Our work at King’s Online is inspired to a significant degree by how online learning can extend access to education by breaking down the restrictive boundaries of time and space to allow our global cohorts of students to incorporate learning into their lives.
So what about those students who are excluded from learning because of the ways in which traditional educational materials/ experiences cater only for those with certain abilities? Surely, to be properly invested in more inclusive education, we must pay attention to how our digital formats and tools increase (or restrict) accessibility?
Today (the 3rd Thursday in May) is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), a day designed to “get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) access/inclusion and people with different disabilities” (GAAD website). We at King’s Online are determined to make sure our online materials are accessible for people with different abilities, and we welcome the challenge of GAAD to work harder to improve accessibility.
What are some of the ways we are already working to make King’s Online learning experiences more accessible?
- We have an accessibility working group which meets to discuss new research on accessibility and how to make our resources more accessible, and to train and encourage the whole team in accessible practice.
- Our chosen development tool, Adapt, has a variety of features that encourage the accessible design of online learning. This includes fields in which one can add “alt” text — textual descriptions of images that are read aloud by screenreader technologies — to ensure that visually-impaired users can access graphical content.
- We are focussing on moving text content out of static images and into the main part of the webpage, so that it can be accessed by screenreaders. This includes increasingly delivering tables in html rather than jpg or other forms. To find out more, visit this WebAIM resource about the structure of html tables and why this is important.
- We consider the needs of differently abled users early on in the prototyping stages of our module design. Our UX design and web development team use a variety of tools to test the colours, fonts and structures that will be used for any given programme, before we start development of learning content. One aspect of this is running potential colour palettes through colour-blindness filters. How different colours will appear and compare to colour-blind users is not always obvious for those without visual impairment, so testing is vital. (See Figure 1 above.)
- You can use Photoshop’s colour-blindness filters by selecting View > Proof setup > Color blindness. Give it a try!
- What are you doing to increase accessibility? What more should we be doing? Let us know by tweeting @kingsonline. Follow us on Twitter or on Instagram to see how our team members are embracing the call to make online learning more accessible.