Learning professionals may be unaware of the legal requirement to create content that is accessible to everyone, including disabled people. There’s still a lot of confusion around the legislation and uncertainty about how to cater for everyone. But creating accessible content can improve the learning experience for everyone.
The Equality Act 2010 is the principal anti-discrimination law in the UK, bringing together over 116 separate pieces of legislation. It provides a legal framework which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society. It states that every organisation has a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ and that ‘an organisation cannot wait until a disabled person wants to use its services, but must think in advance (and on an ongoing basis) about what disabled people with a range of impairments might reasonably need’.
While this provides a clear mandate for organisations to make their online content accessible, there has been limited success tackling digital inequality and discrimination. There are several reasons for this, but the Act provides little clarity for an accepted benchmark for making digital content accessible. In 2018 this changed, with the introduction of the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations (PSBAR).
The PSBAR covers websites, intranets and extranets and any digital content held on them, including learning content, documents and presentations. It also applies to mobile applications. It applies to charities or NGOs which are mostly financed by public funding, or provide services which are either essential to the public or aimed at disabled people. The legislation also requires organisations to produce an accessibility statement.
These regulations are a huge step in making learning content accessible as the default and have significant implications for the charity sector. For organisations which are covered by the legislation, there is now a clear imperative to create accessible learning content, along with a benchmark for what should be considered best practice.
A strategy to help
Ensuring that eLearning content is accessible, meets legal requirements and benefits people with a range of different access needs can sometimes seem an impossible task – especially when you consider the different types of disabilities you need to be aware of. What can make things more manageable is breaking everything into four categories that cover digital access needs eg vision and hearing and motor and cognitive skills.
Here are some key things for each of these categories which everyone can do to make their eLearning content more accessible:
- Add alternative text to images.
- Make sure you use colours with good contrast for background and text.
- Don’t convey meaning using only colour (like green for correct and red for incorrect).
- Provide captions for videos.
- Provide transcripts for audio tracks like podcasts.
- Avoid background audio in video eg behind speech or audio tracks.
Motor skills considerations
- Make sure learners can use your resource using only a keyboard, not a mouse.
- Allow learners enough time to complete tasks, or do not set time limits.
- Use inclusive instructions, e.g. ‘select’ instead of ‘click’.
Cognitive skills considerations
- Use plain English and explain any complex vocabulary or abbreviations.
- Provide clear and consistent navigation.
- Allow learners to pause, stop or hide any moving elements.
That’s a good start, but remember there are 50 WCAG standards to meet for legal compliance. There are plenty of resources to help. I’ve included some useful links below – including one for my book Designing Accessible Learning Content, which I wrote to help eLearning professionals meet digital accessibility regulations.
- Designing Accessible Learning Content. A Practical Guide to Applying best-practice Accessibility Standards to L&D Resources Save 20% with code AHR20
- W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (2.1) Quick Reference
- WebAIM: Alternative text guidance
- WebAIM: colour contrast checker
- 3Play Media: Ultimate guide to closed captioning
- WebAIM: Guide to transcripts
- Web Accessibility Initiative: Keyboard Compatibility
- Hemingway Editor: Readability Checker
About Susi Miller
Susi Miller is an industry leading expert on accessible learning design and the founder and director of eLaHub. The author of Designing Accessible Learning Content (Kogan Page, 2021), Susi has more than 30 years L&D experience in the public, private and not-for-profit sector. She is a skilled instructional designer, eLearning accessibility trainer and a passionate advocate for digital accessibility.