Information Services Division


Digital Accessibility in Action: Festival of Early Stage Researchers

26 July 2023

The Academic and Research Experience Team within Organisational Development put the Digital Accessibility policy into practice when planning and delivering the fourth annual Festival of Early Stage Researchers (FESR).

Early Stage Researchers (FESR) drawn visual

The week-long festival celebrates the invaluable contribution of UCL’s doctoral researchers and early career research staff to research and innovation. This year FESR consisted of 19 different virtual, in person and hybrid events, equating to over 25 hours of live content, delivered in partnership with over 20 internal and external collaborators.  

The exciting and accessible programme attracted over 1700 registrations, 400 more than the previous year, engaging over 730 people from across the institution. 80% of feedback respondents agreed the event they attended increased their knowledge or developed their skills and 86% would recommend their event to others. 

"We could have never reached out to so many more members of UCL community had we not adopted the practical guidance for the Digital Accessibility Policy. It truly elevated the hybrid and online engagement experience for our community."

Dr Amy Hong (Head of Development, Academic and Researcher Experience) 

Implementing the Policy 

To enable as many of the UCL researcher community to benefit from the festival as possible, the team wanted to make FESR 2023 the most accessible event to date. Three sections of the Digital Accessibility Policy were particularly pertinent to support effective planning and delivery of FESR. These related to production of online materials, documents and multimedia.  

Online Materials 

This part of the policy includes websites and social media platforms. In the months and weeks leading up to the festival, the UCL Researcher Development webpages and Twitter were key sources of information. The websites, wikis, blogs and social media guidance linked from the policy were used to ensure the website and Twitter content was accessible. Webpages were structured using headings and numbered or bulleted lists to assist screen readers. Equally, no information was published solely as a PDF or image, instead Microsoft Office versions and meaningful alternative text were also included. The team worked with external designers to develop a logo and other digital assets to promote the festival. The visuals and use of colour guidance ensured good contrast ratios were selected and unfriendly colour combinations avoided.  

"Accessibility was given priority throughout the festival. It was important that the researcher community at UCL could all get involved. I found that there were many ways to merge accessibility into the digital content we were creating. From using the built-in accessibility tools on PowerPoint to review the slides on screen, to downloading a video editing app with a function to add captions on social media video content. There were a variety of digital tools I used to make the festival easier to access."

Vandana Thanki (Researcher Experience Coordinator, Academic and Researcher Experience) 


This part of the policy refers to documents shared with others for use in their work or study. Several different document types were required to support festival activities. These included speaker briefing notes and PowerPoint presentations. Policy guidance on creating accessible documents and creating accessible slides were referred to ahead of producing any materials. The team paid attention to structure, using formatting tools to lay out content clearly and the Microsoft Office accessibility checker to highlight areas for improvement. Content delivery partners were directed to the guidance, and the team requested any festival materials be sent in early for further accessibility checks.  

"Digital accessibility is crucial to my work and our mission at the Bartlett. We know that there is a privilege and power in our position, and we should be using that power to ensure that diverse voices are heard and amplified. Breaking down digital barriers is a key step as part of this process. The viability of our research culture is dependent on a diversity of voices and people, and this itself is dependent on clear and accessible communication. We must continue to find ways to create accessible communication, and I appreciated working with the Researcher Experience team to develop slides for the festival."

Tadhg Caffery (Faculty Impact Manager, The Bartlett, UCL Faculty of the Built Environment) 


This section of the policy covers videos and audio resources. A key festival objective was to bring the researcher community together and flagship festival events were hosted in a hybrid way to encourage people to take part. To deliver these in an accessible way, the policy guidance on captioning for media content was referred to. Live captioning and British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters were provided by 121 Captions and the UCL Educational Media Team streamed and record the hybrid events. Following the festival, event recordings have been published on the Researcher Experience website. To align with the Digital Accessibility Policy, these all include accurate captions.  

"FESR has been somewhat challenging for us and the organisers from a technical perspective, but planning with accessibility in mind and exploring different options in advance, I am glad to say we made it work seamlessly. All the necessary tools and features are out there, just need to be put in practice. On this occasion, we used Zoom’s webinar features for live captions and live BSL interpreters who were sub-contracted from an external company (121 Captions) that offered us all the necessary support."

Diana Ursu (Live Events Media Producer, Educational Media)