PLANNING FOR AN ACCESSIBLE COURSE
Historically, an “accessible version” of a course was just a PDF. If you were lucky, someone might have created some differentiated resources for the interactive elements – but most likely, you’ll end up with a useless document that serves nothing more than to tick a box.
As digital courses have become more interactive, the accessibility gap has increased, but the good news is that now we have the option to create online courses that are much more accessible. The tools we use provide solutions to a number of challenges that some learners face, without the need to create inadequate alternatives.
Although there are no universal legal requirements for digital accessibility, more organisations are demanding certain standards are met. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provides useful guidance on digital accessibility and their level AA must be met for all UK government and public sector digital services. Many non-governmental organisations are also adopting these guidelines, so if you’re in the business of creating any type of digital materials, it’s worth becoming familiar with the likes of WCAG, or your country’s equivalent (i.e. Section 508 in USA).
Here is a quick list of the main areas to consider when planning for an accessible course. All of these are possible to adopt using tools like Adobe and Articulate:
- Closed captioning/subtitling
- Colour contrasting
- Alternative text
- Screen reader accessibility
- Keyboard accessibility
- Time restrictions
The obvious benefit of accessible design is to support disabled learners with, but it should not be treated as a tick box exercise.
According to the World Health Organisation, over 1 billion people (15% of the population) live with some form of disability and the UK Family Resources Survey suggest that 19% of working age adults are disabled. It is therefore an essential part of helping a large percentage of your audience to learn.
Accessible design is also good design in general and doesn’t just benefit individuals with disabilities. Closed captions are perfect if you don’t want to disturb those around you (I watch most videos on my phone with the sound off now). Poor colour contrasting or lack of white space can make content hard to read, or off putting at best, even for those with good vision; and if you’re a fully grown adult but your fingers are strapped up because of a bouncy castle accident (mentioning no names), all of a sudden keyboard accessibility becomes quite useful.
In future blogs, we’ll go into more detail, sharing our processes, giving you some tips on how to make your courses as accessible as possible and helping you to understand WCAG and Section 508 guidelines.