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Last month some of the First Media team attended The Learning Network’s ‘Tea and Talk’ event, full of like-minded professionals within the eLearning industry. We discussed tips, trends and solving the world's problems all over a hot cuppa joe. One of the main points of discussion was Accessibility in eLearning and we felt this topic deserved its own blog.
National World stated that 15% of the world’s population has a disability. That means over one billion people could face daily challenges when using digital devices but could affect us all at one point or another, maybe you have low literacy or work in an environment where sound isn’t available or maybe you’re slightly colour blind.
So, what does accessibility in eLearning look like? Skillcast wrote, ‘’Accessibility in eLearning involves using technology and standards to create training content that can be used by learners, regardless of their ability.’’ Ok, now we know what it is, but what can you as an organisation do to help make your content accessible to everyone, are there any guidelines to help?
Yes! The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines also known as WCAG are an ‘internationally recognised set of recommendations for improving web accessibility’. The guidelines were created to help those that are; visually impaired (blind, partially sighted, colour blind), Have hearing difficulties (deaf or hard of hearing), Mobility issues (uses a mouse OR keyboard) and those with understanding and learning issues (Dyslexia, Autism etc).
WCAG comprises of 4 main principles that aim to make online content more accessible;
1. Needs to be perceivable
2. It must be operable
3. It must be understandable
4. It must be robust (It must be able to be interpreted by assistive technologies)
This means that the learner can perceive the content being delivered using at least one of their senses. If someone may be visually imparied, is there an option to enlarge text or alter colour contrasts. If a learner is blind, is the screen reader able to understand and deliver the content? If a learner is deaf and there is an audio piece, is this element translated in text also.
Things eLearning developers can include to make a course more perceivable;
- Format correctly (i.e. Coded headings <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, creating a hierarchy in a document enables those using a keyboard or screen reader to navigate easily. Headings help create a navigable document for all learners.)
- Captions on videos
- Don’t just rely on colour as a way of differentiation, try bolding or underlining information
- Colorchecker - Different tint options for the course helps those with colour blindness - (A quick easy fix that gives control to people on what they are seeing.)
This is ensuring learners can navigate through the course regardless of what input methods they use. We need to take into account learners who may not use a mouse, some learners could have a mobility impairment and must use a keyboard or speech recognition software. If the service doesn’t work with the input device it means that the learner cannot access the course, go to the page or even submit the information.
Things eLearning developers can include to make a course more operable;
- The course works as keyboard only
- Play, pause and stop any moving content
- Ability to disable actions i.e. Flashing/Blinking content
- Make it easy for keyboard users to see the item their keyboard or assistive technology is currently focused on - this is known as ‘active focus’
- Easy for users to disable and change shortcut keys
It’s basically common sense, right? To make the content understandable, but remember to take into account the different ranges of cognitive abilities in learners. The BDA (British Dyslexia Association) stated that 10% of the British population has dyslexia, some learners may struggle to read because of this, some learners may be on the autistic spectrum, so, it’s important to use clear and simple language that they can understand.
Things eLearning developers can include to make a course more understandable;
- Ensure interfaces are consistent and predictable
- Form fields have visible and meaningful labels and marked up properly
- Make it easy to identify and correct errors
Last but certainly not least, make sure the content is ROBUST. No, we don’t mean like a strong, rich glass of red. Robust in the sense that the software has been built in such a way where it is compatible with the technologies that learners are using. Does it work with assistive technologies such as screen readers, if a learner is using an older browser, does the course work with that.
Things eLearning developers can include to make a course more robust;
- Use HTML so user agents, including assistive technologies, can accurately interpret and parse content
- Make sure your code lets assistive technologies know what every user interface component is for, what state it’s currently in and if it changes
- Ensuring important status messages or modal dialogs are marked up in a way that informs users of their presence and purpose, and lets them interact with them using their assistive technology
See more ways to make your eLearning more accessible at: Understanding WCAG 2.1 - Service Manual - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
As you can see there are many ways in which we as eLearning developers can make courses more accessible for everyone regardless of disability, and even those who may not have a disability can benefit too, I hold my hand up for being a fan of subtitles. Taking into account the 15% of the population that may have issues navigating digital devices, it is important that we strive for equality both in life and in learning.
It can be hard to achieve 100% compliance here as there is a lot to include when making a course fully accessible, but a lot of it is open to interpretation so don’t worry too much if you don’t get it right the first time. What is important here is that we all can learn regardless of any disabilities, and that everyone is treated with respect. We actually created an equality & diversity in the workplace eLearning module for Group 1 Automotive.
We hope this has helped you understand a bit more on accessibility in eLearning, Why it’s important and What you can do to implement this practice into your clients eLearing courses to make learning available to all.
If you are considering developing accessible eLearning courses but are still in the market for a provider, check out some of our past work here and if you feel our style and flair is right for you, give us a call or email. We would love to hear from you!