On the 18th of January, 2017 the Federal Register announced the long-awaited refresh to the conformance requirements of Section 508 — the 1998 amendment to the 1973 Rehabilitation act. This means that in 60 days, after the 20th of March, 2017 all online learning materials provided to state offices, universities and companies must align with the latest requirements of Section 508 in order to deliver accessible eLearning to disabled learners. Below are some tips the instructional designers might want to follow in this regard.
Use simple interactions
Complex interactions (like multiple drag&drop actions) require the learner to engage with the course content heavily and use motor skills precisely. While interactivity itself is a great way of providing learner engagement, its balanced use is essential in creating both engaging and easy to access elearning content.
Use correct color scheme
Correct color scheme is the king of the hill in instructional design, as visually pleasing content is much easier to comprehend. However, color-blind learners or people with other vision impairments might not appreciate the course designed in different tones of similar colors. Using contrast colors, but making the main tone dense and saturated helps ensure that even the color-blind people will be able to see the text or distinguish one section of infographic from another.
Use closed captions and text transcripts
As poor vision and hearing impairment are one of the most widespread types of disorders, enhancing the eLearning materials with text transcript for audio and closed captions for video materials is essential for ensuring these are accessible to the disabled learners.
Use clean and bold fonts
Using proper fonts and providing consistent text scheme throughout the course is essential in making sure all learners can read the text easily. This is especially important for infographics, graphs, charts and other pieces of visual content within the course - make sure they can be understood without the need for intense zooming in.
Use simple navigation and alt titles
While drop-out menus can seem to be convenient, screen readers interpret them as a single item, thus making them inaccessible for people with dyslexia, blind or visually impaired. It’s better to use direct icons for each menu item and provide them on each course page. Using HTML tags is welcome, as screen readers are able to identify them easily, delivering a seamless user experience. Alt titles allow screen readers identify the images and describe them to learners with vision impairments.
Omit using Flash
Flash animations are long forgotten by the majority of instructional designers and it’s better to stick with this rule. HTML5 is the perfect choice for using in accessible eLearning materials as it is SEo-friendly, loads fast and works great on mobile devices.
Use simple and clear language
Expressing the ideas in a simple and clear language is a generally good practice, regardless of the accessibility requirements. Have your tone consistent throughout the course, avoid jargon and acronyms and make the sentences as short and simple as possible.
Though the full list of refreshed Section 508 requirements is much longer, almost all of them fall in the line of simplicity, logical order and respect to the learners, regardless if they are disabled or not. We hope this guidance helps you in creating great online course content!