Designing your course to be accessible to individuals with auditory disabilities is both challenging and worthwhile. The versatility offered by eLearning is a powerful alternative for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, as these individuals may not have much success in a traditional classroom environment. Everyone deserves equal access to knowledge, and failing to provide it is a surefire way to alienate eager learners.
Consider Your Captions During the Scriptwriting Process
You need to write your entire script with captions in mind. Lengthy sentences may be difficult for readers to follow, and that difficulty only increases with the speed of the speaker. Some subtleties may not translate well into captions, making it best to avoid them entirely. If you’re attempting to caption a course that already exists, you may have to create a separate script that will work without audio. Not all scripts are easily adaptable, especially if they weren’t written with the hearing impaired in mind.
Multiple Narrators May Be Difficult to Follow
If your script relies on more than one narrator to effectively communicate a point, you’ll have to determine how to separate these narrators to make the script clear. If you cannot write out extra narrators in your captions, you’ll need to make different speakers distinct. Sometimes, changing the color of the captions or inserting visuals that refer to who is speaking serves as an effective workaround.
Your Captions Need to Work Seamlessly
Captions aren’t as simple as you might believe. If they aren’t properly implemented, they may interfere with your course material. They need to be easy to read and presented in proper contrast. This means using fonts that aren’t decorative, and sticking to reliable color schemes like black text on a white background, or white text on a black background. They need to be placed on an area of the screen that won’t obscure your other material. Captions need to be timed appropriately to avoid lagging, or even worse, to avoid the text from disappearing before the user is able to finish reading them.
Consulting with Experts Provides Better Results
If no one on your staff is familiar with accessibility guidelines, your best bet is to call in a professional. He or she will be able to consult with you about what you should do differently. Some programmers, coders, and designers are already proficient in these accessibility guidelines and will be able to take the reins for you. Attempting to make necessary changes without certainty about what you should be doing can rapidly become a waste of time and money.
It may also be a worthwhile venture to speak with educators who teach hearing impaired learners in a classroom setting. See if you can integrate some of their best techniques into your eLearning application.
You Must be 508 Compliant
This is perhaps the most important tip you can receive. You cannot bill your eLearning program as accessible to the deaf unless you meet strict section 508 compliance guidelines. If your eLearning company exists in the private sector, you’re not mandated to comply with 508. If you work with a state agency or the federal government, failing to comply is actually illegal. If you’re in the private sector and you claim to be compliant but you don’t actually meet the guidelines, this can create a world of problems for you later on down the road. Make sure you do things the right way the first time.
Making your eLearning program accessible to the deaf isn’t something you’ll be able to do overnight. It’s a difficult task to take on, but in the end, it’s well worth it. You’re providing valuable education to an individual who may not have otherwise been able to receive it. Nothing can be more rewarding.
Emily Burgess is a content manager at Course Guru – experts in the field of online education. As a staunch supporter of self-improvement, Emily enjoys learning new things (especially languages) and is always happy to share some of her thoughts with others through blogging.