In part one of this series on learning accessibility, we take a look at what learning accessibility means and why we need to make learning accessible.
The discussion below is based on my experience with implementing software based on accessibility standards in the U.S. If I have misspoken or been insensitive in my language, my deepest apologies. Please comment below or use the Contact form to send me corrections or feedback.
So what is accessibility?
Accessibility is a pretty standard topic in the training world. Short story: Everyone needs equal access to learn. But access can differ based on the person. What works for one person may not be useful or even usable to someone else. This could mean a person with disabilities related to vision, hearing, reading, comprehension, and/or physical access not having access to work, travel, play, and generally live their life unimpeded. The goal in accessibility work is to assist the person by removing those blockers.
How does access impact learning?
If you can’t get to it, then you can’t use it. A learner’s ability to access a learning space and use the resources in it is the most basic definition I can come up with on how accessibility impacts learning. If I can’t get to a classroom, I’m not going to be able to be a part of the discussion or listen to the lecture and ask questions, and my learning is very obviously impacted. So we make our spaces accessible by following design standards that are planned to accommodate all of the bodies we can imagine in all of the ways we can think of. Physical space design standards are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and illustrated in very specific ways here. Anything that impacts a person’s movements, from the size of a doorway to the lack of a ramp or elevator, literally impacts their access to learning.
How does this apply to online learning?
The first step in creating great online learning is making sure it’s accessible and usable by our learners. Providing access to online learning is not all that different from physical learning spaces. We structure our online world to make sure resources are available to all users, equally, by paying special attention to the way we build and deliver our resources.
All good learning experiences take work. And luckily, we don’t have to do this work alone. In the next post, let’s talk about what you need to do to get started making your learning accessible and how to get help.