As instructional designers, many of us have learned how important it is to create accessible e-learning. While prioritizing accessibility seems like a no-brainer to many people, some stakeholders might tell you to skip it to save time, money, or both. Others might tell you none of the learners have a disability, so there’s no need.
But because digital accessibility is basically digital equality, it’s important we advocate for accessibility and educate our stakeholders on its importance. But how exactly do you navigate those potentially tricky conversations? We’ve got you covered! Read on to learn how.
1. Share the Facts
The first step in discussing accessibility with project stakeholders is to share relevant facts. Here are some talking points to get you started:
- Disabilities are more prevalent than you might think. Did you know that 15% of the global population lives with a disability? That’s a large portion of employees who won’t get the full benefit of the course if it isn’t accessible.
- Over 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment. Creating training with things like alt text, appropriate color contrast, or screen reader compatibility helps those learners access and fully experience our e-learning.
- By adding closed captions to our videos and audio files, we can make sure learners with hearing impairments don’t miss out. And since 1 in 4 people is projected to have hearing problems by 2050, captions will make a huge difference to our learners.
- Just because someone doesn’t tell us they have a disability or we can’t see that they have a disability doesn’t mean they don’t have one. Around 61% of individuals with disabilities don’t disclose them to their manager. We also have to take invisible disabilities into consideration—for example, in the United States, 10% of the population is estimated to have an invisible disability. If we assume our audience doesn’t include anyone with disabilities, we’re almost certainly wrong.
- Situational disabilities impact everyone. For example, an eye injury can temporarily make it difficult to read text, or a broken hand in a cast can make using a mouse a challenge. You’ve likely benefited from accessibility accommodations yourself. Have you ever tried watching a video in a noisy environment and then turned on closed captions? If the video didn’t include closed captions you would’ve been out of luck!
The goal here is to help them see that everyone benefits from accessibility accommodations and that making small tweaks to your courses can have a huge impact.
2. Don’t Just Tell Them—Show Them
While facts can be powerful and eye-opening, sometimes people have to see it to believe it. Take color contrast, for example—it’s a lot easier to emphasize the difficulties low contrast causes if you can show an example instead of describing it. So after you’ve shared the facts with your stakeholders, show them examples to demonstrate what a big difference accessible design makes.
Don’t have time to create your own example? Don’t sweat it—just use the one included here. It shows how important contrast is when it comes to being able to see and read content.
Want to learn more about color contrast? Check out this article for other examples: Contrast Considerations for Accessible E-Learning.
3. Discuss the Business Case
There’s a strong business case for creating accessible e-learning, but it might not be obvious to your stakeholders. Here are a couple of things to point out:
- Accessible e-learning increases the reach of your training. As we mentioned earlier, 15% of the global population lives with a disability. Ask your stakeholders if they can afford to leave 15% of their employees without training. I’m guessing the answer is no.
- Training is more effective when it’s accessible. If a learner can’t hear, see, or interact with the content, the key lessons and concepts are likely to get completely lost. And since the goal of training is to increase performance—you want to be sure it’s hitting the mark.
- Training can impact the company’s bottom line. If your training only reaches a portion of your employees, costly or dangerous workplace mistakes might be made. You’ll also end up spending more money by having to train learners who couldn’t access the course using other methods, like instructor-led training, which is more costly.
- If all else fails, it doesn’t hurt to remind your stakeholders that creating accessible e-learning is not just wise but, in some cases, a legal requirement.
These points may be obvious to many instructional designers, but if your stakeholders are hesitant to embrace accessibility, chances are this is the first time they’re hearing this information.
4. Connect Accessibility with Company Values
Now that you’ve covered the facts, examples, and the business case, it’s time to bring values into the mix. Accessibility is an important part of creating an inclusive learning experience. We all deserve fair and equitable opportunities, which means giving everyone the ability to learn without barriers. Creating accessible courses shows that you care about each learner’s experience with training.
Most organizations have a mission, vision, or values statement. Take a look at yours and see what it says. Does your company say it values inclusion or is committed to treating everyone equally? If so, you can reinforce to your stakeholders that accessible e-learning helps you live up to this.
5. Display Confidence
If your stakeholders are still feeling apprehensive about creating accessible e-learning due to perceived difficulty or expense, remind them they’re in good hands! You’re the one creating the course and you know what you’re doing. Showcase your skills and express how confident you are in your ability to build an accessible course. Take charge and reassure your stakeholders that the project will stay on track and on budget.
Thankfully, many of today’s authoring apps take some of the accessibility weight off course authors with accessible features. For example, if you’re working with Storyline 360 or Rise 360, a lot of the accessibility features you need are automatically built in, which makes your job as an instructional designer that much easier.
Not feeling quite so confident in your ability to create accessible e-learning? Don’t worry—we’ve got your back. We’ve got tons of resources on creating accessible e-learning here: All About Accessibility.
Advocating for e-learning accessibility can be intimidating. But by implementing the strategies outlined in this article, your stakeholders are sure to see how it can benefit everyone involved.
Want more where this came from? Check out the following articles for more tips and tricks on creating e-learning for everyone:
- What Is Inclusive E-Learning and Why Does It Matter?
- Understanding WCAG: A Quickstart Guide for E-Learning Developers
- Our Top Section 508 Compliance Resources for E-Learning
- 5 Formatting Tips for Creating Dyslexia-Friendly E-Learning
- “But It’s to Code”: Thoughts on Accessibility in E-Learning