Home / News / News & Events / Why making atmospheric science accessible matters

Why making atmospheric science accessible matters

This year, Global Accessibility Awareness Day is on Thursday 16 May, and the focus of the day is digital access and inclusion. At the National Centre for Atmospheric Science we are working towards making our research and our workplaces more accessible and inclusive, and on Global Accessibility Awareness Day we want to explain why that matters.

What is accessibility? 

Accessibility refers to making an environment, activity, or information as clear, meaningful, and usable for as many people as possible. Accessibility ensures people are included – and not excluded from something on the basis of experiencing a disability.

At least 1 in 5 people in the UK have a long term illness, impairment or disability, and many more have a temporary disability. People are disabled by physical and social barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference – this could include buildings not having accessible toilets, or someone assuming a person with a disability cannot do certain things.

In practice, making something accessible means a person can do what they need to do in a similar amount of time and with a similar amount of effort as someone that does not have a disability. Accessible places and processes means that people are empowered, can be independent, and will not be frustrated by something that is poorly designed or implemented.

How can atmospheric science be accessible?

Fostering an inclusive and accessible atmospheric research culture, where researchers are working in a safe and comfortable workspace, is crucial to achieving the best quality science. At the National Centre for Atmospheric Science we are committed to embedding accessibility within all of our research activities, and this is a work in progress. 

As world leaders in atmospheric research we also play a vital role in providing advice and supporting scientific innovation across the UK and worldwide – this means taking into consideration accessibility, inclusion, and the marginalised groups affected by environmental change or the people historically excluded from science. 

In recent years we have been prioritising making our website and digital content about atmospheric science as accessible as practicably possible – including writing in plain English, adding alternative text for images, using descriptive links, and creating visual consistency. Prioritising accessibility when developing online information about climate change, air pollution, and extreme weather research ensures data and advice is available to all people – whether they have a disability or not. 

NCAS also recognises that working flexibly can provide significant benefits to our staff, and that informal and formal reasonable adjustments can be made. We make every effort to facilitate flexible working, and work closely with staff to explore options and solutions that make the working environment and working hours more accessible. 

Earlier this year we worked with Embed to complete accessibility audits of our NCAS workplaces. The specialist disability access audit company highlighted simple, medium and complex developments for our sites – and now we know where we need to take action. 

On recommendation from Embed, a portable hearing loop has been installed at our NCAS-Leeds site, which we can take to events and training courses too. The hearing loop will increase accessibility and inclusion. We hope staff and visitors to the centre with hearing impairments will feel more welcomed in our spaces.

Lisa Banton, Head of People, EDI, Workforce Development, National Centre for Atmospheric Science

To support accessible ways of working outside of the office space, NCAS is currently creating an Inclusive Fieldwork Guide. The guide will be published this summer, and will ensure that the equality, inclusion, dignity, safety, and needs of all our staff are considered and met as far as is reasonably possible – before, during, and after atmospheric science fieldwork.

We would be interested to know how you are making atmospheric science, or environmental-related research, accessible. Please contact our People Team via people@ncas.ac.uk with any questions, suggestions, and examples.