It is mandatory for organizations today to make their e-learning accessible to all their employees, including employees with disabilities. They need to follow the guidelines of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and develop compliant e-learning courses. According to this section, organizations must eliminate barriers in accessing information technology, which also include online training programs, to people with disabilities such as blindness, low vision, color blindness, deafness, speech disabilities, photosensitivity, and combinations of these.
The development of such online courses is difficult if you do not plan for it in the initial stage. Instructional designers will have to consider accessibility features such as alternative text for images, audios, and videos, keyboard navigation order, and screen reader compatibility. If they do not consider these in the initial stage, they will find it confusing and frustrating during the course development process, as they will have to rework considering the accessibility features. Here are 4 simple tips to be considered right in the initial stage of the design process to avoid these issues.
1. Allow Keyboard Navigation
Visually challenged learners cannot use a mouse to navigate through the course. Consider providing the option of keyboard navigation for such learners; make sure it is simple. Avoid those complex interactions, right at the beginning, where learners need to click multiple links to access content. It becomes become difficult for assistive technologies such as screen readers to interpret the interaction. It is better to provide a menu to all the units and slides in the course for easy navigation.
2. Provide closed-captions for timeline-based files
Learners with hearing impairments will have a problem accessing time-line based files with audio/narration such as audios, videos, or animations. So, consider providing closed captions for all the videos and animations. For the audio in the course, consider providing a text transcript. Learners with hearing impairments find it easy to access such files as they can read the transcript or closed captions and understand what is being told in the video, audio, or animation. It ensures these learners won’t miss out on any information presented in the course.
3. Provide alternative text for images
Visually impaired learners will find it difficult to view images or graphics. Provide alternative text for such visual elements. This will help visually disabled learners as the screen reader reads out this text, allowing them to understand the visual elements onscreen. But ensure the alternative text you provide is descriptive. For example, for a sexual harassment image in a course on workplace harassment, the alternative text can go beyond a simple “sexual harassment” and be more descriptive – “A male employee puts his hand on the shoulder of his female colleague while explaining something on her computer. But, the lady doesn’t like it and shrinks away.”
4. Choose an authoring tool that supports accessibility
Choosing the right authoring tool is the most important consideration to develop an accessible e-learning course. Even if you have all the other considerations ticked, without the right authoring tool, you cannot get the desired features to make it Section 508 compatible.
So, ensure the rapid authoring tool you choose is built with easy-to-use accessibility functions. For example, check if the default interface of the tool is fully Section 508 compliant, the tool has no issues with screen readers, and setting the tab order is easy.
These are the 4 important and easy-to-remember tips to be considered in the initial stages of the design process when you want your e-learning course to be Section 508 compatible. Many authoring tools are available in the market to develop such courses. One such rapid authoring tool is Articulate Storyline. Want to know how this tool is a perfect fit for developing accessible e-learning?Here’s how – Using Storyline for Section 508 or WCAG Compliant E-learning.