As per the World Health Organization, more than one billion people in the world live with some type of disability. One of the most common forms of learning challenges today is in the form of neurodiversity, affecting around 20-25% of the population to some degree if you include dyslexia and autism in this group. As a result, there’s a high probability that you’ll have at least one learner with special needs learner in your eLearning audience.
As an instructional designer or course developer it is your responsibility to ensure that everyone experiences your eLearning program in a positive and equally engaging way.
Designing your training with accessibility standards in mind is not only sound instructional design it is also becoming a requirement by most clients.
Let’s review seven disabilities and ways you can create a more accessible course based on each disability. Please note that there may be overlap with disabilities and essentially all tips are good eLearning practice so feel free to use them all when designing your next course.
1. People living with epilepsy
- Avoid using animations/GIFs that are too flashy.
- Avoid videos that have strobe lights or flashing and include a warning at the beginning of the video sequence if it is absolutely necessary to have flashing as part of the learning program.
2. People living with visual impairments or who are blind
- Make use of simple, bold fonts that are at least 20pt in size.
- Utilize colors that don’t contrast excessively. If you use a white background, dark grey text instead of black text is preferred. By avoiding high-contrast colors, your text is less taxing to the eyes. Test all contrasts in question using an online contrast checking tool.
- Apply the heading settings (e.g., H1, H2, etc.). These come in handy when a learner navigates the page, and they’re also recognized by most screen readers.
- Add an alt text description for every image. Your alt text must be an accurate description of the image since screen readers rely on alt text to explain what an image portrays.
- Consider using described videos for any course videos you wish to include. You can use text to speech programs to save cost of a narrator.
- Learners with visual impairment rely on screen readers to transcribe text and define what’s on the screen. So, restrain from using drop-down lists, drag and drop, or any branching interactions where possible, since screen readers usually don’t catch them.
- Test all content using online free screen reader simulators.
3. People living with dyslexia
- Make use of a bold font instead of italics to highlight a word or sentence in your notes. Italics can make words and letters seem distorted and difficult to read.
- Ensure a lot of white space when designing your course. Consider adding 2 spaces between paragraphs and keeping them short. This keeps text sections distinct from each other.
- Present text in a linear format – Avoid multi-column presentation of content as screen readers do not read content effectively when it is presented randomly.
4. People living with a hearing impairment or who are deaf
- All videos and narrated content must have error-free and perfectly coordinated captions included.
- Consider adding written transcriptions. Learners can use these transcriptions to make notes and revise content.
- If budget allows, consider hiring an ASL translator and include ASL captioning throughout the program.
5. People living with limited dexterity
- To make your videos safe and disability-friendly, set up your slides and videos so that the learners can pause/play the video using the keyboard or mouse. For people using a mouth stick, pressing the spacebar is a lot simpler than pressing the left click on the small mouse to pause a video.
- Avoid the use of language that says “Click here to learn more”. Instead use “Select to learn more”. Some learners will not be using a mouse to click on the screen contents.
- Make buttons large enough to select and any actionable content easy to access for learners who may have unsteady hands.
- Avoid drag and drop activities and instead create select and select or use new and innovative ways to get learners to interact with content.
6. People living with other neurodiverse needs
- Design lessons in ten-minute “chunks” for people who have ADHD or cannot attend for long periods of time.
- Consider using knowledge checks every learning “chunk” to break up content and provide an interactive opportunity for maximum engagement.
- Avoid two-step exercises or questions that are overly complicated in your quizzes.
- Ensure the course is set up so navigation is easy to follow and intuitive to understand.
- Avoid confusing branching where possible.
- Include a help slide or course navigation legend.
7. People living with multiple disabilities
- Ensure technical support email and or phone number is available at all times from a contact tab in the interface in case learners run into issues.
- Create a full print version of the course complete with slide-by slide scripts so the learner can follow offline or when viewing the course module.
- Invite real world feedback with surveys post module/course.
At Media Learning Systems, we design our courses with ALL learners in mind, taking into account learning styles, accessible standards and ways to make learning material more interactive and engaging. For more information on our methods or to have a one-on-one consult with our learning expert, please use the contact form below.