doi:10.1080/03075079.2017.1293880.

  • Irvine, J.J. and York, D.E. “Learning Styles and Culturally Diverse Students: A Literature Review.,” in Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education. ed. James A. Banks, 484-97. New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan, 1995.

  • Starr-Glass, David. “Significant Learning Experiences and Implied Students.” On the Horizon, vol. 28, no. 1, 2020, pp. 55–62., doi:10.1108/oth-09-2019-0067.

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