When it comes to accessibility, the L&D industry has taken huge steps forward in recent years – with more accessibility tools than ever to support content creators and learners alike. But there are still steps that we can each take within our organizations to make sure that we are utilizing the strategies and tools available to make learning a success for everyone.
As instructional designers, it's our responsibility to advocate for the learners we serve and ensure that every learner has access to the information, regardless of how they access and experience it. While there is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to accessibility, we do have some considerations and helpful tips to get you started for your next initiative!
Accommodation without Assumptions
When considering accessibility measures, it’s important to push past our assumptions (whether conscious or unconscious). It’s easy to presume that you don’t need to worry about certain types of accessibility because you don’t know anyone in your organization who has spoken out about needing them. However, there are many reasons someone may require accommodations, and they don’t always have to be disclosed to your organization. In addition, someone could require accessibility accommodations due to unforeseen circumstances, such as injury.
We can’t assume that no one will ever require certain accommodations, just because no one currently does. We also can’t assume that someone with accessibility needs won’t be taking these courses in the future – to assume so is to alienate those people.
Start By Asking Yourself Two Questions
When we start thinking about how to include accessibility in our courseware, it can feel like going down a rabbit hole. There’s so many different needs out there and trying to accommodate all of them is sometimes just unfeasible. They may contradict each other or require time and resources you don’t have. But we can’t let the fear of being unable to accommodate everyone get in the way of accommodating someone.
Small steps are better than no steps at all – and taking one step at a time adds up. A great way to start is to ask yourself questions that challenge you to see your course through someone else’s eyes:
- “How might someone who learns differently process this course?”
- "How might someone maneuver this course in a different way?”
How Might Someone Who Learns Differently Process This Course?
People learn and process information in a variety of ways. Here are a few answers that will get you started on thinking about how design elements can be adjusted in your courses to accommodate different learning processes:
Visual learners – These learners may benefit from using imagery to illustrate concepts, in addition to written instructions.
Reading comprehension issues – Studies show that using familiar fonts can improve the readability of your on-screen text. Consider increasing the size of your fonts for improved legibility and comprehension. Finally, improve your user’s experience by designing consistent layouts from one slide to the next for things like headers, body text, interactive buttons, or quiz questions.
Information processing – Breaking up the content into smaller sections can make the information easier to process. This can also help keep the user engaged, with less of a chance to get distracted.
How Might Someone Maneuver this Course in a Different Way?
To answer this question, you must first know the abilities and limitations of the program you build a course in. It will be essential to answering this question and finding necessary solutions.
Low technological literacy – Something you may consider common knowledge, such as which button to click to continue to the next page, may be completely new to someone else. To address this, you can present the user with clear, concise navigation instructions at the beginning of the course – or add a Help icon that explains these instructions on an as-needed basis.
Difficulty with fine motor skills – The learner may have difficulty with fine motor skills that prevent them from using a mouse. Consider designing for a touchscreen-friendly experience by increasing the size of interactive elements, or using click-to-reveal interactives instead of drag and drop, for example.
Additionally, consider allowing multiple ways to navigate the course, such as using keyboard shortcuts.
Screen readers – A screen reader is a tool that can be downloaded to a computer or internet browser that will automatically read aloud the text on a screen. People may use a screen reader if they are vision impaired or have reading comprehension issues.
Including alt text for your images is incredibly important to ensure those using a screen reader can gather the same information as those without. This is especially true for images that contain text, such as charts and infographics. Whenever possible, avoid including vital information ONLY in image format.
Color blindness – If you don’t have color blindness yourself, it can be difficult to imagine what it’s like to experience your course. There are a number of tools available that will help simulate colorblindness, so you can be mindful when you design.
Take Steps to Keep Learning
While there is no exhaustive list of everything you could possibly be doing to make your courses accessible to everyone in the world, what’s important is that we continue to take consistent steps in the right direction to advocate for our learners’ needs.
As you continue to explore how you can make your training accessible, here are some resources that can help:
Know the capabilities of your tools – Many eLearning creation tools have features designed to improve accessibility. It’s worth researching your tool and keeping an eye out for updates. For example, Storyline 360 just released new Accessibility Controls for their content player.
Create an Accessibility Strategy – Creating a strategy around how your organization will implement, review, and continually improve accessibility can set your team and design process up for repeatable success.
Seek Feedback – It’s important to get feedback from your learners and to have a way for them to make requests for accommodations. Additionally, for workshops or empathy labs where you can keep learning about accessible design and talk with other professionals about what they’re doing!
We hope some of these small steps help you to incorporate accessibility in your own training initiatives. Have questions? Want to share tips from your own experience? Leave a comment!