The Accessibility Journey

Award statues and

Accessibility is typically about providing the ability to access a building, a vehicle or a service. In our world of online eLearning courses, accessibility means enabling all learners to engage with a course in the way they need and prefer in order to gain the insights and skills presented.

As I began to learn about accessibility, a colleague asked me the important question, “Can any learner use your eLearning and gain the outcomes without barriers that alter their learning and diminish their takeaways?” But the light bulb really went off when she told me about the week she spent helping a sight-impaired colleague go through all the assigned training courses. Hearing her describe how she had to explain what was happening on screen, how much her colleague missed, who the people in the video were, and so many other gaps made me truly understand how important this matter is.

According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report, there are 9 million active workers with a disability. That equates to about 5% of the workforce. Many experts suggest that the number is closer to 10%. (This could be due to undisclosed disabilities.)

When considering online training, this means that between 5 and 10% of the people in your organization may be excluded from gaining the outcomes from an eLearning course. How is that inclusive? Not to mention, how is it good for the bottom line? Accessibility matters, and it’s becoming even more important as companies strive to ensure that no one is excluded.

Fortunately, there are standards that suggest what truly accessible courses should provide. Accessibility can mean creating a course that allows the successful use of technology like a screen reader or downloading a PDF transcript to read rather than play a video. PDFs can be checked for color contrast and the ability to be read with a screen reader.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 give us approaches we should follow when creating our eLearning courses. We have commissioned a number of WCAG audits and have recreated our courses to comply with these guidelines. The most important step has been to get past our own aesthetics and stylistic choices to understand issues of accessibility from a user’s perspective.

Creating accessible courses helps us better serve our clients and there are legal implications and economic benefits, but more importantly, it’s the right thing to do. It’s an action step to put our good intentions for inclusivity into action.

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