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Accessibility Statement for The Open University

The Open University is committed to making its websites and mobile applications accessible, in accordance with the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

This accessibility statement applies to The Open University website.

We want as many people as possible to be able to use our websites and mobile apps, and accessibility is an essential part of our mission. On our Accessibility hub, you'll find everything you need to answer any questions you have about accessibility, whether you're a student or a member of staff.

To adapt the content to your needs or preferences you should be able to:

  • Change colours, contrasts levels and fonts.
  • Resize text up to 200% without impact on the functionality of the website.
  • Zoom in up to 400% without loss of information or functionality. 
  • Navigate the website using just a keyboard.
    • tab to ‘Skip to content’ links at the top of the page to jump over repetitive information to the main content.
    • tab through the content; the current location will be indicated by a clear visual change.
    • control the embedded media player to play audio and video materials.
  • Use a screen reader (e.g. JAWs, NVDA) to:
    • listen to the content of web pages and use any functionality on the page.
    • list the headings and subheadings in the page and then jump to their location on the page.
    • bring up a list of meaningful links on the page.
  • Use transcripts or closed captions with most audio and video materials.
  • Download learning materials in alternative formats (e.g. Word document, PDF, ePub, Kindle eBook).
  • If you have a print disability we provide SensusAccess to students, which is an automated service that converts files from one format to another, for example, PDF to text, audio, Word or Braille.
  • AbilityNet also provides advice on making your device easier to use if you have a disability.

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Compliance status

This website is partially compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.2 AA standard, due to the non-compliances and the exemptions listed below.

Non-accessible content

The content listed below is non-accessible for the following reasons:

Non-compliance with the accessibility regulations

Specialised notations

Current web technology is not capable of ensuring the accessibility of specialised notations (e.g., mathematics, chemistry, physics, music, phonetics etc.). We are monitoring developments in these areas and will improve our services as the technology matures.

Online activities

Some online activities cannot be made fully accessible (e.g., categorising an image). Wherever practical, an alternative activity will be provided.

Live events

The level of accessibility during live events is limited. We are working closely with third-party suppliers and improving our internal systems to improve accessibility during live events.

External websites

The Open University provides links to external websites that may not meet accessibility standards.

PDF and Word documents

Some of our older PDFs and Word documents may not provide the information required by assistive technology. We are striving to make older documents accessible and ensuring new PDFs and Word documents published after September 2018 meet the WCAG 2.2 AA standards. We are working together, as a university, to better manage the PDFs we produce and ensure that staff members are being given the right guidance to produce PDFs which are accessible and useable. This issue will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

Some third-party documents may not be accessible. We are liaising with suppliers to increase provision of accessible documents as part of our document selection process. Documents created for print distribution, which are now also available on OU websites, may not be fully accessible due to font sizing and layout issues. You may find this information about accessing PDFs with a screen reader useful. This issue will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

Video

Videos which include visual information that is needed to understand the content must include an audio description of the visual information. Currently many videos which require audio description do not provide this making them inaccessible. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 1.2.5: Audio Description (Prerecorded) (Level AA) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.  

Videos which include speech or other audio that is needed to understand the content must include captions. We work to ensure that all videos have captions, but a relatively small number do not currently provide them making them inaccessible. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 1.2.2: Captions (Prerecorded) (Level A) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.  

Images

Some images which convey meaning do not have an informative text alternative, so people using a screen reader cannot access the information. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 1.1.1: Non-text Content (Level A) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.  

Some purely decorative images (e.g., stock images) need to be marked as decorative within the code so that screen reader technology can simply ignore these images. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 1.1.1: Non-text Content (Level A) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

The Google logo that appears within the maps on the Contact Us page does not have any alternative text, and this means that screen reader software cannot provide information about the images to users. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 1.1.1: Non-text Content (Level A). The OU is unable to fix this issue because these maps are third party content that is not funded, developed by, or under the control of the OU. This type of third party content is exempt from meeting the accessibility regulations.

