Why I’m Prioritizing E-Learning Accessibility—and You Should Too
I’m a big fan of making lists in my day-to-day life—from my grocery list, to my daily to-do list, to my bucket list. So it’s probably no surprise that I’ve got a list of professional goals too. Lately, a top priority on that list is making the e-learning content I create more accessible (learn more here: What Is Accessible E-Learning?). And I’m not alone—companies are prioritizing accessibility by hiring accessibility specialists at a rapidly growing rate.
In this article, I’ll share four reasons why I think you should join me in making e-learning accessibility a priority.
Alright, let’s dive in!
1. To ensure courses work for all learners.
Have you ever gotten stuck on a course slide because it didn’t include obvious navigation controls? Or maybe you needed to review a project with video content, but the file wouldn’t play. It’s frustrating and time-consuming when things don’t work as expected.
Unfortunately, those types of experiences are all too common for learners who depend on assistive technology to access e-learning. When course authors don’t consider accessibility, their content often doesn’t work properly for all learners. For example, if they don’t think about keyboard users, learners might not be able to easily or logically move through the content. They might even get stuck and have to exit the course without finishing it. And if authors don’t include a transcript or closed captions, learners with auditory impairments will miss out on information included in the audio or videos.
As a course creator, you want the content you design to be fully functional and enjoyable for everyone. So, just like it’s important to ensure that your course contains the right content and has functional navigation, it’s also essential to make sure it’s accessible.
2. To improve the learning experience for everyone.
Not only do accessibility features benefit learners with visual, auditory, cognitive, or motor impairments, they also improve the learning experience for everyone. For example, adding closed captions to a video helps learners with auditory impairments, and makes it easier for people in loud or distracting environments to stay focused on your content.
This isn’t to say that accessibility wouldn’t be a priority if only a few learners benefited from it—the content we create should work equitably for all—but knowing accessibility makes your course better for all learners certainly drives home how valuable it is.
3. To stay compliant in remote and hybrid work environments.
More and more workplaces are permanently embracing hybrid work environments. And the switch to hybrid work often results in training that previously occurred in person shifting to e-learning. As a result, accessibility accommodations need to shift too. In many cases, making sure your e-learning is accessible is a compliance and legal requirement. Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, which could include providing assistive technology or other resources.
So, if your organization previously relied on having resources available at the office to aid learners with accessibility needs, it’s time to ensure those same resources are available everywhere. For example, if learners at the office receive a course transcript handout, you’ll need to include the course transcript as a downloadable file for remote workers. That way, no matter where your learners are, they’re supported by content that meets their accessibility needs.
4. To attract and retain employees.
Thanks to a booming job market, employees have lots of options to choose from for employment. In order to attract and retain talent, it’s important to be competitive and ensure employees have the resources they want and need. And while we might think of pay, flexible work locations, or benefits as the primary resources job seekers look for, it’s important to note that learning and development opportunities also rank high on the list.
As a result, organizations are ramping up training offerings and creating new learning paths for staff. But if those programs don’t plan for accessibility, a portion of employees won’t be able to take advantage of one of their top-valued benefits. And that could encourage them to look for roles elsewhere.
In addition, studies show that people want to work for organizations that share their values, such as diversity and inclusion. And many companies are taking notice and making these things a priority.
But for an organization to truly be inclusive, it has to provide an equitable experience for all employees. In the world of e-learning, this means focusing on accessibility. So if you’re working at an organization committed to inclusion, make sure your e-learning reflects that! And even if your organization isn’t particularly committed to inclusion, you can set an example by making it a priority in the work you do.
Now that you know why you should make accessibility a priority, you’re probably wondering how. Lucky for you, it’s never been easier to make your e-learning more accessible. There are loads of tools, tips, and tricks out there to help you get started. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Apps with built-in accessibility features—for example, Rise 360 and Storyline 360.
- On-demand training webinars—like this one on 5 Things You Need to Know About Accessibility and this one that teaches how to create an accessible drag-and-drop interaction in Storyline 360.
- Free downloads—such as these accessible color palettes.
- Online resources—like our All About Accessibility article series.
And if you need advice or have a question, try asking the friendly folx in the Building Better Courses forum. We’re all here to learn from and support one another—the most important thing is that you try!
I hope you’re feeling excited about putting accessibility at the top of your priority list! Personally, these reasons encourage and inspire me to continue learning and creating better learning experiences for everyone.
What’s your reason for prioritizing accessibility? Share your thoughts in a comment below. And to learn even more about accessible e-learning, check out these helpful articles:
- 6 Easy Ways to Make Your E-Learning More Accessible
- 5 Ways to Convince Stakeholders to Create Accessible Courses
- Understanding WCAG: A Quickstart Guide for E-Learning Developers
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