Improve the e-learning accessibility of your LMS

10 February 2022 by Meg James

Making digital content accessible is an important requirement for many organisations today. Whether it is a web page or a learning management system (LMS) it must be designed in a way that allows people living with disabilities to interact with it. While most LMS systems are created to support e-learning accessibility, it is still vitally important that the design of your site and the course content itself is also developed with accessibility requirements in mind. Let’s explore further. 

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The World Wide Web Consortium, the international standards organisation for the WWW, created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as a way to set the standard for content on the internet. These guidelines are widely referenced and an excellent starting point for making your site accessible to all users.

WCAG principles

The WCAG has four key principles that you should keep in mind when designing content. It states that content must be POUR:

Perceivable

The first principle is ‘Perceivable’ – information and content must be presented to users in ways that are available through sight, hearing or touch. For example, text must be adaptable to other formats, such as larger fonts or captions for audio files.

Importantly for course design, content needs to be easily distinguishable. One of the most common errors course designers make here is the use of colour. It’s easy to think that lots of colours on a page make it look interesting and exciting, but in reality, it can make a page harder to read or even distracting. A complex or extensive layout can also confuse some learners. Look at ensuring your content is designed in a way that doesn’t overwhelm a user, keep colours consistent and simple, and consider breaking your content into bite size chunks.

Operable

The second WCAG principle is ‘Operable’ – that all components and navigation of the user interface must be operable. This has a wide range of implications. Most obviously, the content and interface must be compatible with a keyboard, without needing to worry about the timing of keystrokes. This doesn’t mean the mouse can’t be used, only that an alternative to it is available.

Try testing your content yourself by simply disconnecting your mouse. Can you move around the course page as needed? Content needs to be designed so that it avoids known seizure causing ways, such as flashing more that three times a second, or flashing red. Free tools, such as the Photosensitive Epilepsy Analysis Tool (PEAT) exist to help review your content to identify these risks. Further information can be found at the Trace Research & Development Center.

 

Understandable

The third WCAG principle is ‘Understandable’, that is the content must be easy to read and comprehended for the users, as well as assistive technologies such as screen readers.

While both the LMS solutions that we support, Moodle and Totara, have a WCAG2.1 Level AA accreditation, all content that you add to your LMS must also meet this requirement. All content must be readable and understandable. Make sure that your vocabulary is appropriate for your learners. Look at adding a glossary, to provide learners with definitions of new jargon or idioms. Also, make sure that help access is clearly marked on your course page. Most importantly, stick to a site design that is functional, logical and proven. Something that is pretty, but the user can’t access, quickly becomes frustrating.

Robust

The fourth and final WCAG principle is ‘Robust’ - that is, content is able to be interpreted across a wide variety of user agents, including web browsers, media players, mobile devices and plug-ins. It’s also important to ensure that content is designed in a way that followa standard conventions, so that new assistive technologies will be compatible with them.

Make your site WCAG compliant

When you are assessing your site’s accessibility, review its complexity. Does it have too much content? Is the design excessive? Is there too much functionality? We’ve all visited web pages or undertaken online courses that leave us us confused and at a loss as to what comes next. When designing content for your LMS keep in mind that your priority is helping students understand content to achieve their learning goals.

Services to improve LMS accessibility

The Catalyst e-Learning Consulting Team has extensive experience of helping educators and learning and development managers to improve the content and design of their Moodle and Totara LMS platforms to support WCAG Guidelines. Let us help you, get in touch today.