Providing equal opportunities through accessibility
“At OUP, we know that education and research have the power to support real progress in the world. That’s why we have a clear purpose—to create the highest quality academic and educational resources and services and to make them widely available across the globe. “
According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of the world’s population has a disability to some degree, while a survey from Pew Research Center found that 23% of disabled respondents “never” go online—quite possibly due to challenges faced with the digital experience.
At OUP, we know that education and research have the power to support real progress in the world. That’s why we have a clear purpose—to create the highest quality academic and educational resources and services and to make them widely available across the globe. As part of this aim, we have to take steps to ensure equal access to our content—whether its digital or print—so that everyone has an opportunity to acquire knowledge, regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances.
A significant part of this work is being transparent about the developments we’re making and working alongside other organizations and communities with relevant expertise to discover ways in which we can improve.
For example, we recently signed an agreement with the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB)—one of the UK’s leading sight loss charities and the largest community of blind and partially sighted people. Through this partnership, our Academic books collection is available on RNIB Bookshare, a service that instantly provides a wide variety of accessible and adaptive file types so that 33,000 learners with a print disability can access valuable academic and educational materials.
Additionally, we ensure that The Oxford Test of English—the only English language proficiency test certified by the University of Oxford—can be taken with a range of special requirements, from visual display to physical access, depending on the needs of the learner.
It isn’t just in our digital products where we look to support accessibility. Working with children’s publisher Barrington Stoke, who create dyslexia-friendly books, we have developed our Super-Readable Rollercoasters—a series of fiction titles designed specifically to encourage and support less-confident readers. From font choices, page colors and layouts, to paper weight and shorter text lengths, the titles are intended to make reading easier and reduce visual stresses, enabling every child to develop a love of reading.
We also have a partnership with the China Braille Press (CBP) to create a braille version of Happy Readers titles. The co-developed titles, both in print and audio, will be available and accessible to visually impaired people in China through CBP’s network to schools for the blind and public reading rooms for the blind in libraries.
Finally, we have regularly updated accessibility statement that provides practical information for users and librarians.
I am pleased with the progress we have made so far, but our efforts to improve accessibility, usability, and inclusion can’t end there. It’s an ongoing process—something that we must focus on as both strategic and operational priorities, and as part of our everyday work; from designing resources and materials around accessible principles to training colleagues in the importance of accessibility awareness. In particular, we are assessing our existing digital platforms and resources to identify where improvements can be made to deliver a universally accessible experience.
Offering the highest level of accessibility to everyone who needs to use our content and platforms is certainly a challenge. But as new user requirements come to light, new technology functionalities are developed, and new features become available, it is our responsibility as a publisher to do what we can to ensure that no group is left behind.