Designing accessible eLearning is all about providing a great experience to every learner. Taking this approach from the ground up makes better products and saves time, says Technical Manager, Jon Sutton.
Many of our clients have rigorous accessibility requirements that our training solutions must meet. We strive to deliver to—and, where we can, exceed—those requirements.
If accessibility is treated as an afterthought it can result in an unsatisfactory set of compromises. Instead, we believe in taking an “inclusivity by design approach”, where we consider a diverse set of learner needs from the ground up. This helps ensure we develop training that is accessible to everyone without compromising on an engaging, visually appealing learner experience.
The success of this approach is demonstrated in the cybersecurity course we created for TD Bank, which won a Brandon Hall award for Best Advance in Training Programs that Require Global Accessibility Standards.
Why Is Accessible eLearning Important?
The power of inclusive practices creates more diversity of thought within workplaces, increasing their performance and driving innovation.
In 2017, 19% of working-age employees reported a disability in the UK, making accessibility something that’s vital for businesses to think about when looking at becoming more inclusive. Accessible eLearning, in particular, is crucial as it ensures that potentially business-critical training can reach the broadest range of learners possible.
For that to happen, learners need to be able to access the training and have a smooth learning experience that doesn’t distract them from taking in the information. That’s something we want to deliver to all learners, regardless of their specific needs.
Much of the best practice for “inclusivity by design” also benefits learners who might not identify as having particular accessibility requirements. For example, adding subtitles to a video might help prevent learners in noisy offices from missing content, and high-color contrast ratios make courses easier to read when looking at a mobile screen in bright sunlight.
What Does Accessible eLearning Actually Mean?
Accessibility features, when implemented well in elearning, should be like any other good design: great for those that need it and almost invisible to those that don’t. While implementation often differs from client to client, the goal remains the same: give high-quality training to all learners.
The span of different disabilities that fall under accessibility requirements is diverse. In the 2016/2017 Department of Work and Pensions Family Resources Survey, the top-reported disabilities were mobility- and dexterity-related, but we need to consider a wide range, including hearing and vision-related disabilities.
This means that there is a correspondingly diverse range of accessibility features we need to consider implementing. These include, for example:
- high-color contrast ratios
- different options for navigation
- alternative text descriptions of diagrams for learners using screen readers
- appropriate font and background choice
- use of subtitles for audio and video content
- instructional text that takes alternative navigation into account
Accessibility in the Financial Sector
For many global financial institutions, there are strict regulations governing accessibility standards that must be adhered to.
In the U.S., financial institutions, like banks, must adhere to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act 1973. This legislation requires financial organizations to make “electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities.” In Canada, even stricter regulations require that the accessible version of digital content must deliver a user experience on par with that of the non-accessible version.
LEO GRC has delivered to these standards for a variety of banks and financial institutions who have jurisdiction in the U.S. or Canada.
There is also increasing focus on accessibility in the financial sector, and we are seeing more of our clients look at how they can go beyond what is required by law to provide as inclusive an environment as possible.
Accessible eLearning and Your Learners
A lack of accessible training can be a real barrier to learner engagement and can significantly affect completion rates.
This is particularly true for compliance training, where completion can be tied to employee bonuses and pay, making any barriers to access critical for learners.
The more organizations are aware of the needs of their learners, the better prepared they are to create eLearning experiences that meet the broadest range of accessibility requirements.