Links

Some link text does not provide enough information about the destination of the link. This makes it difficult for people using a screen reader to know where the link will take them, particularly if they are reading links out of context, (e.g., in a list of links). This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 2.4.4: Link Purpose (In Context) (Level A) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

Some images which are also links do not have alternative text that describes the destination of the link. This means that screen reader software cannot use the alternative text to present a meaningful link title to users. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 2.4.4: Link Purpose (In Context) (Level A) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

On the Request call me back page, a link opens in a new browser tab without providing a warning to users that this will happen, and this could be disorientating. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion: 3.2.1 On Focus (Level A) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.  

Colour contrast

Some text does not provide enough contrast with the background, making it more difficult to read. For example, some breadcrumb navigation text and some text on coloured buttons. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 1.4.3: Contrast (Minimum) (Level AA) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

The borders around some search boxes, radio buttons, and check boxes do not provide enough contrast with the background colour, making them difficult to distinguish. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 1.4.11: Non-text Contrast Level AA) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.  

Enlarging content

When text is resized up to 200% using settings in the browser (zoom or font size) some text may become unreadable because it is truncated or overlapped by other content. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 1.4.4: Resize Text (Level AA) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.  

When content is viewed at 400% using the zoom setting in the browser, some content becomes unreadable, and it is sometimes necessary to use both horizontal and vertical scrolling to read content. This makes it difficult for people who need to enlarge text and read it in a single column. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 1.4.10: Reflow (Level AA) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

On some mobile devices, it is not possible to use the pinch zoom gesture to enlarge content. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 1.4.4: Resize Text (Level AA) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

Navigating with the keyboard and screen readers

It is not possible to use keyboard controls alone (no mouse) to tab to and activate some interactive elements on the page, (e.g., some help icons). This means that it is not possible to use the elements with the keyboard alone. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 2.1.1: Keyboard (Level A) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.  

Videos provide shortcut keys to make them easier to use with keyboard commands, but the descriptions of how to use the shortcuts are currently only available to screen reader users. These shortcuts would be particularly useful for keyboard-only users, however currently they are not available to them, and the shortcut menu is not accessible using keyboard commands. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 2.1.1: Keyboard (Level A) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

Some interactive elements on the page such as links and buttons do not have a clear outline to show when they are in focus. This means that someone who is using the keyboard tab key to access these elements cannot be clear when a link or other element is in focus and can be activated. This fails WCAG 2.2 success criterion 2.4.7: Focus Visible (Level AA) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

Screen reader users may read each option as both a button and a checkbox (even though each option is only displayed as a button visually) which is confusing. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 1.3.1: Info and Relationships (Level A) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

All users are required to set their cookie preferences before entering the website. Screen reader users can read web pages and navigate between pages without having to set their cookie preferences. This doesn't stop screen reader users from accessing the website, but it does mean that these users will be accepting cookies which they have not agreed to. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 1.3.2: Meaningful Sequence (Level A) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

The telephone number provided for Undergraduate enquiries on the Contact us page is currently being read out incorrectly by screen reader software. This is because the ARIA label provided for the number and read aloud by screen reader software is incorrect and refers to the Postgraduate enquiries number. The number that should be read aloud for Undergraduate enquiries is 0300 303 5303. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 2.4.6: Headings and Labels (Level AA) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.  

Forms

Some forms do not have clear labels linked to input areas that are used by screen readers to provide information about how to complete the form. This makes it difficult for people using a screen reader to complete the form. For example, on the Request call me back page, no label is provided for the group of radio buttons. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 1.3.1: Info and Relationships (Level A) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

The instructions provided for entering dates in the correct format on the form on the Request call me back page are unreliable and may result in users entering data in the wrong format. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 3.3.2 (Labels or Instructions Level A) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

On the Request call me back page, error messages are announced to screen reader users so that they are able to correct form errors. However, these messages do not follow a logical sequence, and sometimes announced repeatedly which is confusing for users. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 1.3.1: Info and Relationships (Level A ) and WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 3.3.3: Error suggestion (Level AA) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

The question “Can’t we stay in touch?” within the form on the Request call me back page is a mandatory field that must be completed, but there is no indication that this is the case for users. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 3.3.2 (Labels or Instructions Level A) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

Frequently encountered questions within the form on the Request call me back page do not include auto-complete to help users automatically fill in commonly encountered fields. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 1.3.5: Identify Input Purpose (Level AA) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

The cookie banner popup window uses a form to enable users to set different types of cookies by switching these options on or off. Screen reader users may read each option as both a button and a checkbox (even though each option is only displayed as a button visually) which is confusing. This fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 1.3.1: Info and Relationships (Level A) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

Screen reader users may read redundant cookie preference options which perform the same action. This issue fails WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 1.3.1: Info and Relationships (Level A) and will be resolved by the end of September 2024.

