While developing the storyboards for an eLearning course for one of our government clients, I ran into a challenge: how can I make this as interactive and engaging as possible while still conforming to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines? Because the courses had a very large and broad audience, and the modules were being created for those receiving government services, accessibility was a priority.
Creating accessible eLearning is relatively easy, and the only limit on interactivity is your own imagination, but how do we combine the two effectively? I was using Articulate Storyline, and many of the interactions are difficult if not impossible to make accessible, like drag and drop, hover areas, or zoom areas.
There’s no one single answer to making interactive content that is also accessible, but here are some tips:
- Stick to the guidelines. Follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) (Official link: http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG/ easie,r to use unofficial checklist at http://webaim.org/standards/wcag/checklist). These not only ensure that your course will be accessible, they are also good guidelines for any elearning course. The basic things to remember are to make sure the learner can control navigation and audio, and to make sure all content and instructions can be both read and listened to. For audio specifically, this document produced by Jill Stanton is a great set of guidelines: Audio in eLearning.
- Find out what is wanted and needed. Depending on the audience or client, you might not always have to make one course that is accessible to all. Check to see if you can accommodate learners with special needs in other ways. Determine what level of WCAG must be met.
- Engage the learners in other ways. Get the learner to interact with the content in ways the don’t involve clicking, dragging, or hovering on a screen. Explore non-elearning options that are interactive, like focus groups, panel discussions, skits, case studies, and “speed dating” presentations. If learning in an electronic format is needed, try other forms of online learning engagement like social media, webinars, or online forums.
- Use the right tools. Use development tools that support screen readers and other accessibility accommodations. For instance, Captivate has better support for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements and is more flexible and robust for creating accessible courses.
Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3. Test your course as much as you can. This will give you the most information about how accessible your course is. Even try testing it as a learner with a disability by wearing a blindfold or headphones and seeing how much learning you retain.