The Guidelines for Accessible Information are an open educational resource (OER) to support the creation of accessible information in general and for learning in particular. These Guidelines do not aim to contain all available information on accessibility or cover every aspect of the field, but to summarise and link to existing and useful resources which can be helpful for non-information and communications technologies (ICT) experts.

The purpose of developing such Guidelines is to support the work of practitioners and organisations working in the field of education to provide accessible information to all learners who require and will benefit from more accessible information. The procedure for creating accessible information is universal. Therefore, these Guidelines support all individuals or organisations wishing to create information that is accessible in different formats.

Within the Guidelines you will find:

The Guidelines include two steps for action that build upon each other. By following the Guidelines in Step 1 to make different types of information accessible, Step 2 becomes easier, as already accessible information is available to be used within the different media.

The Guidelines give guidance on actions to be taken and resources are provided which give more in-depth information.

The Guidelines have been developed as an OER and are intended to be adapted to varying contexts and technological developments, as well as to grow with usage.

Throughout all sections of the Guidelines, you will find links either to an explanation of a key term within the this glossary of key terms aims to support a shared language for all users of the Guidelines. Different sources for definitions have been used for this glossary:

  • a general introduction, description of the main terms, the target group and scope of the Guidelines;
  • steps to make information and media accessible, including recommendations and relevant resources;
  • examples of accessibility checklists for specific formats; and
  • an extensive glossary providing working definitions of relevant terms.

The Guidelines include two steps for action that build upon each other. By following the Guidelines in Step 1 to make different types of information accessible, Step 2 becomes easier, as already accessible information is available to be used within the different media.

These Guidelines were developed through the ICT for Information Accessibility in Learning (ICT4IAL) project, which was co-funded by the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission.

Introduction and rationale for the guidelines

During this time of technical innovation, every person can potentially become an author of information that is used for learning, but not everyone needs to be an expert in making Information accessible. However, it is important for everyone to be aware that information may not be accessible to different users depending on the way it is presented.

Currently the World Health Organization (WHO) states:

  • Over a billion people, about 15% of the world’s population, have some form of disability.
  • Between 110 million and 190 million adults have significant difficulties in functioning.
  • Rates of disability are increasing due to population ageing and increases in chronic health conditions, among other causes (WHO, 2014).

Some 15% of the world’s population cannot access information, unless it is made accessible.

Within the Guidelines, the term ‘learners with disabilities and/or special needs’ is used to refer to the potential target group of people who can benefit from more accessible information provision. This phrasing respects the terminology of both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – UNCRPD (2006) and agreements reached with the ICT4IAL project partners, as the term ‘special needs’ often covers a broader range of learners with additional needs than those identified as having disabilities as defined under the UNCRPD.

It is now technologically possible for many people to create and share information. In addition, there are numerous resources for these authors to learn how to create documents that do not exclude anyone from accessing and using them. This does not require every author of information to become an expert in information accessibility for all forms of disabilities and/or special needs, but it does mean that all authors should aim to achieve a minimum standard of information accessibility that is universally beneficial for all users.

It is crucial to provide information in general – and information for learning in particular – in a way that is accessible to all users. Providing information that is not accessible creates an additional barrier for learners with disabilities and/or special needs. Information that is not accessible does not support people in the best way possible and excludes them from benefiting from and participating in knowledge exchange.

With this rationale in mind, the ICT for Information Accessibility in Learning project developed a set of Guidelines to support practitioners in creating accessible material.

As an open educational resource (OER) – which permits free use and re-purposing by others – these Guidelines aim to provide easy and practical instructions for authors to create accessible information that can be shared through accessible media. The Guidelines can be applied to all types of information produced, but will be especially beneficial to learners with disabilities and/or special needs when applied to information for learning.

However, accessibility of information is not only beneficial for learners with disabilities and/or special needs, but has the potential to benefit all learners. Therefore the Guidelines also take an inclusive approach and do not focus on single disabilities. 

The ICT for Information Accessibility in Learning project partners wish to gratefully acknowledge everyone who contributed to the project, particularly the Partner Advisory Group, the Guideline Development Workshop Experts and those who gave feedback on the Guidelines. The full list appears in the Acknowledgements section.

'Making Your Organisation's Information Accessible For All' is an additional output of the ICT4IAL project aimed at organisations. This report can be used in conjunction with the Guidelines, and it builds on lessons learned during the trialling of the Guidelines in three partner organisations.