Digital accessibility means leveraging technology to help remove barriers and overcome obstacles to provide all learners with equal access to education and development opportunities.
On 23 September, the EU Accessibility Directive reaches a new milestone, one when all public sector websites and the video and audio on them, must be accessible. This is important for online learning as it will impact most universities. On the same date last year, websites created after 23 September 2018 reached the deadline to comply; in June 2021, it will be the turn of public sector mobile applications.
What is meant by accessibility?
Accessibility means ensuring that digital assets can be accessed and used by all users. Websites, intranets, and extranets should be designed with all users in mind and cater to the full range of user accessibility considerations including those around visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive abilities.
For some educational institutions, these considerations could extend to the platforms used to support online learning. Institutions had to rapidly adjust to higher levels of online tutoring this year and a blended model, in which learning is facilitated through a combination of classroom time and online, is likely to feature prominently this academic year and beyond.
To ensure no learner gets left behind, online course and content providers should consider navigation and content, paying attention to a range of factors including:
- Text: is it easy to read? Can the size of on-screen text be increased? Can it be read by screen readers used by visually impaired students?
- Images: do they carry appropriate ‘alt text’ descriptors so that screen readers can ‘read’ them? If not, students may have difficulty understanding the information contained within a web page
- Video and audio: are text options available for hearing impaired students? What about audio descriptions?
Online learning for all
Digital tools, platforms and content should be designed with accessibility in mind. Students need to be able to access all materials from their devices if they are to take part fully in the complete learning experience. Accessible technology ensures a level playing field for all learners by reaching every student and transforming the way they learn.
The learning platform helps meet the needs of students with accessibility requirements through features that include speech-to-text and text-to-speech. With these tools, students can concentrate on their studies without needing to manage adjustments themselves.
D2L is committed to accessibility in education and conforms to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA standards and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, 1973. Accessibility is an integral component of D2L’s development cycle, so processes are aligned with global accessibility standards. The WCAG Checklist and Section 508 VPAT are published on D2L’s accessibility compliance page.