How to Make eLearning Accessible: Applying WCAG Standards
Usability is an important factor in eLearning. Because the user’s experience will mainly be online, training materials should be highly accessible for all, including those with disabilities.
When we talk about eLearning accessibility, we refer to the use of technology and standards to create training materials that can be easily accessed by all users, no matter what their learning capabilities are.
The Importance of eLearning Accessibility
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1 in 6 (18 per cent) or about 4.4 million people in Australia have a disability. The World Health Organisation reveals that there are over 1 billion people around the world living with a disability. The number of people with disability is dramatically increasing.
This means that the chances of having at least one learner with a disability in your organisation are highly possible and as an expert in the field of training and education, it is your responsibility to ensure that everyone, including those with ADD, ADHD, or Dyslexia is allowed to have a positive eLearning experience. It is important to make accessibility one of the main considerations in your eLearning program to avoid unnecessary barriers for learners and to create an environment where all people are given equal opportunities to develop their abilities.
In 2018, Accenture conducted a study showing that companies promoting inclusivity are more likely to achieve “tangible financial benefits.”
WCAG and eLearning
When it comes to measuring the accessibility of web content, The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is the only acceptable standard. The WCAG provides a set of guidelines to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities.
The WCAG standards have four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
Perceivable: Users should be able to properly perceive information and user interface components presented to them.
Operable: Users should be able to control user interface components easily.
Understandable: Users should be able to understand information and the operation of the user interface.
Robust: The content should be developed using standards that will make it accessible across a wide range of technologies.
As technology allows us to create more advanced eLearning content, we risk widening the gap between the training experience of people with and without learning challenges. This can create a big impact on the productivity and overall success of the organisation. This is why it is important to adopt an inclusive design for your eLearning courses and to ensure that these learning resources are accessible to everyone.
There are several practical ways you can do to make eLearning resources more accessible to everyone:
1. Understand your authoring tool.
Check the capabilities of the tool you are using and see if it fits your needs and is customisable enough to create inclusive content.
2. Make audio and visual aspects a priority in your design
eLearners may choose an audio or visual version of the course for a reason. Because of this, it is important to make sure that the design is flexible enough to cater to the learners’ preferences. For example, the audio content should also be available as text via transcript or closed captions to help deaf learners. For learners with vision impairments, add audio descriptions to videos. Using large and bold fonts and avoiding clutter in the background will also help. It is also recommended to use high contrast colour combinations to help learners who are colour blind.
3. Adopt a flexible approach to student engagement
Online learning provides a different experience than on-site learning. An hour-long lesson may work for some and not for other learners. Consider breaking up lessons into bite-sized activities that encourage interaction and participation.
Understanding the WCAG standard is just the first step to creating more inclusive course content for all learners. There are more ways that you can do to promote inclusivity in eLearning. Part of creating effective eLearning content is listening to the concerns and suggestions of those who are going to use the content. By doing this, you can ensure that your course content truly meets the needs of learners and your eLearning approach will improve overall performance and produce the desired outcome.
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