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Accessibility and Inclusivity in eLearning

As the world experiences an expedited shift towards remote work and learning in recent years, it’s more important than ever to ensure that all possible clients and users are able to receive the full benefit of any given material. In this post, we’ll examine two major factors – accessibility and inclusivity – as they relate to eLearning and offer some pointers you can use to make sure no one is left out.

A laptop with Braille keyboard

Accessibility vs Inclusivity – What’s the Difference?

Accessibility: Creating products usable by everyone

Inclusivity: Creating material that understands user diversity

Despite these differing definitions, accessibility and inclusivity should be considered under one umbrella when designing eLearning. In most cases, steps taken towards one will also positively impact the other. For example, providing pause/replay content buttons in your course improves its operability and overall user experience, while also offering a helping hand to users who are hard of hearing.

Accessibility and inclusivity should never be afterthoughts, particularly as roughly 1 in 4 Canadians has some form of disability.

Inclusive and Accessible Design

According to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a course should meet four key criteria at its most basic level: it should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. These factors also applyt to visual design and functionality. Take perceivability as an example: you want to strive not only for organized, distinguishable content with carefully chosen colours and layout, but for extensive accessibility options built into the content (e.g, closed captioning, narration). WCAG 2.2 is currently expected to be released in 2022, but existing versions are a great tool to help you improve your material’s accessibility.

Inclusive, Thoughtful Language

It may not be noticeable at first glance, but even the most typical statements and phrasing used in online courses can be damaging to accessibility and inclusivity. For example, take the prompt “refer to the green box for instructions”. It’s straightforward and helpful to most users but could cause problems for colour blind readers. When considering the implications of your word choice on this level, you need to go beyond permanent disabilities, too; ideally, you want every base to be covered. This means reworking your lexicon to avoid excluding those with temporary situational disadvantages as well. It may seem pertinent to tell your users to click, but using select in its place will accommodate everyone using a keyboard rather than a mouse – from those with muscular dystrophy to those who lent their mouse to their child.

Looking for more help on how to make your eLearning more accessible? Download our free eBook now:

The Future of Accessibility and Inclusivity

Accessibility and inclusivity are wide-ranging concepts that apply to wheelchair lifts, subtitles, and religious holidays in equal measure – and everything in between. Inside and outside of the technology sector, society can and should be prioritizing advancements in this area to ensure everyone can benefit. Great strides are being made currently as we transition to an even more online-dependent workforce.

A shining example of accessibility and inclusivity in video games.
One of The Last of Us Part II’s accessibility modes offers high contrast, magnified visuals clearly identifying the player character and enemy in blue and red respectively.

Just last year, Seattle studio Naughty Dog broke down a huge barrier in terms of video games, with The Last of Us Part II offering an unprecedented list of accessibility options to players of all sorts, including visual aids, audio clues, and text-to-speech. This staggering ambition is a mere glimpse into what will be possible in the future and should be looked to as inspiration when deciding how to be inclusive in eLearning.

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