Enhancing Access, Improvements for All: Working Towards ‘Inclusive’, ‘Accessible’ Research

Len Barton reminds us that the concept of ‘inclusive education’ is a slippery one: not so much an ‘end’, but a process of “responding to diversity” “listening to unfamiliar voices, “being open, empowering all members and about celebrating ‘difference’ in dignified ways”[1]. So too is ‘access’ complex and often contradictory. Sometimes what makes an event accessible to one makes it inaccessible for another. Sometimes issues are structural (e.g. you cannot find your ideal accessible venue within a minimal or non-existent budget). Yet, this does not relinquish us as researchers (and teachers) from a responsibility to ensure that our research and events we host are as ‘accessible’ and ‘inclusive’ as possible. In this blog post I refer mainly to accessibility and inclusion in ‘research’ though the politics which inform the post could apply to different extents to event planning, teaching and so on.

There are two things to remember:

  1. Access and inclusion are not just ‘about disabled people’. Thinking carefully about access at every stage of the research process can make an event/project/workshop more inclusive for everyone.
  2. Nevertheless, disabled people are more likely to take part if access has been considered (there is a message implicit to an access statement that you are welcome).

Giving as detailed access information and being open and welcoming discussions of access requirements are things that everybody organising an event should be doing. This is an example of an access statement:


Access Information

 There is non-stepped access to and within the building.

The main entrance to the building has automated doors operated with a push button.

There are two fairly heavy non-automated doors to go through within the building. If these will be a problem for you, contact [email] and we will arrange for somebody to meet you.

There are accessible toilets (which are also gender neutral).

BSL interpretation will be provided.


There is more access information about the building at: www.disabledgo.com

 We are committed to making this event as accessible as possible for all involved. If you require any further access information or have any specific requirements then please get in touch and we will endeavour to meet your requirements.

If you require a parking space for accessibility reasons, please contact [email] with your registration number by Wednesday 1st July.

 Lunch, tea and coffee will be provided. Please get in touch by Wednesday 1st July with any dietary requirements.


The statement about a commitment to access is perhaps the most important as it shows a willingness to further dialogue. Also note in the above statement that information is given to gender neutral toilets, which may be important for reasons of disability (a disabled person with a PA of a different gender) but also for other reasons such as a trans person who needs a gender neutral space, or a parent that is a different gender to their child. Access moves away from being a thing that only disabled people need (click here for some current research on the complexities of access and toilets).

There are also other things we can do to help with accessible dissemination of research: these range from always taking a range of formats of our work to conferences (I always take some 12 and 16 font printouts when I present), taking note of accessible presentation guidelines or creating ‘easy read’ versions of reports.

‘Easy read’ documents can be made ‘DIY’ style using Open Access Images or Clipart (see the example here). Preferably, however, self-advocacy organisations run by and for people with learning difficulties often provide Easy Read services for a fee (see, for example, Change or Speak Up). Change also offer subscription to their bank of images and have an impressive range of ‘easy read’ materials that have already been created and can be downloaded from their website. Widgit is another useful tool that, with a subscription, can be useful in making accessible documents.

There are other free tools available online. I’ve included just two examples, but would be interested in hearing about any others that people find useful.

PowToon is an easy way to make animations and is a good way to tell people about a research project, or disseminate findings. An example of a PowToon video about a research project I am doing can be found here.

Storify lets you make a story out of any social media information you might have in relation to a project (e.g. around a Twitter hashtag). I’ve used it before to give a conference presentation to a mixed audience, and it worked well. You can switch the format between a webpage to be scrolled down and slides, so it also means that you have an online legacy of a presentation/event.

Overall then, there are three take home messages to this blog post. Firstly, access is often about a process of dialogue, and making explicit that you are open to discuss access can allow for this dialogue to happen. Secondly, despite point one, we all have a responsibility to work towards making our research accessible. There are things you can do prior to dialogue (the most obvious being only holding events in step-free venues), so the responsibility isn’t always of disabled people to get in touch. Finally, that thinking about access can enhance the research, widen dissemination, and improve the experiences of and engagements with research for everyone.

For more information:

Accessible presenting: https://disabilityresearchforum.wordpress.com/about/accessible-presenting/

[1] Barton, Len (1997). Inclusive Education: romantic, subversive or realistic? International Journal of Inclusive Education, 1 (3), pp.231-242

Dr Jenny Slater is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Education, Childhood & Inclusion






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