3.9 Quick ways to improve accessibility
There are a few very simple things you can implement along the way that will get your eLearning materials off to a flying start in terms of accessibility.
- Ensure that resources are created to be accessible using only a keyboard (for those who cannot use a mouse) and using only a mouse (for those unable to use a keyboard). For example, you can ensure that it is possible to ‘Tab’ between items on a form, and that drop-down lists function properly by use of the keyboard alone.
- Check images (especially images containing text) for pixelation at high magnification (most operating systems now include a magnification tool) and ensure descriptions are provided and are fit-for-purpose.
- Choose colours and fonts carefully. Whilst every individual has their own needs and there is no one solution that suits everyone, certain combinations do seem to benefit a majority of users. For example, many people with dyslexia prefer a lighter text (cream or yellow) against a darker background (navy or black), and prefer a sans serif font. This will not suit everyone, however, and the best solution, if at all possible, is to allow the user to set these options themselves according to their own preference.
- Check also that colour alone is not used to convey meaning – for example if providing a response to a multi-choice question, give a green tick or a red cross, rather than simply a green dot or red dot, which may be indistinguishable to someone with colourblindness.
- Test colour contrasts, particularly between text and the background colour it sits over. There are free colour contrast checking tools available online – you should be aiming for a contrast ratio of at least 4.5 to 1 for all text items, although for longer pieces 7 to 1 is better ( , 2008).
- Ensure your material will function with a screen reader. You can perform basic tests with a free screen reader such as NVDA. However, more comprehensive testing should be performed with experienced screen reader users if possible.
- Keep language simple where possible. Sign language users may not be fluent in a text-based language, and people with dyslexia or cognitive difficulties will also benefit from straightforward use of language. This is not to say you should not use appropriate terminology, but that the language should not be more complex than it needs to be. If your materials are in English, you may find useful resources at the website of the Plain English Campaign.
- Ensure the user has control over basic things like stopping and starting audio clips. Never include audio that starts automatically – this can create issues for those using other forms of audio output.
- Keep your design as clear and consistent as possible.
- Test your fledgling resources with as wide a variety of users as possible. This is by far the best way to check that your attempts at creating accessible eLearning materials have been successful, and that you have achieved a high degree of usability at the same time.