What About Accessibility?

Written by: Constance Carlisle

Published:

What About Accessibility?

So, what about accessibility? A good question can make you think.
The right question at the right time can change your life.

One question did just that for me. A few years ago, I was presenting eLearning benefits to a local non-profit board of directors. I had been working with the non-profit helping to educate potential volunteers.
After the presentation, one of the board members asked, “what about accessibility?” It took me a moment to answer because so many thoughts raced in my mind.

What a good idea. All the work I’m doing for this non-profit should already be accessible. Why on earth weren’t we already doing that? How do I make eLearning accessible?

That board member asked the right question. That one question sent me on a journey to learn what accessibility means. Equally important, how accessibility is implemented online.

Lack of Web Accessibility

The first thing I discovered is the majority of websites are not accessible. And that including mine!  One study cited in a 2019 Wired article states that 70 percent of surveyed websites have design “quirks.” As a result, 70 percent of sites aren’t accessible to people using assistive technology, such as screen readers. In addition, another accessibility report found that only one percent of the “top million homepages” met accessibility standards.

What are Accessibility Standards?

Before creating accessible eLearning, I needed to learn how to make my website accessible. To clarify, creating an accessible website means:

  • Applying laws that address accessibility; The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Sections 504 and 508).
  • Following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) . These guidelines were developed by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C). That’s the governing body for the web.
    The W3C guidelines form the foundation for most of the world wide web accessibility laws.

POUR

The W3C guidelines are based on four principles. I am using the principle definitions from Webaim. I think they are more user friendly.

  • Perceivable: Available through sight, hearing, or touch.
  • Operable: Compatible with keyboard or mouse.
  • Understandable: Easy to comprehend.
  • Robust: Works across browsers, assistive technologies, mobile devices, old devices/browsers, etc… Follows standards.

Guidelines Make a Difference

To demonstrate the power of these guidelines, think about this.
Every site that follows these guidelines means one in four adults with a disability in the United states should be able to navigate and access its content. That is a lot of potential clients and customers. To rephrase it, 60 million people would have access to those websites’ services, information, or products. For that to happen, every accessible site has addressed visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive categories of disability.

Website Accessibility

Making this site accessible has been a journey. I am using the GeneratePress theme, which is WCAG compliant. I stumbled on this theme after months of various searches for accessible WordPress themes. GeneratePress isn’t listed as an accessible theme in the WordPress theme library. That’s because GeneratePress provides the option of underlining links but doesn’t mandate doing so. However, this theme has enabled me to create an accessible website without learning code. If I can do it, so can you. I hope you’ll be inspired to do so.

eLearning Accessibility

Meeting accessibility guidelines is only the first step when creating online content. Accessible eLearning means designing eLearning courses and keeping people with disabilities in mind. But I want to do more than meet requirements. Instead of thinking of a group of people with disabilities, why not think of everyone as people? Get beyond the stereotypes. My ultimate goal became creating content that everyone can access. I don’t need someone to tell me why they are accessing content in any particular way. How about creating content for all of us? How about creating an inclusive website?

Along with website accessibility, I’ve been researching and learning about eLearning accessibility. With this purpose in mind, I can’t escape the notion that accessible eLearning is considered optional too often. Depending on your audience, your course may need to meet Section 508 requirements. Rather than optional, why not make every course accessible and inclusive? Besides, accessibility is much easier to implement at the beginning of the design process.

I designed and built this site on WordPress, using the GeneratePress Premium theme. As a result, the site is testing 95 percent compliant with accessibility guidelines. However, the real test comes when humans begin exploring this site, registering, and taking courses. I look forward to hearing from you. I will continue to improve accessibility and inclusion for everyone. Check out Elements Accessibility statement.

Featured Image by: Sebastien Delorme on WikiMedia Commons

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