Getting started with accessibility for online learning


Hi Tim,

I am an instructional designer and recently was asked to start developing e-learning content. Although I have created instructional videos, interactive online learning is new to me. It has become increasingly important for our organization to ensure that our online learning content is accessible, which I think is great; However, as I begin to research the ins and outs of creating accessible online learning content, I am overwhelmed with all the rules and guidelines.

What are the basics I should know to create accessible e-learning?

Thanks for reaching out! First of all, good for you and your organization for investing the time and consideration in creating accessible e-learning content. This is extremely important, and it’s our job to make sure that our digital learning content is easily accessible to all of our learners.

Accessibility can be overwhelming depending on the guidelines you are looking for. If you look at the Section 508 or WCAG guidelines, they primarily refer to guidelines that apply to websites. Therefore, it is not always easy to interpret how these guidelines apply when designing interactive e-learning with tools like Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, Lectora, or Rise.

So how can you start creating accessible online learning content that meets certain minimum requirements? Here are my top tips:

# 1: check out the accessibility features of your online learning authoring tool

My first tip is to take a little time to explore the accessibility features available to your online training creation tool. Accessibility is a huge topic right now, so all of the major eLearning authoring tools including Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, Lectora, and Rise
, offer dedicated pages to explain their accessibility features. Take the time to see what your tool is and is not capable of. Remember that no one tool will cover all accessibility needs.

# 2: start with the basics of accessibility

My second recommendation is to start with the minimum basics, which include captioning, ALT text, and tab order. If you can incorporate these basic features into your e-learning courses, it will at least help you get started.

Here are some quick definitions:

  • Subtitles. This on-screen text can be turned on and off so that hearing-impaired learners can read the text synchronized with the audio narration.
  • Text ALT. This descriptive text is added to images, graphics and other material for visually impaired learners through a screen reader.
  • Tab order. This is the order in which onscreen elements and interactive objects are selected for learners who navigate your course with a keyboard or screen reader.

# 3: accessibility test

My third and final tip is to test the accessibility of your courses. I am a big supporter of user acceptance testing, that is, when you enlist the help of your target audience to help you test your courses. If possible, connect with learners who can benefit from some of the accessibility features I mentioned above and have them help you test your lessons. This can help you better understand their specific needs.

Hope some of these tips can help you get started with some of the basics of accessibility for online learning. While that doesn’t cover everything you need to know, it’s a good place to start.

Good luck!


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