When talking about e-learning accessibility, it’s hard for most people to imagine what it’s like for a disabled person to navigate the internet. It might seem that accessing any platform is the same for everyone.
For example, you might think that online courses are already inclusive since people can take them from the comfort of their homes. So they’re not missing out, right?
As a knowledge entrepreneur, if you fall into this way of thinking, you might lose learners.
On the one hand, people with disabilities indeed have more chances of participating online than in-person at learning events, classes, etc. On the other hand, they still need adjustments.
You’d think that the pandemic is an opportunity for them to be present at all sorts of online happenings. However, millions are still left behind due to a lack of accommodations, such as close captions for videos.
According to WHO, about 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability, and vision disability occupies a spot in the top 10 afflictions for US adults. Just because they have an internet connection, it doesn’t mean that they can use it properly.
Neglecting these aspects can hurt your business, and it’s also required by law to make accessible Internet content, including online courses.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) helps everyone, including web developers and content creators, to design more accessible websites and content. The standards are recognized internationally, so they’re not limited to English-speaking users.
For e-learning, we’re going to discuss two major ways to make accessible online courses:
- Website design and structure: your learning management system (LMS) is your ally in this case, so I’ve detailed a few accessibility features;
- Online course content: creating text, image, video, and audio items that are accessible to all users.
The second part is the subject of another post, so stay tuned for more! Today, we’re going to learn what an LMS needs in order to be accessible for all learners.
5 LMS accessibility features
Users with disabilities don’t need a separate platform. Your learning platform can accommodate them just fine with high-contrast themes, as an example. So consider accessibility features when choosing an LMS or learn more about what you can do with what you already have. Let’s see some common options:
Screen reader compatibility
The LMS must support screen readers such as VoiceOver and JAWS. You don’t have to set things up yourself, but it’s good to be aware of which reader-browser combinations work best for your LMS so you can guide learners if there are any issues.
If you’re curious about how screen readers work, here’s a great demo given by Mark Sutton on the University of California San Francisco’s YouTube page.
Landmarks identify sections of a page, such as your main portal page, learner dashboard, and course pages. The screen reader will simply do its job and read them for users.
That’s not all, as they also help them go to different page sections or “regions”: main navigation, search, content info, etc.
Skip to content link
When navigating through a page, the “skip to content” link is a significant improvement for any website. Users can usually find this link at the beginning of each page, so it’s easy to go to the main content instead of reading all the elements on a page. Imagine how time-consuming it can be otherwise for them.
Keyboard shortcuts enable learners to navigate using the keyboard since not everyone can use a mouse. The main rule here is that they shouldn’t get stuck on any part of the website. They have to be able to navigate seamlessly, forward and backward. People with limited mobility should also use their keyboards to control other elements, such as the media player.
Accessibility themes are high contrast themes that learners with disabilities can select themselves. They’re more suitable for users with low vision who otherwise would have difficulty reading and tire more easily. They contain underlined links, which are pretty handy since they’re more visible.
Accessibility is a right, not a “nice to have” afterthought. As a course entrepreneur or an aspiring one, it’s your job to make your courses as accessible as possible. The LMS is your ally since you don’t need much to create learning content that all users can enjoy.
Next time we’ll explore a few practical tips on how to create accessible e-learning content. So keep an eye on the INDIE Blog!
Ioana believes that learning doesn’t stop when school stops. When she is not writing about learning and ed tech, she can usually be seen reading a book and drinking lots of coffee.