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Accessible communication means breaking down barriers, complying with legal requirements and showing commitment


Further information on accessible communication


Study on accessible online teaching at German universities

Barrier-free communication

There are over 80,000 deaf people living in Germany who have a right to participate in society.

In order to raise awareness for this important topic Accessible communication we have conducted a survey together with the Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Hörbehinderter Studenten und Absolventen e.V. (BHSA). (BHSA) conducted a Survey on accessible online teaching at German universities survey.

It shows that a lot has already been achieved, but so far only 28% of online teaching in Germany is barrier-free. So there is a need for action!

The Results of the survey can be downloaded free of charge at the following link: 

Download the results

 

Disabled people have a right to education. This also includes barrier-free access to general higher education. Due to the ongoing Corona pandemic, primarily online teaching has been taking place at German universities for several semesters. PDFs, videos and podcasts are being used. How accessible are studies for people with disabilities at present?

The responses to the questions show that at the participating colleges and universities, the topic of digital accessibility is only dealt with to a limited extent is being addressed. On average, the participating universities state, that only 28 percent of online teaching is already accessible.. At none of the participating universities is all online teaching accessible.

The results of the survey show that there is an urgent need for action in the area of accessible communication in online teaching. Also in view of the constantly changing legal situation, it makes perfect sense for colleges and universities to upgrade in the area of accessible communication.


The study on barrier-free communication in online teaching at German universities was conducted by abtipper.de in cooperation with the Federal Working Group of Hearing Impaired Students and Graduates e.V.BHSA for short.

The BHSA is a contact point for questions and problems in the everyday life of hearing-impaired students. It sees itself as a self-help group for hearing-impaired people during their studies and when starting their careers. Its activities include communication training and introductory seminars. The BHSA was founded in 1986 and has about 300 members.


The results in detail - summary

The study aims to Accessibility in online teaching at German universities target. It is about digital barrier-free communication. Accessible communication encompasses various accessibility measures, including the use of easy language, sign language, written interpretation, aided communication and assistive technologies, audio description and subtitling for people with hearing disabilities. Through the use of these measures in online digital teaching, it is hoped to Communication barriers can be reduced or completely dismantled.

The survey aims to show the extent to which digital accessibility is implemented and strived for in online teaching. To this end, a survey entitled "Accessible communication in online teaching at colleges and universities" was conducted. 28 representatives from various German colleges and universities took part in the survey.

The responses to the questions show that at the participating colleges and universities, the The topic of digital accessibility is playing an increasingly important role plays.

The participating universities state on average that 28 percent of online teaching is already accessible.

At none of the participating universities is all online teaching accessible. The results of the survey show that there is an urgent need for action in the area of accessible communication in online teaching. Also in view of the constantly changing legal situation, it makes perfect sense for colleges and universities to upgrade in the area of accessible communication.


Background to the study on accessible communication

It is assumed that communication barriers are created by oral or written texts and the use of certain media that are not adapted to the intended recipient group, in this case the students. The target group "students" is very heterogeneous and consists of people with and without disabilities, people with divergent life situations and/or people with German as a mother tongue or foreign language.

In the course of this survey, online teaching is understood as digital teaching with the help of the internet. Systems and software such as Moodle, Zoom, BigBlueButton or Dropbox are used. Part of the teaching is supported by uploading audio and/or video files.

In this context, the external and internal internet presentation of higher education institutions and universities should be in line with the Disability Equality Act (BGG) on the implementation of the Directive (EU) 2016/21022 of the European Parliament and of the Council on barrier-free access to the websites and mobile applications of public bodies shall be designed to make content accessible without barriers wherever possible. It should also be noted that based on the Disability Equality Act (BGG), federal state laws such as the Saxon Inclusion Act (SächsInklusG) or the Lower Saxony Disability Equality Act (NBGG) exist.


Approach of the study on accessible communication

The survey aims to show the extent to which digital accessibility is implemented and strived for in online teaching. To this end, a survey entitled "Accessible communication in online teaching at colleges and universities" was conducted. The survey was addressed to approx. 430 press offices of German colleges and universities addressed.

