Accessibility considerations in elearning design. Creating inclusive elearning experiences.

I recall a stakeholder once saying “Why do we need tab interactions, all of our staff can use a mouse?”  Eeeek.  It was 2009 folks. Elearning has evolved a lot over the last few decades, and thankfully, so has the desire for most organisations to ensure that those elearning experiences are accessible.

It’s essential that elearning  is accessible to all learners, regardless of their abilities. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 is the quintessential rulebook on elearning design when seeking to create inclusive learning experiences.  Already comfortable instilling WCAG 2.1 guidelines in your elearning courses?  This article is probably not for you.

For us here at Lucid, web accessibility has been a journey and we’re always seeking to improve our elearning’s accessibility.

We wanted to share some simple but important things you can do to improve the design of your elearning.  Get these things right and you’ll be well on your way to having a user-friendly, clean, and accessible design.

Image of keyboard with accessibility keys.

Text alternatives for images and videos

Providing text alternatives for non-text content, such as images, videos, and audio files, is crucial for learners who are visually impaired or rely on screen readers. Adding descriptive alt text and captions enables everyone to understand the content, ensuring a seamless learning experience. All elearning development tools provide the ability to add descriptive alt text to images. 

Content structure and navigation

Structuring your pages and navigation intuitively simplifies content comprehension for learners with visual impairments or cognitive disabilities. To do this, use heading tags (H1, H2, etc.), lists, and meaningful link text to enhance readability and enable users to navigate efficiently through the content. Most elearning tools such as Articulate Storyline allow you to use standard “Heading 1” and “Heading 2” styles to support this goal.  This is one of those ‘clean design’ activities that makes all the difference.

Colour contrast

Ensuring sufficient colour contrast between text and background is vital for learners with visual impairments or colour vision deficiencies. Use colour contrast tools such as the WebAIM Contrast Checker to verify that text is easily readable and distinguishable from its background.  

Another tip is to avoid relying solely on colour to convey information; supplement it with other visual cues. For example, avoid instructions like “Select the red button to close this window” and label your buttons in a way that is not dependant on colour. 

Keyboard accessibility

Many learners rely on keyboards or alternative input devices instead of a mouse. Ensuring keyboard accessibility allows these users to navigate, interact, and complete activities effectively. Avoid using elements that can only be operated by a mouse or touch gestures, and ensure all interactive elements are accessible via keyboard navigation. So as fancy as they seem, if the ‘drag and drop’ activity you are creating isn’t keyboard-friendly, maybe go for something else in the elearning design toolkit.

Multimedia and transcripts

When incorporating multimedia elements like videos or audio, provide synchronised captions or transcripts. This aids learners with hearing impairments, allows for comprehension in noisy environments, and assists those who prefer reading over listening. The cool part is there’s so much software available now that can do this for you.

Clear and concise content

Creating content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand benefits learners with cognitive disabilities or those whose first language is not the one used in the course. Our tips are to use plain and simple language where possible, avoid jargon and acronyms, and provide explanations or examples to enhance comprehension.  More often than not, simply adhering to your organisations brand guidelines and brand voice can help you with this one.

Summary

Designing elearning content with WCAG accessibility considerations is not only an ethical responsibility, but it also enhances the learning experience for all individuals.

Even following these simple tips can make a huge impact on the quality of your elearning design. And by following the guidelines, you will ensure that all learners can access and benefit from elearning content equally.

Accessibility is a continuous journey, and staying informed about evolving WCAG guidelines and best practices is crucial to creating inclusive elearning. 

At Lucid, embedding WCAG accessibility guidelines is a standard in all our custom elearning courses.  We can also assist with developing elearning standards for your organisation that are consistent with WCAG2.1 Level AA AND complement your brand and environment.  Get in touch to find out more.

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