Converting Courses for Screen Readers

Good morning, folks:

I am trying to come up with a budget for a client for a course that can be read by a screen reader. The plan is to develop a course in Storyline 360 as we typically would, and then provide an additional version of the course in Word that can be read by a screen reader for non-sighted learners.

I realize that Storyline 360 allows you to publish an existing course to Word (with or without layers and the Notes field), but I have to assume there's more to it than that. That is, there must be some time needed to "clean up" the document before submitting it to be used through a screen reader.

Does anyone have a sense of how much time to budget to convert and prepare a 30-minute Storyline 360 course to Word for a screen reader?

Thanks!

9 Replies
Nicole Legault

Hi there Brandon! 

Thanks for posting your question here in the community. 

When you publish a Storyline course to Word it creates a document that has screenshots of every slide. Screen readers can't "read" the text and content that's inside these screenshots. It can read the Notes text, so if you were to use this approach you would need to ensure that every piece of text content on your slide is included in the notes so that it could be read by a screen reader. The Word doc will also include other text such as scene titles, slide titles, the word "Notes" and other text artifacts that you might not want to have read aloud by the screen reader. Also, if there are images and videos or artifacts on the slides, you'd need to explain those in the notes. 

My suggestion to you is to download the free trial of JAWS and use the screen reader to see how that experience is. If you've never used a screen reader before I think doing this will be a huge revelation and give you some really important insights into how that experience feels. 

It's hard to give an estimate on time and cost without knowing the amount and type of content in your course. Is it rich in imagery and or videos? Is it mostly text based? Are all the activities accessibility-friendly or do you use activities like drag-and-drops that you would need to create alternatives for? These will all impact the time it will take to create an accessibility friendly version. Is there a specific reason you've decided to go with making a separate document version for accessibility, instead of creating an accessible storyline course? 

Matthew Bibby

Further to Nicole's excellent advice, you might want to check out these resources to learn more about making accessible courses:

6 Best Practices for Designing Accessible eLearning

Storyline 360 Supports Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (read this if not US based)

Storyline 360 Support Section 508 Accessibility Guidelines (read this if US based)

Hope that helps a bit. Any questions, let me know.

Brandon Dameshek

Thank you for the thoughtful response, Nicole.

Much of what you've pointed out is information I'm already aware of, in terms of the manner in which Storyline 360 publishes/converts a course to Word. I guess I was just inquiring as to the amount of effort needed to clean up that version of the course once it was actually published. In this case, I'm thinking it would be a 20- to 30-minute e-Learning course.

In terms of why I would go this route as opposed to creating an accessible course in Storyline, well, the latter appears to be awfully difficult. That is, I created some test courses for a non-sighted learner in Storyline 360 and watched them with him. It was truly a struggle for him to go through the course using his screen reader. It just seems to me that there is no easy way to create an accessible course for non-sighted learners, as you need to consider tab order, alt text, etc., not to mention language and instructions specific to a non-sighted learner. Ultimately, I would like to create a course that is usable for both sighted and non-sighted learners as opposed to creating two separate courses, but it would appear that it's not so easy.

Are there any existing documents/manuals, by Articulate or otherwise, that actually walk you through the process of creating accessible/508-compliant courses from start to finish?

Thanks!

Erin Flage

Just a quick clarification on the "Free Trial of JAWS."  I believe you are referring to the 40-minute mode.  Per the JAWS EULA ,"The 40 Minute Mode is not intended for commercial use other than use while waiting for an active license to use the Program or an associated key to arrive or be installed. "

So assuming the course creator is being paid to create the course then the JAWS 40 minute mode would not apply.

Matthew Bibby
Brandon Dameshek

In terms of why I would go this route as opposed to creating an accessible course in Storyline, well, the latter appears to be awfully difficult. That is, I created some test courses for a non-sighted learner in Storyline 360 and watched them with him. It was truly a struggle for him to go through the course using his screen reader. It just seems to me that there is no easy way to create an accessible course for non-sighted learners, as you need to consider tab order, alt text, etc., not to mention language and instructions specific to a non-sighted learner. Ultimately, I would like to create a course that is usable for both sighted and non-sighted learners as opposed to creating two separate courses, but it would appear that it's not so easy.

