Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act stipulates that online courses must be made accessible to learners with disabilities. So how can you develop eLearning courses that are universally accessible – to all learners including those who are differently abled?
Well, you can create eLearning courses that are accessible by persons with disabilities by paying attention to certain Instructional Design elements and making use of the latest technology.
Let me share some of our experiences in developing Section 508-compliant online courses. We take care to:
See that the navigation is simple
Make sure that the navigation of your online course is simple. You need to avoid those ‘tantalizing’ drilldowns – where your learners need to click on multiple links to access the content. It is better to provide a table of contents for easy navigation to all items of the learning content. This goes a long way in ensuring compliance to Section 508 because learners with disabilities can easily access the course.
Use videos effectively
For learners who are visually impaired, videos containing different voices and recognizable sounds are very engaging because they stimulate their auditory senses effectively. The voices of multiple narrators create excitement and break the monotony and go a long way in capturing users’ attention. It is advisable to film the video in the morning or at dusk to prevent bright lighting that can cause problems in viewing the course. You can also use videos to cater to the needs of the learners with auditory impairments by providing close- captions. Supplying a printable version of the video script to these learners is another good idea.
Get the interactivities right
At times, interactivities can create problems to learners with mobility disorders. Handling the mouse can be a major problem for these learners. Shortcut keys need to be provided, at least for major functionalities such as pausing or playing the course. This helps reduce learner fatigue considerably. You also need to give learners adequate time to complete these activities because timed activities can be tough for some learners.
Make the right use of text
Many learners who have ocular problems use screen readers to read and comprehend text on the computer screen. You have to make sure that you provide an option to turn-off the screen reader to ensure compliance with Section 508. You need to see that the presentation of your content is screen reader friendly. You can make the screen reader “know when to pause” by adding periods after headings, labels and bulleted points. It is also important to use words instead of symbols. For instance, “5%” needs to be written as “five percent” as the screen reader has problems in interpreting the “%” symbol.
Ensure that there is a provision for increasing the test duration
Differently abled learners are often given extra time to complete online assessments. Therefore, we suggest you to go in for Learning Management systems (LMSs) such as Moodle that allow you to extend the time to complete an assessment. This saves time and money as you don’t have to conduct a separate assessment for learners with disabilities.
Thus, you can make eLearning courses that are universally accessible and ensure compliance to Section 508. I hope you find this blog useful.