One of the main things that attracted us to D2L’s Brightspace platform was its rich accessibility options.Laura Hendrey, Learning and Development Coordinator, Vision Australia
Aiming For Better Accessibility
Headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, Vision Australia empowers people who are blind or have low vision to live the lives they choose. With 800 employees and 2,500 volunteers, the company operates from 26 office locations and 10 agile sites across the country.
Like many future-facing organizations, Vision Australia uses digital technologies to help it onboard new employees and keep existing team members up to date with the skills and competencies they need to perform their roles.
It’s vital for the company’s online training to be accessible for all employees, and around 15% of Vision Australia’s workforce are themselves blind or have low vision.
Dan Casey, Capability Development Manager at Vision Australia, recalls: “Our old learning management system [LMS] lacked the features we needed to achieve our accessibility goals, such as integrating with screen readers.
“It was also difficult to keep track of each learner’s progress—we had to rely on spreadsheets and text documents, which was time-consuming and cumbersome for our managers. From an audit perspective, it was hard to provide real evidence of the competencies that each learner had developed, beyond the fact that they had completed a particular course.”
Laura Hendrey, Learning and Development Coordinator at Vision Australia, continues: “Our old LMS was extremely basic. We wanted a new system that could become a one-stop shop for learning and training for employees of all abilities. With our CEO’s support, we started looking for a new solution.”
Selecting A Class-Leading LMS Solution
After reviewing LMS technologies from a number of leading vendors, Vision Australia selected D2L’s Brightspace platform as its new online learning solution.
“One of the main things that attracted us to D2L’s Brightspace platform was its rich accessibility options,” recalls Laura Hendrey. “As well as being compatible with a wide range of screen readers, the built-in Brightspace Accessibility Checker helps us detect potential accessibility issues in our courses automatically. When we found out that leading organizations in our space, such as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, also use Brightspace, the choice was clear.”
Dan Casey adds: “I use the analogy of ordering a vegetarian meal at a restaurant. You’d expect your chef to make your meal from vegetarian ingredients—not just remove the meat from a dish they’d already cooked for someone else.
“It’s the same with an LMS. Accessibility can’t just be an afterthought—you need to build the system to be accessible from the ground up. That’s exactly what D2L has done, and that’s why Brightspace won hands down when it came to accessibility.”
Building Rich Course Content
Since going live with D2L’s Brightspace platform, Vision Australia has used Brightspace Course Builder to design a wide range of course materials for employees, new hires, and volunteers, covering topics such as company orientation, health and safety best practices, and role-specific training.
The team has been impressed with the intuitive and flexible Course Builder tools. Dan Casey comments: “I’ve been really impressed at how easy it is to build learning experiences in the Brightspace platform. The strong support we received from D2L from the initial deployment onward has been extremely helpful, and we are now able to create in-depth, curriculum-driven online classes for the first time.”
Today the Manager Dashboard gives us a real-time snapshot of everyone’s progress, and our managers can download the data into a report very easily.Laura Hendrey, Learning and Development Coordinator, Vision Australia
Engaging Learners Of All Abilities
Today, Vision Australia is using the Brightspace platform to make online learning available to people of all abilities, including its 800 employees and its thousands of volunteers across the country.
“Our cohort of staff who are blind or have low vision are a very strong, vocal group on issues of accessibility, and rightly so,” says Laura Hendrey. “Their feedback on the accessibility of the platform is really good. As an example, when we asked for feedback on another online tool that we’ve recently introduced, the response from one of our screen reader users was ‘It’s no Brightspace.’ That’s a good indication that Brightspace is setting the standard for accessibility.”
The company creates, updates, and promotes its courses via the homepage on the Brightspace platform, and is encouraging its employees to check the site for updates as part of their normal workday routine.
She continues: “We’ve been using the announcements at the top of the Brightspace homepage to keep everyone engaged and informed about new additions to the system, and alert them to upcoming due dates for assignments.”
“The reporting capabilities are also very useful. In the past we had no clear insight into how our people were using our online learning resources. Today the Manager Dashboard gives us a real-time snapshot of everyone’s progress, and our managers can download the data into a report very easily. It’s so intuitive that one of our managers told us that they could have learned to use it without needing any training.”
Tackling The COVID-19 Crisis
When the COVID-19 crisis hit Australia in early 2020, Vision Australia was quickly able to roll out a health and safety class aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus and keeping its employees safe.
“We released a COVID-19 infection control module via Brightspace within a matter of days and asked our users to upload their certificates to Brightspace, so we can track who has completed it,” explains Laura Hendrey. “To date, the module has a completion rate of over 80%, which is remarkably higher than any of the courses we had in our previous LMS. We also provided some feedback to help the developers of the module make it easier to navigate for users with screen readers.”
Vision Australia also used the Brightspace platform to help its team transition to remote working during the pandemic. It used the survey tool to distribute a working-from-home agreement, which employees could fill out and submit online—avoiding any need to handle the paperwork manually.
Ready For The Future
Looking to the future, Vision Australia plans to use the Brightspace solution to enhance the services it provides for those who are blind or have low vision in the community.
“We recently started Project Employability, which aims to get young children thinking about their work and career goals as early in their lives as possible,” says Dan Casey. “In the years ahead, we’d love to use the Brightspace platform to provide educational resources to support the work we’re going to do with those families.”
Laura Hendrey concludes: “We’ve seen a massive jump in learning engagement since we deployed the Brightspace platform. The feedback from our employees has been overwhelmingly positive, and there’s no doubt in our minds that the Brightspace solution is going to make an important contribution to improving the lives of those who are blind or have low vision in the years ahead.”
Want to learn more about how D2L’s Brightspace platform supports accessible learning for people who are blind or have low vision? Watch the “Accessibility for every learner at Vision Australia” webinar on demand today.