It’s a dilemma many instructional designers face: sacrifice interactivity or 508 compliance. It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation, even if budgets and timelines dictate rapid development. Instructional designers must find a way to substitute eyes and ears for those with vision, hearing and mobility disabilities. You can design and develop one set of courseware for use by those who need accessibility features and those who don’t.
5 Pitfalls to Avoid
- Lack of Keyboard Navigation – Every move a learner can make with a mouse must have an equivalent keyboard action. The Tab key enables learners to move from field to field, so order your interactive elements in way that makes sense to those who must tab. The more keyboard shortcuts you build into the courseware, the more you improve the learning experience. It’s easy to overlook media controls, button and checkbox controls and menu controls, all of which should be accessible from the keyboard.
- Empty Metadata Fields – Oh, those pesky <alt> tags! Are your <alt> tags descriptive, or have you taken the easy way out? In addition to images, add tags to objects, text boxes, links and captions.
- Bad Timing – Have you given all learners time to respond? You might need to slow down response time. Read aloud slowly all the text and all the choices in a quiz. Then leave enough time to formulate and answer the question.
- Consistent Navigation – Consistent navigation is even more important to disabled learners than it is to those without disabilities.
- Test with Accessibility Features Turned On – Enable your computer’s accessibility features when you test for 508 compliance.
Walk a Mile in Your eLearners’ Shoes
In most instances, custom eLearning needs to be accessible to learners who are visually or hearing impaired and/or challenged with mobility, and that includes interactivity. Testing is the most important tool in your arsenal; test from the perspective of each of the above disabilities by putting yourself in the place of the learner or recruiting learners with disabilities to test the courseware. Relying solely on authoring software to indicate compliance (think back-of-the-box marketing hype) is not a winning strategy.
If your company is dipping a toe into the 508-compliant waters for the first time (or any other standards, such as scorm), consider working with a qualified consultant who has experience in 508 compliance as a way to ensure rapid and accessible eLearning development.