Everyone deserves access to education, and accessible design is a key component in making that happen. In this article, we will explore the role of accessibility in the universal design of learning resources. We’ll discuss the importance of accessible design and provide tips for creating inclusive learning resources. Learning resources that are designed for everyone regardless of their ability.
But first, if you are interested in learning how to make your products accessible why not join the waitlist for my upcoming boot camp?
How to Design Accessible Learning Resources.
Learn how to:
- Identify accessibility issues and workshop solutions.
- Ascertain what products lend themselves to creating accessible versions.
- Create accessible resources for students with learning challenges and visual disabilities.
- Create and remediate pdf learning resources so they are accessible.
What is Universal Design of Learning (UDL)
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational approach that aims to provide all students with equal opportunities to learn and succeed regardless of their abilities. It is based on the idea that every student learns differently and that by using a variety of teaching methods and materials, educators can create a more inclusive and effective learning environment.
UDL is not just for students with disabilities, but for all students, as it recognizes that everyone has unique strengths and challenges when it comes to learning. UDL strives to accommodate the needs and abilities of all learners and to remove any hurdles in the learning process.
Accessible design for Universal Design of Learning (UDL)
Accessible design supports inclusion for people with disabilities as well as others by creating materials that are easy to navigate and understand. As part of the strategies for Universal Design of Learning (UDL), educators can help students with disabilities or learning difficulties succeed in the classroom.
As resource creators, it is important (in fact essential) to create products that are designed to be as accessible as possible to all students.
The benefits of accessible design for all students
Accessible design for learning resources benefits all students, not just those with disabilities or learning difficulties. By creating materials that are easy to navigate and understand, educators can:
- improve the overall learning experience for all students.
- help to reduce barriers to learning,
- increase engagement, and
- improve retention of information.
Additionally, creating inclusive learning resources can help to promote a culture of diversity and inclusion in the classroom and beyond.
Accessible design is inclusive design
Everyone benefits from accessible design however accessible design aims to apply adaptive strategies to create inclusive materials for students with barriers such as disabilities and/or learning difficulties. These include:
- Sight impairments
- Low vision
- Color blindness
- Cognitive barriers
- Cognitive disability
- Learning difficulty
- Hearing impairments
- Mobility disability
- Physical/mobility disability (permanent)
- Physical/mobility disability (temporary)
In broad terms, accessibility aims to support anything that impacts the ability and/or time to process information.
Designing Accessible Learning Resources
As learning resource designers, we have the tools to ensure that our products are accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Often the most tempting decision is to not be too concerned about accessibility in resource design and leave it to a support teacher in the classroom to help struggling students navigate resources.
Consider the teacher buyer who is deciding between your product and another product. They both seem perfect but yours has one enormous advantage – it’s accessible.
Resource design accessibility checklist
Here is a starting point. You can use this checklist below for your resource creation.
It is important to note however that this is a quick checklist of design considerations for accessibility. To fully understand accessibility, it is also important to understand the adaptive strategies individuals with disabilities use to navigate digital learning resources. (Next month’s blog article will cover adaptive strategies.)
- Structure content with headings: Utilize proper heading styles to structure the document hierarchy. Headings should be hierarchical and reflect the organization of the content. This helps screen readers and users navigate through the document easily.
- Properly tag PDF documents: Tagging PDF content is essential for accessibility. Use the built-in tagging feature in design software or add tags manually. Tags help screen readers interpret the structure and content of the document.
- Provide navigational aids: With longer documents, include a table of contents and bookmarks to assist users in navigating long or complex resources. These aids enable users to quickly jump to different sections of the document.
- Provide accessible document versions: If possible, offer alternative accessible formats alongside the resource, such as HTML or plain text formats. This ensures that individuals using different assistive technologies can access the information effectively.
- Use readable fonts and font sizes: Select fonts that are legible and widely available. Avoid using decorative or complex fonts that may be difficult to read. Additionally, ensure that the font size is large enough for comfortable reading.
- Check reading order and logical flow: Verify that the reading order of the document follows a logical flow and corresponds to the visual layout. Ensure that the content is presented in a sequential and meaningful manner.
- Ensure color contrast: Choose color combinations that provide sufficient contrast between text and background. This helps individuals with low vision and color blindness read the content easily. Use color contrast checkers to verify if your color choices meet accessibility standards.
- Avoid relying solely on color: Use color as an enhancement rather than the sole means of conveying information. Provide text or other visual cues in addition to color to ensure that information is accessible to individuals who may have color vision deficiencies.
- Use descriptive alternative text (alt text): Add alt text to all images, graphics, charts, diagrams, graphs, and infographics. Alt text should provide a clear and concise description of the visual content, conveying its meaning to individuals who cannot see the images. For complex items write long descriptions and supply as a separate text file.
- Test with assistive technologies: Use screen readers and other assistive technologies to test the accessibility of the resource. This will help identify any issues and allow for necessary adjustments to improve accessibility.
By implementing these guidelines, resource designers can create products that are more inclusive and accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Useful links and article references
Collaboration with content creators, accessibility specialists, and usability experts can also help ensure the best possible accessibility outcomes.
American Foundation for the Blind