Accessibility explained

The Open University website accessibility statement

This accessibility statement applies to The Open University websites. You will find more specific statements, on individual sites, where more detail is helpful for that particular subdomain.

The Open University’s web presence consists of several million individual pages across numerous websites. We want as many people as possible to be able to use our websites, and accessibility is an essential part of our mission. To adapt the content to your needs or preferences you should be able to:

  • Change colours, contrast 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.

For additional accessibility information for websites associated with teaching and learning, students should read the Learning Accessibility Statement (you will be required to sign in using an Open University student or staff account to read this statement). If any module-specific accessibility-related guidance is needed beyond the Learning Systems statement, you will find this in the Accessibility Guide on your module website.

For additional accessibility information about Student Support sites (including StudentHome, the Help Centre, Student Policy and Regulations) and other sites designed to support students you should read the Student Support Accessibility Statement.

How accessible this website is

We strive to exceed current accessibility standards. However, we know some elements of Open University websites are not fully accessible:

  • Older legacy and archived material.
  • Some third-party content not created by The Open University.
  • Sites linked from Open University pages but not run by The Open University.
  • Some activities (for example some of those involving maps, charts, graphs, online-experiments, interactive activities and features).
  • Some content with specialised notations, such as mathematics, physics, chemistry and music.
  • Some content created in tutorials.
  • Older PDFs and Word documents may not be fully accessible to screen reader software.
  • The colour contrast for some text and some interface components (for example search boxes, check boxes) is not sufficient.
  • Some online forms are not set up correctly to include helpful direction for screen reader users.

We aim to provide accessible alternative content or activities where we can. For more information please visit What Support is Available and for more guidance please visit Studying on a Screen.

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 this 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 Open University 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.

Reporting accessibility problems with this website

We’re always looking to improve the accessibility of our websites. If you find a problem that isn’t already listed on this page, or you think we’re not meeting the requirements of the current accessibility regulations (Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018), please use this Feedback Form which is monitored daily.

We will ask you for the web address (URL) of the page and a description of the problem. We will also ask for your name and email address so that we can contact you about your feedback. You should expect to hear back from us within 5 working days.

Enforcement procedure

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.

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 not happy with our response and all our procedures have been exhausted, please contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS). If you are based in Northern Ireland you can contact the Equalities Commission for Northern Ireland Equalities Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI).

If you are neither a student, nor someone who has had contact with the University before and have a complaint about the accessibility of our website, you should go directly to the EASS.

Contacting us

If you wish to contact us about anything not covered above, please email KMi Support who will be able to forward your specific enquiry and requirements to the correct team.

Technical information about this website’s accessibility

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

Compliance status

The Open University’s websites are partially compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.1 AA standard, due to the non-compliances and exemptions listed below.

Non accessible content

The vast majority of content elements in our websites are accessible and do not contain the problems below. This has been confirmed by internal testing and auditing.

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

Non-compliance with the accessibility regulations

Issues with technology

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.

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

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.

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 2.1 AA standards. 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.


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 2.1 success criteria 1.1.1 (Non-text content).

Some purely decorative images (e.g. stock images) need to be marked as decorative within the code so screen reader technology can simply ignore these images. This fails WCAG 2.1 success criteria 1.1.1 (Non-text content).

Meaningful 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 2.1 success criteria 2.4.4 (Link purpose).

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 2.1 success criteria 2.4.4 (Link purpose).

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 2.1 success criteria 2.1 1.4.3 (Contrast).

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 2.1 success criteria 1.4.11 (Non-text Contrast).


The code to specify the language of the text on the page is missing on some pages. This code is used by screen readers to provide the correct accent and pronunciation. This fails WCAG 2.1 success criteria 3.1.1 (Language of page).

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 2.1 success criteria 1.4.4 (Resize text).

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 2.1 success criteria 1.4.10 (Reflow).

Skip links

“Skip to content” links have been added to pages which have blocks of repeated content at the top of the page, for example navigation menus. The aim of these links is to help people who use the keyboard instead of a mouse to quickly access the main content of the page. In some instances, these skip links are not working correctly, and do not take the user to the main content. This fails WCAG 2.1 success criteria 2.4.1 (Bypass blocks).

Navigating with the keyboard

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 2.1 success criteria 2.4.7 (Focus Visible).


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. This fails WCAG 2.1 success criteria 1.3.1 (Info and Relationships).

The Open University is working hard to fix all of the above issues by the end of 2021 and 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.

Disproportionate burden

We are not claiming Disproportionate Burden at this domain level. If there are any claims they will be declared within the specific statement for that subdomain.

Content that’s not within the scope of the accessibility regulations

The following types of content may not always be accessible, and they are not included within the scope of the accessibility regulation.

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.


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.

What we’re doing to improve accessibility

As we build new websites and digital services, we strive to ensure that they are accessible and comply with the current legislation. We also review and audit older sites to identify what changes we need to make to improve accessibility.

The Open University website development process has stages that test the usability and accessibility of new and updated platforms, activities and services against WCAG 2.1. As well as working with external consultants, an internal Accessibility and Usability Evaluation team helps to offer guidance in this area and to ensure that accessibility and usability are embedded in the design and development process for developers and content creators.

These activities ensure that we are meeting and responding to the changing digital requirements of our students and users as well as developing and delivering systems and websites which are as accessible and usable as possible.

The Open University is committed to accessibility and demonstrates this in a number of different ways:

The Securing Greater Accessibility team (SeGA) was set up in 2010 as a university-wide initiative to promote accessibility and inclusive practice and support students and staff. SeGA offers training and guidance in accessibility in teaching and learning and oversees forums and activities for a wider community of practice and research. SeGA also runs a network of over 50 accessibility champions and coordinators, who work as points of contact on accessibility queries within their respective academic areas.

Staff at The Open University are offered on-demand accessibility training in a variety of topics to support them to carry out their roles. This will be complemented in the future by the introduction of bespoke, mandatory training in accessibility for all staff to complete in order to further embed accessibility good practice.

The Open University Library provides wide-ranging support to students with disabilities and specific requirements. As well as working with students directly to offer guidance in accessible resources, the Open University Library staff work with publishers to help improve the accessibility of their products.

The Open University aims to make studying as accessible as possible and a range of adjustments and support are available. A well-established disability support team provides guidance for students and arranges for students to have support when accessing digital content online or alternatively, access to a variety of formats. A wealth of resources for information and guidance in enabling students to study as effectively as possible in the digital environment are available via the help centre.

Preparation of this accessibility statement

This statement was prepared on 18 September 2020. It was last reviewed on 17 September 2020.

The Open University websites were tested between September 2019 and September 2020. The tests were carried out by Open University staff on a sample of pages from highly visited sites.

The pages were chosen to be representative of different types of content and platform. Testing was undertaken by a combination of manual and automated methods. This testing will continue to be carried out across the digital estate to ensure The Open University is constantly monitoring and improving accessibility.