How to make your online learning accessible

Check your accessibility knowledge!

Have you ever considered checking your online learning courses for accessibility? How much do you know about ‘disability friendly’ online course building?

Take this quiz…. and see if you get any surprises.

Why must I?

Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 agencies must ensure that people with disabilities have the same fundamental rights to access information as the rest of the community.

Apart from the law…. don’t you want all of your students to have their needs met, succeed and feel satisfied at being involved in a fully inclusive learning experience?

“Good design, is accessible design.”

Make sure, as you begin your online learning design process, that you understand the principles and techniques of making your course accessible. Consider this aspect from the very beginning of your project.

Consider all individual needs in your design

  • Cognitive Learning

  • Auditory

  • Visual (including blind, low vision, and color blindness)

  • Motor/physical disability

For each disability, consider possible barriers to be avoided in your site design.


Basic tips for designing online learning:

  • Use serif fonts for print, and use sans serif for screen reading.
  • Use high contrast for text on backgrounds.
  • Images & animations: Use the alt alternative to describe the function of each visual.
  • Have text alternatives for video.
  • Hypertext links: Use text that makes sense when read out of context. For example, avoid “click here.”
  • Keep your pages tidy and clutter free.
  • Keep content simple and clear to read  more on this……

More ideas for good practice:

  • Interview people with disabilities about likes/dislikes concerns/suggestions.
  • Find examples of web sites in production that already use techniques required for proposed design.
  • Run example sites thru WAVE.
  • Test using a screenreader and a screen magnifier.
  • Test with monitor set to greyscale to ensure color blindness accessibility.
  • Attempt to navigate site by keyboard alone (no mouse).
  • Attempt to navigate the site using the mouse and your non-dominant hand.
  • Ensure that pages are usable when scripts, applets, or other programmatic objects are turned off.

Remember also, to consider students who have English as their second language, generation and gender specific differences and culture when designing your course.

The standards we need to adhere to

Australian and the US have adopted different standards to determine accessibility.  U.S. use the section 508 standards, we use Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Section 508 is effectively a diluted version of WCAG, restricted to those things that can be objectively measured (and therefore prosecuted).  For instance they do not include “Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for a site’s content. ” ….. more on this. It is important to note, that many Learning Management Systems used in Australia are USA developed and comply with the USA Section 508.

Test Your Site’s Accessibility

assessibility process

Choose any of the following tools/techniques to test the accessibility of your site.

Testing Tools – automatically check for 508 compliance, as much as possible. Help you know what manual checks need to be done.

  • WAVE – free online accessibility testing tool and reading order of page. NOTE: The Firefox toolbar addon will work in your password protected sites (such as your learning management system (e.g: Blackboard or WebCT).
  • Accessibility Toolbar for Internet Explorer – a must have if you use IE!
  • Web Developer Extension for Mozilla Based Browsers – another must have!
  • Hands on Accessibility Testing

    Assistive Technology – An important part of accessibility testing is attempting to use your own site with assistive technology. Download a demo version and see if you can navigate your website.

    JAWS for Windows by Freedom Scientific

    Other resources:

    Flexible Learning checklist

    Did you like this article? You may want to sign up to be automatically updated the next time I post new content. Just click on the RSS feed at the top right corner of the blog or use the email subscribe option. I reply to all comments…. so feel free to chat if you have a good idea!



    Filed under assessibility, Blog tips, E-learning tips, E-learning tools, Other

    4 responses to “How to make your online learning accessible

    1. Pingback: How accessible is your online learning? | Swineblogger |

    2. Pingback: How accessible is your online learning? | Swineblogger |

    3. This is a great post. It has certainly prompted my thinking about how I can develop my blog so that it more accessible to everyone. Thanks, Jenny.

    4. jennywood

      Thanks Paul,

      My background is in Disability so I am happy to help if you need it!


    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


    Connecting to %s