E-learning accessibility: definition, best practices and more

In the US alone, 1 in every 4 adults is living with a disability. So, how can you ensure that all your teams can access and understand your digital corporate training materials? That’s where e-learning accessibility comes in.

By Inês Pinto on Jul 15th

What is “accessible e-learning” and why is it important?

Whether you’re an SME creating your first e-learning course or you’re a seasoned L&D manager with years of experience developing online learning materials, you might not be sure how to respond when someone asks you if your e-learning content is accessible. What exactly does that mean?

To put it simply, accessibility in e-learning means that your content is designed with all learns in mind – including those with visual, auditory, physical, or learning disabilities. Let’s consider a standard e-learning experience: a learner logs onto your LMS, clicks on the e-learning course they want to take, watches the video you’ve embedded in your course, and uses their mouse to click through the screens and submit their answer to the hotspot question at the end.

But what if this learner had hearing loss issues? Would they be able to understand the content of the video you embedded in your course? Or, what if they were visually impaired? Would they be able to navigate your course with their keyboard and a screen reader? These are some examples of what you need to consider when designing accessible e-learning.

Make your e-learning accessible

Check out our free guide to discover how you can start creating WCAG compliant e-learning with ease.

Why accessibility in online learning is important

There are a few reasons why you should consider accessibility when creating your next e-learning course:

  • Accessibility creates a better learning experience for all

Although accessibility is often related to disability, the truth is that all learners can benefit from more accessible training content. When online trainings meet e-learning accessibility standards, all users are able to more easily understand, navigate, and interact with your e-learning content. This means your training and compliance programs will be more effective and better equip your team with the skills and information they need to perform at work.

  • Disability is more prevalent than you think

According to the CDC, 1 in 4 US adults live with a disability. And disability can come in many forms – it can be visual, auditory, physical, speech-related, learning, or cognitive. Additionally, employees dealing with a physical injury or experiencing the effects of aging may also deal with additional challenges that affect how they’re able to access your organization’s e-learning content. It’s important to keep these diverse needs in mind as you develop your internal L&D strategies.

  • E-learning accessibility is required by law

Since the introduction of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), companies have made significant strides to set up needed accommodations for people with disabilities in the workplace (such as larger bathroom stalls, wheelchair ramps, etc.). However, many organizations have yet to realize that the digital space is also covered by these laws. The ADA has been interpreted to include web accessibility, and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act clearly outlines standards that all organizations must follow to make their information and communications technologies (ICT) accessible to all users.

Best practices for creating accessible e-learning

Before you start creating accessible e-learning content, there are a few best practices and guidelines to keep in mind. Since accessibility is protected by law, there are clear guidelines that all e-learning content creators can follow to ensure their content is accessible for learners with disabilities. Following these guidelines will also ensure your organization’s compliance with Section 508.

WCAG 2.0 Principles and Guidelines

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) are a set of international standards of accessibility designed by the W3C. These standards are based on 4 core principles for web accessibility that state that all digital content must be:

  • Perceivable: Users must be able to identify content and interface elements with at least one of their senses.
  • Operable: Users must be able to use all controls, buttons, navigation options, and other interactive elements on a digital interface.
  • Understandable: Users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of a digital interface.
  • Robust: The digital content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

How to make e-learning accessible

Now you know more about web accessibility best practices and guidelines. But what does this mean for accessible e-learning design? If you’re ready to start creating accessible e-learning content, here are some things you can do to take the first steps:

Write accessible e-learning course content

  • Keep your language simple by avoiding industry jargon or complicated vocabulary
  • Write in simple, short, and clear sentences
  • Make sure your e-learning content flows in a cohesive way
  • Provide visual alternatives to text content to accommodate for different learning needs

Learn more e-learning writing tips.

Design accessible e-learning content

  • When hyperlinking text, avoid “click here” and, instead, hyperlink more descriptive text
  • Provide alt text to describe all images, diagrams, and graphs
  • Avoid flickering visual content that may put learners at risk of seizures
  • Check color contrasts to ensure all your learners can clearly see your content
  • Make sure all information presented with color is also available without color
  • Provide captions or transcripts for multimedia content such as video and audio

Develop accessible e-learning courses

  • Use a font size that is large enough for learners with poorer vision to see
  • Avoid e-learning activities with time restrictions and make sure all multimedia elements can be paused so learners can go at their own pace
  • Ensure your course navigation is clear and easy to access
  • Avoid drop-down menus as screen readers may interpret them as one object
  • Utilize a responsive course design so your e-learning courses can be accessed on mobile devices
  • Use HTML tags to organize your content

Start creating accessible e-learning content with Easygenerator

At Easygenerator, we want to empower our learners with an accessible, seamless, and enjoyable e-learning experience. That’s why we’ve developed our e-learning authoring tool to support WCAG 2.0 and Section 508 accessibility standards.

So, when you’re creating your e-learning courses and resources with our tool you can count on built-in accessibility features to ensure all your learners can access and understand your training content:

  • Color contrast: All 12 design themes in our All-in-One template provide sufficient contrast between text color and its background.
  • Keyboard navigation: Learners can access and navigate our courses with the tab key on a keyboard, without using a mouse. For keyboard navigation, we’ve also ensured all components receive focus in an order that preserves meaning and operability.
  • Alt text: You can add alt text to all images so screen readers can read it aloud for your learners.
  • And more!

Ready to create accessible e-learning content?

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About the author

Inês Pinto is the content manager at Easygenerator. Originally from Portugal, she grew up in Canada and the US before returning to Europe to complete her university studies. She currently resides in Rotterdam with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.

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