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Accessibility and Usability...Where do they overlap in eLearning Blog Header

Accessible content and usable content are often viewed as separate, mutually exclusive outcomes that employ different design approaches, requirements, and principles. As such, organizations, corporations, and agencies that are required to comply with accessibility requirements may not be aware of the ways in which following Section 508 and WCAG actually enhances the user experience for all. Alternatively, content developers may not consider the business and technical benefits of employing accessible design to increase usability for all.

Laura Silver, Trivantis wants to change that. In last week’s webinar, she shared some use cases that highlight the business case for accessible design, such as the increasing age and diversity of employees in the workforce. It was an info-packed webinar. Laura started with foundational concepts like the difference between accessibility and usability and then built on that.

In short, accessibility means people with disabilities can equally perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with content as well as those without disabilities. Usability refers to the overall effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction derived from content and resources.

Laura also shared 10 practical approaches to making your content more accessible and usable for everyone. They are:

  1. Consistent Navigation
  2. Transcripts & Captions
  3. Keyboard Only Support
  4. Form Labels
  5. Color Contrast
  6. Straightforward Language
  7. Chunk Content with Markup
  8. Descriptive Links
  9. Focus States
  10. Color Choices


Watch the Accessibility & Usability webinar recording below for examples of each of the above strategies and tips for implementing them.

We had a couple questions we ran out of time to address. Laura kindly answered them after the fact. Let’s take a look.

Do you recommend using Voice to text/speech extensively in design for accessibility/usability purposes? Thanks.  
This depends on if you’re referring to text to speech via assistive technology, text to speech, or speech to text, so I have 3 answers:
A. Text to Speech via Screen Readers: Assistive technology like screen readers automatically converts text to speech and this is often the primary method of testing for accessibility. Once you understand your audience and any types of assistive technology they will be using, it’s important to test your published content with those specific screen readers.
B. Text to Speech: Using voice-overs or narration with written content is a crucial aspect to creating accessible and usable eLearning. TTS technology is advancing dramatically, synthetic voices are sounding more and more natural, and it certainly takes less time and expense than creating manually. Another advantage of using TTS tools is the ability to quickly create localized content.
C. Speech to Text: Programs that convert speech to text are a great tool for quickly creating transcripts and closed captions, which are essential to accessible and usable eLearning. They should certainly be used extensively—free applications and browser extensions are available.
I work for a training department for an engineering company.  How would you suggest making complex math equations accessible?
There are several approaches one can take to create accessible math equations. One option is to create an image of the equation and then use a text description to write the equation using symbols and words that assistive technology can recognize. You can also use an audio description of the equation. The approach recommended by W3C is to use the MathML application, an approach of marking up the equation with XML to describe the mathematical notation and meaning in a way that is accessible to screen readers.


Laura also shared her top accessibility resources with us here:


We loved having Laura Silver share her expertise with us on this subject and hope you enjoyed this webinar.

Check out some of our other Section 508 resources here and here.

Read more instructional design articles on the blog and sign up for a free Template Library account to practice your new skills!


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