How to make your learning content more accessible

How to make your learning content more accessible

Making learning content accessible for people with disabilities and impairments is considered ‘the right thing’ to do by the majority of L&D practitioners. Why is it then that so many learning resources created today remain inaccessible and risk excluding an estimated 12% to 26% of our learners? One of the most commonly cited reasons is that it’s simply too difficult and time consuming to make learning content accessible. It certainly can sometimes seem an impossible task, especially when you consider the range of different types of disabilities you need to be aware of, and when you look in more detail at the complex Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). But there are lots of things which we can do to simplify things and make it easier for everyone to create eLearning which is more accessible and benefits people with a range of different access needs.

One approach which helps to make things more manageable is to break down the things we need to consider into the four digital access need categories: vision, hearing, motor, and cognitive. An advantage of this approach is that it tackles the common myth that accessibility is only important for people with visual access needs. A disadvantage of the approach is that the categories are artificially neat, particularly when you consider that everyone’s experience of disability is different and the fact that research suggests that almost 75% of disabled people have more than one type of impairment. Nevertheless, I have found it one of the most effective ways to help people when they’re first getting started with eLearning accessibility.

Here are a few key things for each of these categories which everyone can do to make their eLearning content more accessible:

Vision considerations

Benefits people who have low vision or are colour blind and those who are blind and use screen readers to access content. Can also benefit people who are accessing mobile devices in poor lighting conditions, people accessing content on legacy devices with poor colour contrast, or those with slow broadband who may not be able to download images etc.

  • Add alternative text to images.
  • Make sure you use colours with good contrast for background and text.
  • Don’t convey meaning using only colour (like green for correct and red for incorrect).

Hearing considerations

Benefits people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Can also benefit people who are watching video content in sound sensitive environments such as libraries, or in noisy places such as in cafes or on public transport etc.

  • Provide captions for videos.
  • Provide transcripts for audio tracks like podcasts.
  • Avoid background audio behind speech in video or audio tracks.

Motor considerations

Benefits people who have manual dexterity issues and who access digital content using a keyboard or other assistive technology rather than a mouse. Can also benefit people who have temporary injuries or conditions which affect their manual dexterity such as a broken wrist or Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) etc.

  • Make sure learners can use your resource using only a keyboard, not a mouse.
  • Allow learners to control the time needed to complete tasks, or do not set time limits.
  • Use inclusive instructions, e.g. ‘select’ instead of ‘click’.

Cognitive considerations

Benefits people with neurodiverse conditions such as Dyslexia, Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and conditions such as epilepsy and vestibular disorders. Can also benefit people with mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, people who are tired and stressed and second language learners.

  • Use plain English and explain any complex vocabulary or abbreviations.
  • Provide clear and consistent navigation.
  • Allow learners to pause, stop or hide any moving elements.

That’s a good start, but remember there are 50 WCAG standards to aim to meet for best practice and legal compliance. There are plenty of resources to help. I’ve included some useful links below including one for my book Designing Accessible Learning Content, which I wrote to help eLearning professionals who believe that making their learning content more accessible and inclusive is the right thing to do.

Useful links

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