 

Yes, you are right, there is a lot of work involved in making accessible courses. 

Accessibility isn't just about non-sighted learners, but all learners. This includes users who rely on assistive technologies such as screen readers, refreshable braille displays, assistive listening devices, varied assistive input devices (did you know that you can move a mouse with your eyes?) as well as robots such as translators and so on. 

People with vision disabilities are actually a minority in the majority of learner populations. You'll find that things like colour blindness, learning disabilities (e.g. dyslexia), other sensory and motor control disabilities are much more common than total vision impairment (hat tip to Steve). 

Yet many of us (myself included at times) tend to focus on 'making courses work with a screen reader' rather than making accessible courses. 

This is why the WCAG guidelines exist.

[Sidenote, while Section 508 differs from WCAG, in early 2017, Section 508 was updated to use the principle-based approach of WCAG (which is flexible enough to cover existing and not-yet-existing technologies) rather than using a rigid set of outdated static rules. So for the purpose of this discussion, talking about WCAG is sufficient.]

The WCAG guidelines are organised into four principles. They state that the website (e.g. Storyline output) must be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust. These principles are then broken down into many different guidelines that go into detail of what this means. 

Simply taking your course and converting it to Word will not necessarily satisfy all of these guidelines without a large amount of rework. And the same can be said of Storyline courses in general. 

While there is a lot that Storyline does by default to help make courses accessible, it is up to the developer to not only understand the guidelines but to make decisions during development to satisfy them. 

Anyway...

To answer your more specific question, the quickest way to create a word document that'll work with a screen reader from a Storyline course would be to use the translation feature.

This will output text to a word document rather than images of the slides. You'll need to go through and format this, adding in descriptive text for any important images or diagrams etc. 

Matthew Bibby
Brandon Dameshek

Are there any existing documents/manuals, by Articulate or otherwise, that actually walk you through the process of creating accessible/508-compliant courses from start to finish?

Good point.

Articulate does have a lot of resources that cover aspects of this, but I don't believe they have anything that goes into that level of detail.

It's a massive topic, especially when you consider how much is in the WCAG guidelines.

I'm working an in-depth tutorial that looks at WCAG and Storyline in a lot more detail, but it's taking me a long time to write due to the huge amount that it needs to cover.

If you want to be notified when it's ready, you can sign up for my tutorials here. Note that you will also get an email when I publish other Storyline related tutorials. 

Nicole Legault

Thanks for pointing that out, Erin.

Thank you for your thoughtful and helpful comment Matthew. Thank you for sharing that information! Good points and great idea about using the translation feature. 

In addition to making a course work well with screen readers, e-learning developers who want to create accessible courses also should consider users with

  • auditory disabilities (provide captions for all audio)
  • motor skill problems (avoid timed quizzes, make courses fully keyboard accessible)
  • partially sighted users (use high contrast, clear fonts, avoid using colors only to convey information such as right/wrong) 

and more...

From what I know so far (and I still have much to learn) the key to creating accessible courses is to plan for and think about accessibility before you even start building in your authoring tool. You want to write content and select activities that are accessibility friendly.

Brandon > with regards to your question: Are there any existing documents/manuals, by Articulate or otherwise, that actually walk you through the process of creating accessible/508-compliant courses from start to finish?

There is quite a bit of existing documentation regarding WCAG, 508, and general accessibility tips and guidelines available to you:

Here are a few additional links that I've found useful 

Additionally, stay tuned to the community because I've got a whole series of articles related to accessibility in the works that will tackle many topics including instructional design tips for accessible courses. 

These resources will teach you many of the key things you need to do to make your courses accessible, but it's more than just adding ALT text and fixing tab order. There are instructional design decisions you need to consider along the way to ensure it's successful and to make it a positive/pleasant experience for all disabled learners. It's hard to give ONE prescriptive way to create accessible e-learning because it depends on many factors and variables. 

Matthew Bibby
Nicole Legault

Additionally, stay tuned to the community because I've got a whole series of articles related to accessibility in the works that will tackle many topics including instructional design tips for accessible courses. 

I look forward to these. Thanks Nicole.