Accessibility is making sure that the learning material you’re creating is usable by as many people as possible, regardless of their ability. When designing remote learning, you want to make sure you consider those who are hearing, vision, cognitively, or mobility impaired. This will make learning materials more impactful by making them available to a broader audience. Not to mention, if your learning materials are not accessible by everyone, you could be legally responsible for failing to provide all your employees an equal opportunity to succeed. Here are some ways to make sure your learning materials are accessible from the start of the design phase.
Provide transcripts or subtitles for audio
Whether you are creating your own instructional videos in house, using video clips from a third party vendor for learning, or recording internal podcasts, you want to make sure that they provide accurate captions for those who are hearing impaired for all audio files. One affordable way to do this is to privately upload your video to YouTube and use their automatic captioning feature and then make any necessary corrections to ensure accuracy. You can also play back audio files and get automatic captions using a couple of free tools: Google Docs Voice Typing feature or Otter.ai (which will listen to and transcribe up to 40 minutes of audio for free at a time). For a monthly fee, you can upload audio files to Otter.ai, rather than having to play them back. You can also hire a transcription service to create accurate captions for your audio materials. A couple of the most popular transcription services are Scribie and Rev. You can also write scripts for instructional videos and use those as captions after recording.
Make sure visuals have options for screen reader technology
For the visually impaired, you want to make sure that they have equal access to materials when using a screen reader to help them consume content. A screen reader is a tool that reads content out loud for someone who is vision impaired. You should avoid image-based PDFs in your learning materials. Adobe has released a great resource on how to format your PDFs in a way that will ensure that those using Jaws or Window-Eyes can make sense of PDF documents. This includes creating a proper reading order in the PDF. Sometimes items in a PDF can be designed all over a page, and the system doesn’t know what should be read first. You may have to edit PDFs to optimize this reading order for screen readers. Additionally, if you have images with text in PDFs, you can run optical character recognition so that those images can be turned into words that can be recognized by a screen reader. Finally, for all materials, your photos should contain alt text. Alt text is an attribute used in HTML to describe graphics. Screen readers can read these to the visually impaired so that even if they can’t see an image, they can still understand the meaning behind its use.
Allow learners to take their time
Learners with cognitive impairment can become mentally fatigued quickly and may require greater effort to retain information. For this reason, you should never use timed quizzes or tests without a specific reason tied to the learning objective. Time constraints like these can be stressful, even for those who are not cognitively impaired. You should also break up the content so that learners can take breaks between remote learning modules or lessons. Some learners have difficulty sitting through long periods of instruction without a break, and it becomes difficult for them to focus. Even if you are providing synchronous, remote instruction, you can time stretch breaks or restroom breaks. Provide learners multiple ways to access the information. Do you have a video explaining a concept? Maybe provide that information in an infographic as well. Allowing people to access information in multiple formats increases retention.
Be careful of your colors
Did you know that in the U.S. alone, approximately 7% of men either cannot distinguish red from green, or see red and green differently from how others do? That means that if you have 500 males working in your organization, 35 of them may have this form of colorblindness! It’s incredibly important to be careful of the contrast you use when creating remote learning presentations, PDFs, and more. We’ve all had trouble reading the yellow font on a white background, so this is another best practice that is good for everybody. The WebAIM Contrast Checker is a free internet tool that allows you to enter in the colors of both your text and your background to gauge their accessibility.
Refer to the Universal Design for Learning guidelines
The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines provide a framework to guide the design of instruction that makes designers think about the choices they make and ensure that they are considering all ability levels. These guidelines are based on scientific insight on how people learn. They challenge those who design learning material to provide multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression. They are perfect for those creating remote learning.
Verasana considers accessibility when working on projects with our clients. We can help you make your learning accessible to all by putting it in on their mobile device. Request a demo for more information.