Accessible design is a critical part of inclusion. Last week, TLDC hosted another stellar event—the Accessible and Inclusive Design Conference (AIDC). The conference focused on helping L&D professionals understand how to be more inclusive by designing for accessibility.
The event included the following sessions:
- Is “Ability” Part of Your Organization’s DEI Strategy? with Amy Morrisey and Diane Elkins, Artisan E-Learning
- Assistive Technology Users: Understanding the Representative Range with Belo Miguel Cipriani, Oleb Media
- Designing for Neurodivegence: The Dos, the Don’ts & the Definitely Nots with Judy Katz, Eduworks
- Beyond Colors and Captions: How to Provide More Inclusive Accessibility with Bela Gaytan, Pantheon Platform
- Accessibility FAQs Panel Discussion facilitated by Kayleen Holt, with panelists Diane Elkins, Bela Gaytan, Gwen Navarrete Klapperich, and Star Peterson
- Case Study: Using a Flipped-Classroom Model to Create Learning Experiences for Hearing Professionals with Karen Hyder, Kaleidoscope Training and Consulting
- Demystifying Captions with Alan Natachu, Exact Sciences
- Achieving Optimal Accessibility in Storyline and Other eLearning Environments with Doug Harriman, University of California
- A Beginner’s Guide to Inclusion and Accessibility with Chris Paxton McMillin, D3 Training Solutions
- What Is the Future of Accessibility? Panel Discussion facilitated by Kayleen Holt, with panelists Charles Adams, Star Peterson, Chris Paxton McMillin, and Alan Natachu
Bookmark the event website for easier access to all recordings.
Think Inclusion, Not Compliance
If our focus is only on compliance with Section 508 or a certain WCAG level, we will probably end up doing the bare minimum. A compliance focus can result in “technically accessible” courses that aren’t user-friendly and don’t consider accessibility needs not currently covered under the existing standards, such as those of most neurodivergent individuals.
Belo Miguel Cipriani shared the frustrations he regularly experiences navigating online information. When he reaches out for accessibility assistance, he’s told “it’s compliant” (when clearly, it’s not accessible). He told a story about trying to complete a contact form to alert a website owner of accessibility issues, but being unable to submit his feedback because of an inaccessible Captcha form.
A compliance mindset also adds to the dread many people feel about accessibility. Rather than thinking of accessibility as something we “HAVE to do,” we need to shift our focus, as Alan Natachu mentioned. Instead, let’s think, “this is something I GET to do!” We have the privilege of helping people of all abilities learn and get better at their jobs.
Professional development shouldn’t be some exclusive club that only non-disabled people are allowed to join.
As Chuck Adams pointed out, accessibility is a human right. In fact, accessibility is Article 9 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted by the United Nations in 2006.
Diane Elkins and Amy Morrisey encouraged us to think in terms of who deserves professional development opportunities. The answer, of course, is EVERYONE.
Diversity and Inclusion Can't Exist without Accessibility
Bela discussed what she called inclusive accessibility. Part of providing access to everyone is making sure everyone is included. For everyone to feel included, we need to make sure that everyone can see themselves in our courses.
Bela listed several groups who are often excluded: LGBTQIA+ individuals, immigrants, people whose first language isn’t English, those with mental health challenges, neurodivergent people, Black people, Indigenous people, People of Color, Muslims and others representing non-Christian religions, elderly people, fat people . . .
Inclusion means everyone.
When you commit to accessible design, the person you’re helping might be yourself. As Chris Paxton McMillin pointed out, people with disabilities make up the largest marginalized group in the world, and it’s the only group that any of us could join at any time.
Yes, Your Organization Has Disabled Learners
One of the most common objections from decision-makers that we hear when we talk about accessible design is, “We don’t need that. We don’t have any users with disabilities.”
There is no way to know for certain how many employees with disabilities your organization has, or what kinds of disabilities they include. Disabilities are vastly underreported, due to stigma, fear of negative impacts to one’s career, and other reasons. Many disabilities are invisible or aren’t immediately visible if you’re not paying attention.
The only safe assumption is that if there aren’t already people with disabilities working in your organization, there will be. And, as Diane Elkins asked, if your organization doesn’t have disabled employees, why not? What obstacles are being placed in their path?
Make an effort to get to know the needs of your learners. That doesn’t mean asking them to disclose their disabilities. Ask them what they need to be successful.
Progress Over Perfection
Unfortunately, Meryl Evans was not one of the speakers at the event, but her name came up several times as the speakers reiterated her catch phrase, “Progress Over Perfection.”
Diane Elkins reminded us not to let perfection get in the way of making real change—because aiming for perfection can cause us to get overwhelmed or give up. We should focus on what we CAN do rather than what we can’t do.
As Belo Miguel Cipriani pointed out, “there’s no such thing as 100 percent accessibility.” What’s accessible for one person might not be accessible to another. The goal is to get close and make the learning experiences we design accessible to the most people possible.
Here are some other tidbits from the conference, in no particular order. I highly recommend watching the recordings.
- The optimal length of a caption in a video is 32 characters.
- In videos, moving the chyron that identifies the speaker in a video to the upper third can help ensure that it doesn’t interfere with captions.
