The accessibility statement for the student information system Sisu demonstrates that there are problems with the accessibility of the system. A special emphasis will be placed on accessibility in the further development of Sisu. Tampere University and the system provider Funidata are working together to address the issues.
The student information system Sisu was introduced at Tampere University in the autumn of 2020. The system is used by students, teaching staff and academic administration staff. Tampere University and six other Finnish universities own Funidata Oy, which develops Sisu in response to feedback provided by the universities and users. Funidata develops the system to meet the needs of the seven universities.
As set out in the Finnish Act on the Provision of Digital Services 306/2019, an accessibility statement has been drawn up for Sisu. This statement lists the identified issues with Sisu’s accessibility and outlines the schedule for resolving them. Tampere University’s accessibility statement for Sisu identifies some severe problems with accessibility. For example, there are functions that are not keyboard accessible and inconsistencies that make the system difficult to navigate for screen reader users. Work is underway to resolve these issues, but in some cases the schedule for addressing the problems extends to even as far as 2023. However, the main accessibility issues must be resolved sooner than announced, because, for example, persons with vision problems are having major problems with using this vital resource for students.
“We are working to improve the usability and accessibility of Sisu”
“The problems that affect the accessibility of Sisu were identified while drawing up the accessibility statement and many of them have already been addressed. Tampere University places a very high priority on accessibility in the development of IT systems. The Act on the Provision of Digital Services speeds up these efforts and encourages us to develop increasingly functional systems and services,” says Tampere University’s Vice President for Education Marja Sutela.
“It is very important for us at Tampere University that our student systems are user-centred and accessible to all. We have discussed the accessibility of Sisu with Funidata’s representatives, and we are committed to working together to resolve these challenges. Funidata will allocate more resources for the development activities. We at Tampere University are also working to improve the accessibility of our other key systems,”, says Jukka Mäkinen, director of the Education and Learning unit.
“Sisu is an extremely complex and large-scale system with separate user interfaces for students, teachers and administrative staff. The system has been developed for years, and all the functionalities do not meet the current accessibility requirements. Funidata fully acknowledges the importance of Sisu being equally accessible to all users. Efforts to ensure this are already underway and moving forward one step at a time. The accessibility issues fall into twelve categories in the accessibility statement for Sisu. We have already addressed the issues concerning contrasts, the separation of labels read by screen readers from other content, buttons, the alt texts of icons and page headings, although there is still some work to be done before we can say that these features are fully accessible. We are in the process of prioritising the accessibility improvements. The next steps will be to improve the accessibility of the start page for students, the personal information section, the general information section and the related modals”, says Funidata’s CEO Mika Peura.
“Resolving severe accessibility issues should be the highest priority in the further development of Sisu”
Diversity and non-discrimination are important values for Tampere University. As Sisu has a major impact on the members of the university community, it must reflect these values. Tampere University and the student union TREY have been actively working together to develop Sisu for a long time now. They have discussed the accessibility issues and the measures to be taken to resolve them.
“The current accessibility issues are too severe to be tolerated in a system that is intended to be equally accessible to all users. The identified accessibility issues have an impact not only on students and teaching staff but also academic administration staff. With Sisu being such an important system, the current lack of accessibility is unacceptable,” says Tiia Virtanen, specialist in educational affairs at TREY.
“We understand that it is challenging to fit together the needs of several universities but resolving the major accessibility problems should be prioritised in the further development of Sisu. We demand that the universities and Funidata place the highest priority on addressing these problems, because at the moment Sisu is not equally accessible to all users and the problems are too severe for users to wait years for them to be resolved. It is also important to communicate even more openly about the efforts to improve accessibility in Sisu,”, says Saana Hytönen, TREY’s communications and advocacy specialist.
Tampere University offers user support to all users affected by the accessibility issues. We are actively working to improve the accessibility of Sisu, and both Tampere University and Funidata welcome all feedback that supports the further development of the system. Please send feedback and development suggestions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This news article has been published in Intra on 29 April 2021.