I also discussed the use of assistive devices that provide a way for people with seeing, hearing, or dexterity challenges a way to communicate and train using technology. People who have visual impairments use assistive devices such as Jaws, Window Eyes, and HAL. They also use screen magnification and braille displays/keyboards. People with hearing impairments need visual representation of auditory information such a closed captions and graphic displays. People with mobility impairments may need alternative methods to moving through your eLearning content, such as keyboard shortcuts.
The goal of creating accessible eLearning is to enhance your lessons by ensuring that all learners can master the instructional material and meet the learning objectives. When learning is accessible to all types of learners, you are not only complying with regulations, but you are reaching a larger audience.
Designing eLearning to Include 508 Compliance Standards
Most learners retain information through seeing, hearing, and doing. Keep that in mind when creating eLearning courses. It's relatively easy to ensure that a person who cannot see can hear your course content by adding narration and using accessibility text for images (also known as ALT text). However, the more challenging component to eLearning is keeping the lesson interactive.
When creating interactive eLearning, it's important to include accessibility that all learners can use. All learners need to be able to easily identify and select interactive screen objects. You should ensure you are using a tab order for any interactive components. And you should always provide meaningful feedback in your lessons... and offer remediation if necessary.
Here are a few general tips to Instructional Designers to improve effectiveness of accessible eLearning:
- Use accessible online help (programs such as Adobe RoboHelp and MadCap Flare allow you to create Help Systems that adhere to Section 508 standards).
- Alt (alternative) text for images, tables, and graphs (any purely visual object). For the visually impaired, Alt text is read aloud by assistive devices.
- Use contrasting colors for learners who are color blind.
- If you're using a slide-based eLearning development tool like Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline, name your slides. (The slide names are read aloud by assistive devices.)
- Set a tab order for every interactive object (for keyboard accessibility)
- Include keyboard shortcuts for all interactive objects (again, for keyboard accessibility).
- Be consistent when adding slide-to-slide navigation.
- Use tool tips. (Tool tips are read aloud by assistive devices.)
- Use Closed Captions for learners with hearing disabilities.
- Provide Printable versions of your course materials (for learners with hearing disabilities).
Watch for my next article which will cover a step-by-step accessibility eLearning plan.
If you'd like to take a 3-hour deep-dive into the best practices for creating accessible eLearning, check out Anita's live, online course.