Accessible e-learning design: The importance of designing equal and inclusive learning experiences

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Today, more than 16% of the world’s population live life with some type of disability. Converted into raw numbers, this means there are currently over 1.3 billion people in the world with a visual, auditory, motor or cognitive limitation.

Modern companies seek to respond to this startling reality by applying Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategies (better known by their acronym, DEI) in their corporate policies, in a bid to promote equal opportunities amongst all members of their organization. But what exactly do these policies consist of?

DEI Strategies: The 3 Key Benefits for Companies

Increasingly, companies are focusing on achieving accessibility in their business practices. The overarching goal of this pursuit is to ensure that their digital content (for example, website, documentation and intranet…) can be used by all people, including those with disabilities.

These efforts are typically framed within the aforementioned DEI strategies – a set of corporate practices and policies that aim to create an inclusive and diverse workplace. Although at first sight it may seem that pursuing these strategies involves a significant degree of extra effort, the data shows that the eventual return is highly worthwhile. Below, we take a closer look at some of the benefits that come from applying DEI strategies.

Economic profitability

According to Accenture’s Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage report, those companies that apply inclusivity strategies in their corporate practice are more profitable than their competition, achieving higher net income. Specifically, as McKinsey observes, companies with significant ethnic and cultural diversity are 36% more likely to be profitable, while those with strong gender diversity are 25% more likely.

Talent retention

In a similar vein, DEI strategies have also proven to be essential when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. Simply put, companies that are committed to diversity are likely to have access to a wider range of candidates to recruit from. In fact, there is also an additional ‘pull’ factor at play here for potential candidates – according to Glassdoor, 57% of people look for companies that are committed to diversity.

Improved reputation

Another advantage of these policies for companies is an improvement in their corporate reputation. According to the ONCE Foundation, corporations that are perceived as having robust inclusion policies for those with disabilities enjoy an enhanced reputation and increased public support. This adds up to a significant boost to the public presence of a company – a crucial edge in an increasingly competitive business world.

Why is it important to create inclusive e-learning courses?

Contrary to what many might think, creating inclusive and accessible e-learning courses is beneficial for all the professionals within a company. This, of course, includes those who do not have any disabilities.

Let’s consider an example to illustrate this point. Imagine a training video with subtitles. Typically, the purpose of including the subtitles would be to convey the video’s audio content to those with hearing disabilities. However, look at the situation from a different perspective – those without any disability can also benefit from the subtitles, as they make it possible to watch and understand the video in a public place without the need for headphones.

Creating inclusive e-learning courses has a number of similar benefits for companies:

  • Stimulates creativity and innovation: Developing accessible e-learning courses means providing all workers with the resources they need for continuous improvement. A comprehensive range of resources will help them to enhance their performance in key professional areas such as technical and soft skills. The result? Their capacity for creativity and innovation is constantly stimulated.
  • Promotes equal opportunities: An accessible course should be truly available to everyone. All employees will then have the same opportunities to continue improving, regardless of their particular condition.
  • Improves course results: Developing an accessible course will promote higher levels of participation, which means more people will be able to benefit from it.
  • Responds to the individual needs of each employee: Creating accessible courses allows everyone in your company to benefit from quality training – even those who do not have any disability. Truly accessible training adapts to the individual needs of each student, and this element of inclusivity is one of the key features of a successful training system.

Common problems when designing inclusive e-learning courses

As we’ve seen, creating accessible e-learning courses offers considerable benefits to each and every member of a company. However, it also poses great challenges.

1. Get to know accessibility standards and legislation

Whether you’re operating a company, an educational institution or another type of organization, it’s crucial that you understand all the external regulations when designing an accessible e-learning course. Key amongst these is Section 508 of the United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act, which requires companies to provide the same level of access to information to all, whether with a disability or not. Additionally there are the criteria of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Specifically, this regulation has 78 principles of different levels, very specific, which are marked by a series of more general pillars: four points of mandatory compliance in order to develop an inclusive e-learning course.

Below, we explain in a simple way what each principle consists of and how to comply with the guidelines to create the best accessible e-learning content:

If you want to learn more about accessibility standards, don’t miss this post.

2. Technical difficulties when creating your accessible courses

Once you understand the criteria set out by the WCAG, you’ll then need to apply them – this, however, is not an easy task. To solve this difficulty, many companies are opting to outsource the production of their accessible content, even if it results in an increase in costs.

On the other hand, it is possible to use authoring tools internally to get the job done, although most of those available on the market require advanced design and programming knowledge. If not, they tend to be too simplistic in their approach and fail to meet accessibility standards.

If you already use an authoring tool to create your e-learning courses, and you’re wondering how accessible it really is, then be sure to check out this post.

3. Problems with maintaining ROI in training

Once you have the knowledge and tools you need to create accessible e-learning courses, the next great challenge for your company is to optimize the resources you plan to dedicate to it. Now, to comply with accessibility standards whilst maintaining key quality features – such as company branding or interactive elements – many organizations are forced to create two different versions of the same course. This means multiplying the time and costs involved in producing them by 2.

To avoid this, many organizations choose not to develop accessible courses, and instead limit themselves to converting existing content into other formats – such as PDF – that do not respond effectively to the needs of all students.

Overcome the challenges of accessible e-learning with the right authoring tool

There is a way to counter the challenges of accessibility in e-learning and, at the same time, create accessible courses with ease and agility. The solution? Trust isEazy Author.

Thanks to its powerful features and quick, intuitive interface, you can design an interactive online course and automatically generate an accessible version of it in mere minutes. Give your students the freedom to choose the mode they prefer, at any time.

Eager to know more? Check out this short video!

Sara De la Torre

CONTENT CREATED BY:

Sara De la Torre

Content Marketing Manager at isEazy

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