This post was guest authored by Julie Grundy.
You might not have realised this before, but accessibility and eLearning make a great pair. The advantages of eLearning make education and training easier for people with disabilities, while building accessible digital training products makes it easier for everyone to learn.
One of the key advantages of eLearning over traditional training delivery is that it lets people study at a time and place which suits them. No more competing for parking on a crowded campus, or juggling public transport schedules.
The Advantages of eLearning for People with Disability
What's convenient for most people transforms into a large benefit to people with disabilities. If you hate looking for parking, imagine competing for one of the very few disabled parking spots available. And for folks who have mobility impairments, like wheelchair users, public transport can be even more difficult to manage.
By studying at home or while at work, people with disabilities also get to use their own computer and equipment instead of whatever is provided by their lecturer or trainer. Most folks with a disability customise their computers to suit their specific needs – they might use screen reader software, or a large print keyboard.
And being able to study at your own pace gives much better results than being hurried through content in a group. This is particularly useful for people with disabilities who need more time to navigate written materials.
eLearning makes it easier for people with disabilities to upskill and keep up to date on new material in their area of expertise.
The advantages flow both ways, though!
Increased Usability for Every Learner
When eLearning providers implement inclusive design, they're not just making education more available to people with disabilities. Many accessibility requirements, such as WCAG 2.1, increase the usability of digital products for a wide range of people.
For example, people with some types of vision impairment need strong, contrasting colours on their text to make it easier to see and read. The same goes for charts and graphs, which can be confusing if you can't distinguish one set of data from another. But following contrast recommendations also makes content look better when it's printed out on cheap black and white machines.
Another bonus is captions on videos. These are essential for people who are Deaf or have hearing impairments, but are also really useful for people who left their headphones at home that day and don't want to disturb everyone around them. Making a site that works with keyboards and switch buttons means that it will also work on your laptop if you don't have a mouse plugged in and (like most people) find trackpads fiddly to use.
An accessible design that works with assistive technology, like screen reader software or high contrast themes, is also more robust. It means that your modules will look just as good on your desktop, tablet, phone or internet-enabled fridge, if that's where you like to do your learning.
Matt Stejer, a Learning Designer at Savv-e, has witnessed firsthand the ways in which accessible design can help to enhance the learning itself. Through his work, he’s seen the benefits of inclusivity standards for every type of learner, and made this observation on a recent project:
“An improvement to our coding quality was the biggest takeaway from creating eLearning experiences that conform to AA accessibility standards. Not only do the standards make an eLearning package more robust and useable, they also tie strongly into development best practices – lowering our overall troubleshooting and bug fixing time.”
So, accessibility and eLearning are natural partners, each method supporting and improving the other. More people are able to learn in a way that suits them best – and isn't that the goal of all our efforts?
To improve the accessibility of your learning content, download the Savv-e eLearning Accessibility Checklist here.