The questions are related to the following topics:

  • To what extent do the colleges and universities observe the guidelines for barrier-free communication in online teaching?
  • If this is not yet done or only partially done: Why are the requirements not yet being observed?
  • What needs to happen to make online teaching accessible in the short term?

Based on the responses received, the weighting of digital accessibility in online teaching in higher education can be derived. In addition, the results can be used to make explicit suggestions for improvement in dealing with the topic of digital accessibility.


Evaluation of the results of the study on accessible communication

The detailed results and the answers to each individual question can be found in the detailed version of the study.

Based on the responses received, the weighting of digital accessibility in online teaching in higher education can be deduced. The responses to the questions show that at the participating colleges and universities the topic of digital accessibility is playing an increasingly important role.. However, the implementation of accessible communication measures is not always complete.

There are about 75% of colleges and universities have an accessibility officer or similarly mandated person.However, these persons lack the knowledge, resources and (personnel) support to implement and enforce digital accessibility. One of the reasons for this is that the legal requirements for accessibility are not or only partially known. In the winter semester 2021/22, the proportion of online teaching varied greatly; on average, half of the teaching was digital, the other half took place in face-to-face teaching. Some HEIs only offered face-to-face teaching, whereas some HEIs only offered online teaching.

The participating colleges and universities openly showed that the Proportion of applied measures for barrier-free communication very low fails. Only 15 percent always offer "Accessible documents for download/by e-mail", 8 percent always offer "Subtitles for video recordings" and only 4 percent always offer "Transcriptions of audio and video recordings". Many measures, such as "audio description for video recordings" or the provision of sign language interpreters for video or telephone conferences" are only offered partially or on request. Measures such as the provision of "written interpreters during video or telephone conferences" are never provided by 75 per cent.

Accordingly, the participating HEIs state on average that 28 percent of online teaching is already accessible. At none of the participating universities is all online teaching accessible; the highest estimated value was 80 percent.

The survey of German universities on the topic of "Accessible Online Teaching" has made it clear that accessibility is still not very present in everyday digital student life.

Above all, communication barriers caused by the sensory organs or the cognitive prerequisites of the communication participants and a non-barrier-free environment are hardly dealt with. These include hearing or visual impairments.

Communication barriers that arise through the use of certain media, such as text documents, audio or video files, which are not adapted to the intended recipients, in this case the students, can be reduced through the use of barrier-free communication measures. These include the use of sign language interpreters, subtitling and the provision of accessible text documents that can be read by a screen reader.

The results of the survey show that there is an urgent need for action in the area of accessible communication in online teaching. Also in view of the constantly changing legal situation, it makes perfect sense for colleges and universities to upgrade in the area of accessible communication.


 

Important terms on the topic of accessible communication

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What is sign language interpreting?

Sign language interpreters translate German spoken language into sign language and vice versa. They facilitate communication between hearing-impaired and hearing people. In Germany, German Sign Language (DGS) or Signs Accompanying Speech (LBG) are used for the time being.

What is written interpretation?

Written interpreters reproduce speeches, lectures or other spoken contributions in writing. The text can be seen on a tablet or on a screen, for example. Prompt written interpretation enables the participation of hearing-impaired people.

What is a transcription?

A transcript is a written record of audio and video recordings. In contrast to written interpreting, the text is not reproduced at the same time as the oral text. The transcript is created afterwards.

What is an audio description?

Audio description is the term used for descriptions of images and situations spoken during pauses in dialogue. Actions, persons or settings are described. Together with the original soundtrack, audio description enables blind and visually impaired people to understand videos and films.

What are accessible documents?

Accessible documents can be easily read by screen readers, for example, and are thus accessible to blind and visually impaired people. There are various legally regulated requirements for this. Above all, the correct formatting is important, but a sensible structuring of the content also increases the readability of text documents.

What are accessible subtitles?

Accessible subtitles, in contrast to simple subtitles, contain acoustic information such as music, sounds or off-voices as well as paralinguistic elements such as volume, pitch or voice modifications like laughing or crying.

These elements are actionable and allow people with hearing impairment to fully access a video file. They thus convey the same level of knowledge that hearing people receive through the audio.

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