Unless otherwise stated above, The Open University is working hard to fix all of the above issues by the end of 2024. In the majority of cases these issues are not present in our webpages. We carry out regular site audits to identify and fix accessibility problems and when we publish new content, we strive to ensure it meets the highest possible accessibility standards.

The content is not within the scope of the accessibility regulations

Video and audio

Wherever possible we provide transcripts for audio, and captions, audio descriptions and transcripts for video. Sometimes these alternatives are not available. Pre-recorded time-based media published before 23rd September 2020 is exempt from meeting the accessibility regulations.

Live audio and video

Adding captions to all live video streams is exempt from meeting the accessibility regulations.

Heritage collections

Reproductions of items in heritage collections are exempt from meeting the accessibility regulations where they cannot be made accessible due to the unavailability of cost effective solutions to achieve this, or where making items accessible would impact negatively on the preservation of the item. 

PDFs and other documents

PDFs or other documents that are not essential to providing our services and were published before 23rd September 2018 are exempt from meeting the accessibility regulations. We are working to ensure that any new PDFs or other documents that we publish will meet accessibility standards. 

Maps

Online maps and mapping services are exempt from meeting the accessibility regulations

Third party content not within OU control

Third party content that is not funded, developed by, or under the control of the OU is exempt from meeting the accessibility regulations

Intranets and extranets

Content of extranets and intranets that are only available for a closed group of people, and not to the general public, are exempt from meeting the accessibility regulations if they were published before 23rd September 2019 and have not been substantially revised. 

Archived websites

Websites and mobile applications that only contain content that is not needed for active administration purposes and is not updated or edited after 23rd September 2019 are exempt from meeting the accessibility regulations. Examples include old blogs and wikis that are no longer active.

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Preparation of this accessibility statement

This statement was prepared on 18 September 2021.

It was last reviewed on 12 June 2024.

The Open University websites were tested between September 2019 and September 2022. The tests were carried out by the Accessibility and Usability Evaluation Team at the Open University on a sample of pages from highly visited sites. The pages were chosen to be representative of different types of content and platform. Each sample page was tested against all of the WCAG 2.1 AA criteria using a combination of manual and automated test methods. Test methods included:

  • Keyboard-only testing
  • Testing with a screen reader (Non-Visual Desktop Access, NVDA)
  • Axe browser extension for Chrome
  • Siteimprove browser extension for Chrome
  • Color Contrast Analyser Tool from the Paciello Group
  • Validating code using the W3C Validator tool.

This testing will continue to be carried out across the digital estate to ensure The Open University is constantly monitoring and improving accessibility.

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Feedback and contact information

If you find that a certain section of our website is not accessible and you can’t get access to the information that you need please use the Open University Accessibility Feedback Form to request support and we will ensure that you are provided with the information you require. You will need to provide your contact details and Personal Identifier if you are a student so we can get back to you. You should expect to hear back from us within 5 working days.

The OU is very experienced in meeting accessibility needs for our students. In many cases we are able to provide module and other study support materials in alternative formats for students who indicate a need for this when completing a Disability Support Form.

In addition, some module materials are available in different formats and can be downloaded from module websites. Students can contact their Student Support Team for advice.

If you are a student, or someone who has had contact with the University before, and have a complaint about the accessibility of our websites, you should raise a complaint via the complaints and appeals process

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Enforcement procedure

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is responsible for enforcing the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (the ‘accessibility regulations’).

If you are based in the UK, and you’re not happy with how we respond to your complaint, contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS).

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