When building a learning and development course, there are many factors to consider. Curating the correct content, creating engaging material, and tailoring to the needs of your learners should all be top priorities. But none should be more important than making sure your training aligns with accessibility compliance standards. After all, even the best training programs in the world are useless if not everyone can properly engage with them. When creating your next training program, keep in mind that accessibility is more than just availability—it’s also usability.
Over the past 40 years, the federal government has set standards for what accessibility means and how certain guidelines must be followed to create an equitable environment. The most important of these is Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (known colloquially as Section 508) compliance, which lays out clear guidelines that websites, learning platforms, and various other media must follow to ensure all people are able to properly interact with them. It can be easy to think that certain compliance “doesn’t apply” to you or your employees, but 508 doesn’t just focus on significant disabilities—it aims to help learners with minor visual disabilities, hearing loss, and many other impairments that your employees may have. Given that, it is necessary that you follow Section 508 compliance to create an equitable work environment. Here’s a more detailed look at the different sections of 508 compliance and why you should include them in each of your L&D projects.
Closed Captioning & Subtitles
Closed captioning and subtitles allow users who are hearing impaired to have a visual representation of videos accompanied by audio. This should be standard in all of your learning and development materials because it ensures that all audio content is universally accessible for your learners. Closed captions and subtitles not only make your training more accessible, but they also eliminate the need for headphones or other audio devices your employees may need to listen to the accompanied audio. Today, there are many programs that auto-generate subtitles, so there is little excuse for not including them in your L&D projects.
Screen Reader Capability
A screen reader is a form of assistive technology that converts on-screen text into either audio files or braille output. You can think of it as an inverse version of closed captioning and subtitles, and is used to help visually impaired learners interact with text. This accessibility is required under 508 compliance to accommodate for learners who have visual impairments, and can also be useful when accessing training on the go. Much like subtitles, screen reader capability is easy to access, so there should be no issue including it in your online training programs.
Skip Navigation Links
Depending on how your training is set up, this feature can be a must-have for users. Skipping navigation links provides the ability to use the keyboard to scroll through and select menu options as opposed to using a mouse. This is especially useful for users who have motor impairments and cannot use a mouse because it allows the user to navigate seamlessly without having to point and click. If your learning and development program has a large menu with many options, skipping navigation links is an important part of ensuring all your learners are able to access and browse content.
Alternative Image and Video Text
All visual elements, including images and videos, should be accompanied by alternative text. Alternative text gives context for videos and images and helps the visually impaired have a better understanding of the content they cannot see or cannot see well enough. Basically, alterative text is a description that clearly and concisely describes the image or video that is displayed. Many website creation services (Such as WordPress) have the option to directly provide alternative text, and L&D providers such as Dashe always give clients the option to include this in their training.
Every L&D program should offer ample time for all users to read information and complete required tasks. While it can be beneficial to put learners in pressure situations where they have limited time to complete sections, you still need to ensure that you are accommodating learners who have disabilities that may make it difficult or impossible to answer speedily. Timeouts allow users with impairments to have enough time to interact with materials.
Color schemes, page layouts, color allocation and contrast, and zoom features can all contribute to a positive experience for people with visual impairments. Furthermore, selecting the correct color schemes, patters, and contrast can all contribute to seizure avoidance, so don’t skip out on this step. More here.
When it comes to 508 compliance, your company needs to put the learner first. Accessibility compliance is all about equality and inclusion, and creating programs that are not suited for all your learners can create a host of issues. Learners who are not given the tools they need to succeed can spend excess time on training, experience a lack of motivation, and general disdain for management. As L&D professionals, it is our responsibly to vocalize the importance of inclusive accessibility compliance and ensure that it is built into each and every training program. To ensure that you are creating a strong learning culture in your organization, understand and implement 508 compliance standards, and stay-up-to date on the best ways to create an equitable learning environment.