Questions regarding Accessibility and eLearning with spoken audio

Jan 06, 2020

Hello all!

I'm working for a company with a heavy focus on accessibility in everything that they do.

I really like using spoken audio in my courses, but have come across some obstacles on the way.

  1. Audio play/pause must be under the control of the learner (WCAG 2.1 requirement), and it CANNOT start automatically on a slide. How does everyone else handle spoken audio and accessibility requirements?
  2. I use text text, shape and image animations in a way so that they are connected to specific places in the audio (i.e.: They appear when mentioned in the audio - they do NOT disappear as that would be a vilation of WCAG 2.1). This can be an issue for a screen reader user, as the text isn't readily available for them to read. How does everyone else use animations in accessible eLearning?
  3. I've been presented with a requirement of using descriptive audio everywhere in my courses - even for videos. Although descriptive audio on the slides themselves is doable I can't find a requirement that states that EVERYONE should listen to descriptive audio for videos. I think Netflix would be out of business pretty soon if that was the case. Am I wrong on this one?
  4. I make the audio transcript available using the "Notes" function in Storyline. However, this function isn't entirely accessible as you can't scroll in the notes section using a keyboard. How does everyone handle audio transcripts?

Lookinmg forward to some input, and course examples would be greatly appreciated too.

Best regards


5 Replies
Lauren Connelly

Hi Michael!

First off, I love that your company has a heavy focus on accessibility! Articulate does too!

You'll see in a few places ( Accessibility Update and Accessible Player) that we've publicly shared that one of our goals for 2020 is to make Storyline more accessible and user-friendly to meet accessibility guidelines. Right now, Storyline 360 is WCAG 2.1 Level AA compliant and Section 508 compliant.

I'm going to answer your questions one by one, but I'd encourage our community members to step in to share how they have build courses to meet these guidelines.

1. You're correct; audio can't play automatically in an accessible course. To achieve this requirement, audio controls need to be keyboard accessible. A recommendation would be to add triggers that require the user to press a key to Play/Pause. If you have hearing-impaired learners, then providing a layer with the transcript would be an additional bonus.

2. Using animations can be tricky. One reason is that to reach compliance, a video or animation can't blink more than three times per second. Secondly, animations should only be used for essential content. Potentially giving learners that option to turn off animations would be the safest route.

3. Interesting questions! First off, it looks like Netflix ran into a lawsuit because captioning wasn't available for all video content on their website! Captioning must be available to the learner, so this means that you'll need a button that can turn on/off the captions. Check out this support article which explains how to add closed captioning in the Player.

503.4.1 Caption Controls. Where user controls are provided for volume adjustment, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) shall provide user controls for the selection of captions at the same menu level as the user controls for volume or program selection.

503.4.2 Audio Description Controls. Where user controls are provided for program selection, ICT shall provide user controls for the selection of audio descriptions at the same menu level as the user controls for volume or program selection.

In simple terms, these sections explain that controls such as closed captioning, volume, and play/pause need to be available on the base layer rather than hidden.

4. You're correct; the notes section isn't fully accessible. I'm interested to see how community members have included audio transcripts in their course.

Michael, I hope this is helpful! I'll be on standby to see the examples that are shared!

Michael Ambech

Hi Lauren!

A few more questions/thoughts.

  1. I have a variable at the beginning of my courses, where users are asked whether they want audio to start automatically or not. That sort of works. Only issue is when you tab through a slide, the timeline recieves focus AFTER the next button causing users to think there IS no audio. My possible solution is to create a pause/play button that controls this, only visible if the variable is true. I would place this last in the tab order and in the lower right corner of the slide. What do you think of this?
  2. Since I'm using spoken audio, I'd like bullets/images etc. to appear when they are actually mentioned in the audio as to prevent cognitive overload. This seems to cause problems for users using a screen reader, as the text isn't visible from the  beginning. Could an option be to uitilize the previous variable and change the state of text/images etc. based on this variable (hidden until the timeline reaches a certain place if the audio control variable is false, and always visible if the variable is true?). Am I making sense? I realize it is a lot of work, but I'd like to accomodate other learners as well. That can sometimes be tricky.
  3. You state that captioning should be available - i couldn't agree more. But should it be descriptive for everyone? I realize that Storyline can't support more than one type of captioning with the built-in feature, but for arguments sake. My problem right now is that i have videos that are 4-5 minutes - about the length that the average learner will accept. There is no room for descriptive audio in these videos.  Adding descriptive audio would therefore increase the length of these videos. I'm envisioning two types of videos. One with descriptive audio and one without. A simple checkbox would control whether the user would see one or the other (layer-based). What do you think of this? I have the timeline enabled, so captioning, volume control and timeline scrolling is available.
  4. It seems that the Notes section IS scrollable in the new accessible player which i'm testing at the moment. Fingers crossed!

THANKS for your feedback - MUCH appreciated!

Best regards


Lauren Connelly

Hi Michael!

I'll respond to each question as I did previously!

1. The Player (where the Menu, Timeline, and Navigation controls are) is last in the Tab Order, which makes the slide content the main priority. I really like the variable idea! My only suggestion would be to make a button available on the main slide as you suggested but at the beginning of the timeline, especially if there is audio played during the slide. 

2. Your idea sounds like it meets compliance! It might require a lot of work, but it's better to make the changes while you're creating rather than when the course is complete. 

3. Are you using the Closed Captioning Editor in Storyline 360? You could add captions to one video and choose to not have captions in the other. Or like you said, adding captions below the video using a text box would be easy to control with a variable.

4. That's great! I see that you're in the Early Access Program for the new Accessible Player. We can't wait to release this to the public.

Michael Ambech

Hi! I've discontinued the use of these, as Storyline has made gigantic strides in accessibility since I wrote that post. We have in-house accessibility specialists and their take is, that with the new player shortcuts, you only need to take of your reading order and ensure it's logical. Hope this helps :-)