Digital Accessibility Best Practices to Deliver Great Learning Experiences

Digital Accessibility Best Practices to Deliver Great Learning Experiences

Millions of students and learners who learn and think differently don’t get the desired support they need in the school or workplace. While we start talking about the future of education and future workplaces, one key aspect of that ecosystem is to ensure equity and inclusivity. And to achieve this, a key driver is to make learning resources accessible for all.

Digital accessibility is a topic that is slowly and steadily gaining importance across the globe. And rightfully so. Studies state that the global market of people with disabilities is over 1 billion, with a spending power of more than $6 trillion.

The spectrum of disabilities is quite broad and diverse when it comes to accessibility considerations. These could broadly be categorized as:

  • People with permanent disabilities
  • Disabilities due to age
  • Situational disabilities, that are temporary in nature

Looking at these categories, it is important to consider the different needs of the learners. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Revised Section 508, and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG – including WCAG 2.0, 2.1, 2.2) have outlined the accessibility standards, making it easier for organizations to address the requirements in their learning designs.

This is not only a legal mandate as per the ADA, but it is also recognized by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as a basic human right. There are more reasons to make content digitally accessible. Read our previous blog post “Top 5 Reasons to Implement Digital Accessibility” to find out.

Digital Accessibility Best Practices for Your Learners

Accessibility is ideally a shared concern for anyone in the eLearning domain. Here, we list out some of the best practices organizations must consider to engage and benefit more learners. The trick is to design the content in such a way that it is easily accessible to learners with disabilities, and at the same time, inconspicuous so that a normal learner would not notice it.

1. Ensure Clear Layouts

According to WHO, globally, at least 2.2 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment.

To tackle this, consider a design that will not cause any eye discomfort to the learner. The content on the screens should be arranged thoughtfully so that it is not filled with too much information. The idea behind a clear layout is that the different parts or sections on a web page are easily identifiable. When navigation links, text portions, and even clickable links are simpler to spot, the design consistency greatly helps learners with low vision or cognitive disabilities.

Additionally, the W3C accessibility guidelines on color contrast recommend not using color alone to convey any kind of information or meaning. This is because learners with visual impairment could miss out on such distinctions in the content.

2. Use Alternative (Alt) Text for Images

People with low visual ability often use screen readers. These tools convert text to speech so a user can hear the words on a site. To make this easier, skip decorative images and use ALT tags to describe every image and diagram.

When writing the alternative text for an image, consider the context of the image being displayed. The text must provide all the information for that image including sharing the background details or the purpose of that image in that specific text context. This means that a same image might need varied alternative text depending on where and how it is being used.

3. Support Keyboard Navigation

As per the WCAG recommendation, keyboard operability is extremely essential to making digital content accessible.

This functionality ensures every user has access to the content without the need for a mouse. It is especially for users with motor disabilities and for those who use screen readers. To support keyboard navigation, the content must have a visible keyboard focus and there should not be any navigation barriers when using the keyboard interface.

4. Offer Skip Navigation

WCAG 2.4.1 states, “A mechanism is available to bypass blocks of content that are repeated on multiple web pages.”

As a recommended accessibility practice, skip link is strongly recommended for optimal accessibility on pages with repeated navigation. To implement this, include a ‘skip navigation’ link at the top of the web pages that allows learners who use screen readers to ignore navigation links and skip directly to the webpage content.

5. Support Assistive Technologies

According to WHO, only 1 in 10 people in need have access to assistive technology.

Assistive technology enables and promotes inclusion and participation, especially of people with disabilities, the ageing population, and people affected by chronic diseases. Allowing assistive technology, such as screen readers, magnification devices, and hearing aids, improves a learner’s functioning. It allows specially-abled learners to operate the content independently.

Additionally, the content needs to have links that are large and easy to identify, keyboard shortcuts, a good keyboard navigation strategy, basically an accessible design for the digital content.

Digital Accessibility for Greater Learner Engagement

Harbinger recently hosted a Power Hour on Digital Accessibility: From the Viewpoint of Decision-Makers with industry experts Casandra Blassingame, President and CEO, IACET; David Berman, Accessibility Expert, David Berman Communications; and Krista Weber, Director of User Experience, Vector Solutions. This interactive webinar was hosted by Dr. Vikas Joshi, CEO, Harbinger Group.

Digital Accessibility for Greater Learner Engagement

These leaders from the corporate L&D space, academia, and the accessibility domain discussed how to create a roadmap for implementing accessibility at scale. They shared their ideas on plotting and connecting the dots for accessibility, the frameworks for implementing a scalable accessibility strategy, pointers to identify the best accessibility strategy, and the challenges to overcome during this change transformation journey.

Harbinger has several years of experience in designing programs conforming to web accessibility implementation, VPAT documentation creation, product accessibility, and more. In fact, we also have a comprehensive eBook covering the critical considerations for organizations to create ADA, WCAG 2.1/2.0, and Revised Section 508 compliant accessible eLearning content. Our eBook also shares some great tips on decoding the design element to making online courses accessible.

If you have an idea to discuss, please write to us at info@harbingerlearning.com. Harbinger experts will be happy to help you design accessible eLearning content to create inclusive learning experiences that fulfil all eLearning accessibility considerations.

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