Accessibility and E-Learning: Part 1

May 9, 2014

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Why Make Your eLearning Platform Accessible?

What is web accessibility? It means making websites (and other web-based content and platforms, like your learning management system) usable to people of all abilities and disabilities. This post is the first in a three-part series that will look at how to provide e-learning that is accessible to people of all abilities.

Accessibility makes a better experience—for all users

Though often thought of in relation to people with physical disabilities, web accessibility can actually benefit all users—making it easier for them to perceive, understand, navigate, interact, and contribute to the information and functionality that make up your web platform. This might include someone with old computer hardware, someone with a slow internet connection, someone with a broken arm or other injury, or someone experiencing the affects of aging.

Accessibility is especially valuable when it comes to e-learning. Making sure your learning management system (LMS) is accessible means training and compliance programs will be more effective and better equip learners with what they need to know to perform capably—optimally—in their jobs.

One in five of your learners has a disability

Disability is common and increasing in prevalence: according to the Center for Disease Control in the United States, approximately 20% of Americans (PDF) have at least one disability. In Canada, the percentage of people with disabilities went from 12% in the 2001 to 13.7% in 2013.

Disabilities can be visual, auditory, physical, speech-related, cognitive, learning, or neurological. While it’s fairly easy to imagine how certain disabilities affect web accessibility—for example, someone with visual impairment might require a screen reader to “read” and describe the contents of a document or interface—others are less obvious and yet still require accommodation. For example, a color-blind individual might need other visual clues to navigate an interface, or designers could take this into consideration as a matter of course and avoid color combinations that might easily be confused.

Web accessibility is required by law

Since the introduction of universal design concepts four decades ago, and, particularly, since the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Canadian Human Rights Act with its provincial equivalents, businesses have become accustomed to making accommodations to allow disabled employees to participate as fully as possible in their place of work.

What many employers don’t realize is that web environments are also covered by these laws: in the United States the ADA has been interpreted to include web accessibility. In Canada, the Accessibility of Ontarians with Disabilities Act is now law and includes website accessibility expectations for businesses. Ad hoc compliance in response to complaints is deemed insufficient; organizations must plan their web platforms to accommodate differently-abled users.

What makes a learning platform accessible?

Thankfully, web accessibility is not difficult to achieve. A number of LMS’s—including Moodle and Totara—care about accessibility, take it seriously, and incorporate best practices.

Nonetheless, training administrators should be aware of the most common challenges learners with disabilities might face when accessing course content. A little planning can go a long way toward making sure it is accessible to everyone.

What are those challenges? Stay tuned—we’ll cover that in part #2.

New to Moodle? Register for our upcoming webinar as we cover the newest features in Moodle 2.7.

Sell, market, manage, and scale your eLearning all in one place with the brand new Lambda Suite!!

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