How To Make Your Learning Materials Accessible

Matthew Becker

How can I make my learning materials accessible?

This is a good first step! It's easiest to consider accessibility when developing new learning materials. However, you can still evaluate and improve the accessibility of existing learning programs!

Some common examples of functions that make eLearning more accessible include:

  • Ensuring that eLearning modules can be accessed using a screen reader
  • Developing modules that can be navigated using a keyboard (in addition to a mouse)
  • Considering that learners may not have access to high-speed internet or may have data limits
  • Designing modules to be accessible on a tablet or smartphone
  • Developing text that is more accessible, both in font size and type as well as colour
  • Providing different choices for assessment
    • E.g., a learner might be able to choose a drag-and-drop assessment or multiple choice

Think back to the first article of this series, when we asked how your organization applies accessibility principles in its learning materials. Do the above examples apply to them? If you don't know, be sure to find out!

When developing and implementing a competency-based learning program, take special care to design and adjust with accessibility in mind. This doesn't mean that the development and implementation of a learning program must become extremely complicated. In fact, the more simplistic and straightforward the program is, the easier accessibility standards can be achieved.

What are the eLearning accessibility standards?


An excellent research-based resource to ensure that your learning program design and implementation meets a high level of accessibility standard is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines have been put into place to influence the construction of websites, tools, and the development of technologies for individuals with disabilities.

These guidelines were developed by various organizations and other individuals around the world to assist individuals with navigating, understanding, and comfortably using the web. In addition, these guidelines make up the essential building blocks of accessibility for eLearning because they premise basic principles of technological accessibility.

Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG)

ATAG is a set of guidelines that structure how authoring tools are made accessible so that authors can produce accessible, flexible content for the web. Authoring tools are software or services developed by the instructional designers and eLearning developers (like web designers, developers, and writers) to produce content for the web (WC3 Web Accessibility Initiative, 2017).

Articulate Storyline, Rise, Adobe Captivate - these are just some examples of authoring tools you have likely worked with if you've done any form of eLearning. Organizations can use these authoring tools to abide by accessibility guidelines.

Other Accessibility Standards: The United States, Canada, and the European Union

  1. United States: In addition to following WCAG, US legislation for web accessibility aligns with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, in which federal agencies and other bodies must develop web-based information that meets basic accessibility requirements (United States Environmental Protection Agency).
  2. Canada: Web accessibility standards in Canada follow those set out by WCAG, with the sole purpose of protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities. Web content in Canada must be perceivable and understandable (Stevens, 2021).
  3. European Union: All member countries of the EU must follow the WCAG guidelines as well as the Web Accessibility Directive, which routinely monitors public sector websites and includes an accessibility statement for each specific website (Digital Strategy, 2021).

What facets of learning should be considered in accessible learning materials?


Another important question! We consider these four facets of learning when putting accessibility measures into place in the design and implementation of a competency-based learning program:

  1. Perception
  2. Presentation
  3. Inputting
  4. Interaction

Information about these factors has been drawn from the W3 Web Accessibility Initiative (2017):

1) Perception (Hearing, Feeling, and Sensing)

The learner's perception refers to their general ability to hear, feel, and see learning content - using their senses to interpret competency-based learning. To fully understand or retain learning content, some learners require specialized tools or elements in their learning programs. Enhancing a learner's perception can be accomplished by incorporating a:

  • Screen reader which presents content on a desktop or web browser, converting it to other interpretable forms, such as text-to speech or Braille
  • Voice browser, which works to "speak" out loud what the learner is accessing online
  • Braille display on a small mechanical terminal

2) Presentation (Distinguishing and Understanding)

The presentation of learning content affects how a learner will distinguish and understand the material shown to them. Presentation can draw on several strategies to remain flexible for a variety of learning abilities. Some presentation strategies include:

  • Customizable colors and fonts
  • Simplifying the interface of learning modules
  • Use of symbols to denote specific, repeated instructions
  • Screen magnifiers
  • Personalized volume control

3) Inputting (Typing, Writing, and Clicking)

A learner's inputting ability refers to their capacity to type, write, and click through learning content. To assist the inputting abilities of a learner, a learning program can incorporate:

  • Voice recognition
  • Spelling and grammar tools
  • An on-screen keyboard

4) Interaction (Navigating and Finding)

A learner's interaction expresses how they navigate through learning content and find information in the learning program. To improve a learner's interaction, content can be structured using:

  • Consistency and predictability (the same colors, symbols, fonts, and font sizes)
  • Visual orientation cues
  • Keyword searches

This is the second article in a three-part series covering Chapter 23 of our Skilling Up textbook. To access other articles in this series, please navigate below.

Article 1 - Why Is Accessibility Important in eLearning?

Article 3 - Enhance Your Training with BaseCorp's Accessible Learning Solutions

Ready to revolutionize your organization's learning experience? Download our latest eBook now to uncover the secrets behind successful LMS implementation and create engaging content that inspires your learners.

Download the Free Ebook

Matthew Becker

Matthew applies his many years of experience in teaching, EdTech, and learning resource development to create engaging and meaningful learning experiences. As an Instructional Designer at BaseCorp, he is keen on leveraging educational technologies to help learners reach "Aha!" moments in new and exciting ways.