- Adding accessibility instructions into the Storyline description field in the Publish panel is helpful for users with disabilities. Likewise, we should include a button on the screen at all times to display accessibility instructions.
- The built-in Likert scale in Storyline is not accessible.
- When creating keyboard shortcuts in Storyline, use Ctrl+Alt+____, for better user-friendliness for assistive technology users. Avoid overriding the built-in shortcuts.
- Avoid using Shift+Enter to force headings onto a second line when working in Storyline.
- There are 300+ JAWS commands!
- Don’t assume that assistive technology users are advanced users. Only about 10 percent of the disability community are advanced users.
- About 70 percent of autistic people also have ADHD.
- Allow 1/3 to 1/5 of the development time for integrating accessibility.
The presenters and participants shared many accessibility resources throughout the day, which are listed below. If you prefer, I’ve also compiled these resources into a downloadable list.
You can also view these resources on the event website.
Please report any broken links to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Or comment below.)
General Accessibility Tools
- NVDA Speech Viewer—allows you to read the screen reader output in text
- Helperbird—browser plugin designed to help make the web more accessible
- Grackle Docs—allows you to create accessible content within Google Workspace
- Axe DevTools— Chrome plugin for web accessibility testing
- WAVE® Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool
- Grammarly—helps ensure use of plain language
- WebAIM Contrast Checker—automated color contrast analyzer
- APCA Contrast Calculator—color contrast analyzer using a new method based on modern research of color perception (in beta)
Checklists, Guides, and eBooks
- Updated eCourse Accessibility Checklist from the University of California
- Word and PDF Accessibility Guide from the University of California
- PDF Techniques for WCAG 2.0
- An alt Decision Tree
- Description Key: Guidelines and Best Practices for Describing Educational Video
- Captioning Key: Guidelines and Best Practices for Captioning Educational Video
- Making eLearning Accessible, by Christine O’Malley and Chris Paxton McMillin
- What You Need to Know About Accessibility and Inclusion in Learning Design—by David Wentworth and Chris Paxton McMillin
- eLearning Accessibility: Checklist and Resources for Designing More Effective Learning for Everyone—curated by Susi Miller
Accessible Design Videos, Posts, and a Podcast
- TLDCast: Understanding and Practicing Digital Inclusion with Belo Miguel Cipriani (video)
- TED Talk with Vernā Myers: How to Overcome Our Biases (video)
- What Is Alternative Text? How Can I Write it for Images, Charts, and Graphs? (video)
- Designing for Neurodiverse Learners by Kayleen Holt (blog)
- Designing for Autism, ADHD, and More: Representing Neurodivergence by Judy Katz (article)
- Post About Excessive Paragraph Returns and the Effect on People with Mobility Impairments by Bela Gaytan (LinkedIn post)
- You’re Dead to Me: Disability in the Ancient World (podcast)
Companies That Perform Accessibility Testing
- Oleb Media—digital accessibility testing by users with disabilities
- Access Works—usability and accessibility testing by users with disabilities
- Equal Entry—accessibility consultants, including those with IAAP certifications
- MicroAssist—accessibility audits and VPAT consulting
- Deque—accessibility audits and remediation
- Interactive Advantage—Section 508/WCAG testing with DHS Trusted Tester status
Accessible Design Courses and Tutorials
- 7 Pillars of Accessibility free course—select “I am a student” and use the join link L3DJF7
- CSS Tutorial from W3 Schools
- Storyline 360: Working with Slide Layers
- Interactive Advantage Training Classes (Adobe, Storyline, Lectora, etc.)
- Getting Started with Lectora—one-hour free overview offered each month
- Blind: A Memoir, by Belo Miguel Cipriani
- Designing Accessible Learning Content: A Practical Guide to Applying Best-Practice Accessibility Standards to L&D Resources, by Susi Miller
People to Follow
For Learning about Accessible Design and Disabilities
For Learning About XR
XR, Emerging Tech, and the Future of Accessibility
Sources for Diverse Images
- Stock Photo Libraries—comprehensive list from docdroid (created by Kelly Nichols)
- Affect the Verb—free images (disabled, BIPOC, LGBTQ+) with alt text
- Nappy—free photos of Black and Brown people
- Deposit Photos
- 18 Free Graphic Design Resources for Instructional Designers
- eLearning Brothers Asset Library
- Gender Spectrum Collection—Stock photos beyond the binary
- Body Liberation Stock Photos—Stock photos and images for body size diversity and acceptance
- TONL —culturally diverse stock photos
- Disability Images
Assistive Technology Access
- National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program—provides assistive technology equipment to individuals who have both significant vision loss and significant hearing loss
- Social Security Administration Subsidy & Special Conditions—provides information about SSA’s policy concerning whether assistance on the job provided by organizations other than an individual’s employer may be considered to be a “subsidy”
I left out one resource that was shared via chat, for a VR platform that aims to teach life skills for neurodivergent people. The company is associated with practices and organizations that autistic people consider harmful, so I don’t feel comfortable sharing it.
If I missed any other links shared during the conference, it was purely by accident. Feel free to let me know in the comments. (Also tell me if you encounter any broken links, please!)