Accessibility is a concept that summarizes the requirements placed on digital community services in order for them to be possible to utilize for all citizens. Many e-services were built at a time when it was not immediately obvious to think that way, but this is now rapidly changing. By meeting requirements such as WCAG 2.1 (to level AA), those who provide information or function digitally can avoid diminishing their users’ and customers’ experience and utility of these. WCAG is often mentioned in connection with the Availability of websites and is often regarded by organizations as a matter for their web editors, but the same requirements are also placed on other solutions that are delivered with the web as a medium. A learning platform (LMS / VLE) or a digital tool that a student is expected to take part of via a web browser is, for example, considered equivalent to a website in terms of Accessibility requirements, and then the same applies to everyone who delivers information (such as course content, instructions and the like) or provides integrated 3rd party functionality in the platform understand the requirements.
Digital education solutions designed with accessibility as a guiding star take into account areas such as sight and hearing, motor and mobility as well as cognition. We are very proud to work together with D2L, whose LMS Brightspace has come a long way in its work to make the framework digital itself and together with Brickfield Education Labs, which is behind a solution for creating accessible content in courses in Moodle. Our friends at UNICAM deliver lecture capture with subtitles that enable students to take part in lectures and lessons at times and at speeds that suit their conditions – also a very important form of Accessibility.
In many countries, the school or university, municipality or the government provides pupils and students with technical aids so that they can study in a way that works. However, it is not an excuse to ignore the steps and measures one can take in once digital learning environment to make it easier for everyone else. Those who do not meet the requirements for being assigned technical aids can very well benefit from readable and understandable content without unnecessary distractions.
As of April 2022, many academic websites still contain the line “We are aware that parts of the website are not fully Accessible“, almost a year after the Accessibility Directive, and according to what we hear from students and teachers we talk to, this also applies to a large extent to the functionality and content in digital learning environments and tools.
Some examples from Wikipedia of what you should keep in mind when building websites, software or creating content that is Available:
- When a website is encoded with semantically meaningful HTML, with textual equivalents for images and with links that are named meaningfully, this helps blind users who use text-to-speech software and / or text-to-Braille hardware.
- When text and images are large and / or enlargeable, it is easier for users with poor eyesight to read and understand the content.
- When links are underlined (or otherwise differentiated) as well as colored, this ensures that color-blind users will be able to notice them.
- When clickable links and areas are large, this helps users who cannot control a mouse with precision. When pages are not encoded in a way that prevents navigation using only the keyboard, or only a simple switch, this helps users who cannot use a mouse or even a standard keyboard.
- When videos are subtitled or a sign language version is available, deaf and hard of hearing users can understand the video. When flashing effects are avoided or made optional, users who are prone to seizures caused by these effects are not exposed. And when content is written in plain language and illustrated with instructional charts and animations, users with dyslexia and learning disabilities can better understand the content.
If you have special requirements in order to be able to fully take part of information, those requirements are probably never greater than when you are studying.