Spreading the word on digital accessibility

In May, we ran a Learning at Work Week event at Sussex to talk about the importance of digital accessibility.

Amie Morrell, who’s currently QA and Accessibility Manager within Digital and Creative Media, led the session, pulling together the accessibility guidance we give to Sussex staff and adding context to changes in accessibility rules.

During our session, we covered: 

  • what digital accessibility is 
  • why it’s important 
  • how to create content that meets accessibility standards.

What is digital accessibility?

If you’re not sure what we mean by digital accessibility, it’s designing web pages, apps and other technologies so that they’re usable by everyone, including people with disabilities. This involves removing barriers so all users can perceive, understand, navigate and interact with digital content.

To create this inclusive space, we must follow laws and standards such as WCAG 2.2, the Equality and Disability Act, and the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations.

In the session, we also discussed the upcoming European Accessibility Act (coming in June 2025), which has more enforcement powers.

What we explored 

In the session we covered some of the assistive technologies people might use to access our content including screen readers, sip and puff devices and keyboard only. We showed videos of people using some of these technologies and explained why it’s important to create accessible content.

Interestingly, many assistive technologies are now widely used. For example, Ofcom found that 80% of people use TV subtitles to enhance their viewing experience, especially in quiet environments where they can’t use sound. 

We then looked at the things we can do collectively when creating content to ensure everyone can access our information.

This includes: 

  • well-written page titles and hierarchical headers 
  • descriptive link text 
  • alt text for images 
  • transcripts and subtitles for videos and podcasts 
  • clear, simple language
  • a colour contrast ratio of 4.5:1 for text over background colour.

More about Learning at Work Week

Learning at Work Week (LAW Week) is a national event led by Campaign for Learning to foster a culture of continuous learning and development in the workplace.

Using LAW Week was a fantastic opportunity to highlight digital inclusivity, especially as we progress the New Web Estate project. It was great to see such a strong turnout and clearly there is an appetite among the Sussex community to deliver a more inclusive experience. We’re excited to have them supporting us as we work towards a new website.


Our mission is to create an accessible website experience for all users. We aim to educate our University community about the necessity of producing fully-compliant content, systems and apps – not only to meet legal requirements but also to put our users at the heart of everything we do.

The session was a wonderful opportunity to spread the word about this vitally important and often overlooked area and we’d love to do more.

If you work at Sussex, or you’re working with us, and want to learn more about digital accessibility or need advice about making something accessible, email dcm@sussex.ac.uk.  

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Building a business case

It’s been a while since we last posted on this blog. (Just shows the work involved in content creation, I guess…)

Since our last post, the project previously mentioned has been given a snappy name: the New Web Estate project. It broadly has the scope of covering our website, a staff intranet and the supporting systems and processes needed to make this work.

We spent the rest of 2023 pulling together a project mandate, which enabled us to take on a couple of new, fixed-term people in the digital team to help us keep going with business-as-usual while sizing up the task at hand.

After getting sign-off on the mandate, we’ve spent 2024 so far building a business case.

This has involved several strands of work, including:

  • gathering audience insights
  • developing a new approach to managing content
  • engaging senior people from across the university in our work
  • understanding how a new CMS would support a connected content model.

We’ll cover all these individually in future posts.

We’re shortly to look at a provisional new structure for the website – known as information architecture – and explore the beginnings of a content strategy.

To help us, we’ve brought an agency on board for this phase – more to follow on that in another post.

All of this will help us to build a business case that will go to the leadership of the university later this year.

After that, all being well, the real building will begin.

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Hello, (brave new) world

We’re reviving the DCM blog – and for good reason.

There’s a new project on the horizon at Sussex, which we hope will transform our digital estate – taking in our website, news systems, a possible intranet and databases that power what people see when they interact with the University online.

The aim is to provide a joined-up user experience, devoid from the internal structures of the organisation.

We’ve tried this a few times before; over the past 15 years there’ve been three serious attempts to modernise the Sussex website but each one stalled for a variety of reasons.

I started at Sussex in early 2017, even then, people knew change was needed. But the drivers for change were not there. The organisation knew what it was about (interdisciplinarity, etc) and it had a well-established, segmented culture, but it was nowhere near mature enough for such a technological shift. Plus we were top-20, so everything was fine.

When I became head of digital content 18 month ago, the world was already a different place. I and others started making some noise about how our website is the foundation upon which our business exists. A few months later, we were fortunate enough to be blessed with a new associate director, Rachel Levett, who understands that the world wide web, and our visibility within it, is kind of a big deal.

Since then, we’ve been speaking to a lot of people across the university and we truly feel that most of our community appreciate the need for change.

Only today, Rachel presented the plan for a new web estate to other people in our professional services division. Many were excited by what the project can deliver.

People understand the need for one unified website, managed by specialists, that competes with our strident competitors rather than leaving us in their dust.

How we get there, in this brave new world, is another matter.

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