How Do You Learn About Accessibility?

Yesterday one of my SMEs asked me how I learned about accessibility requirements for online learning. Like most of my instructional design knowledge, I guess I’m self-taught on accessibility. In a previous job, I was given the task of figuring out how to make text-based versions of interactive Flash practice activities. That project forced me to think about what it’s like to listen to content rather than read it. I didn’t have JAWS or another screen reader, but I used the Windows Narrator and at least tried to imagine whether the content would work if I was just listening.

Since then, I’ve spent more time educating myself. I read Joe Clark’s book, Building Accessible Websites (a bit outdated now, but available for free on his site). I’ve attended some conference presentations and have actually read through the all the legal requirements. I’ve been gradually adding accessibility features to courses over the last two years as I learn more. But it hasn’t been particularly systematic or formal learning.

At a conference this week, Natalie Kilkenny had a very valuable experience with informal learning about accessibility. The presenter never shows up, so someone in the audience started a discussion to share what people knew and what they were struggling with. As a result of that discussion, she found several new resources and gained some new perspectives on usability.

I’m curious about how you’re learning about accessibility in e-learning. I’d appreciate if you could take a minute and answer my poll. It’s only one question, but if you’re reading this in a feed reader you’ll probably need to visit my blog to take it.

If you have more to say, feel free to leave a comment too.

5 thoughts on “How Do You Learn About Accessibility?

  1. Weird. I’m not sure what the problem is with the poll. I can see it OK on Firefox and IE, even when I’m not logged in. If you’re on Firefox, can you see it if Firefox is in safe mode? I wonder if some extension conflicts with the poll. I will also not be surprised if Stephen Downes has a problem with it; his Ubuntu install does not like this blog when I do anything like this.

    I hadn’t actually thought about my prior classroom experience as being relevant, but you’re right that the teaching experience matters. I always wanted to read the IEPs for my included students as soon as possible so I could figure out what adaptations would be needed. I use different tools now, and we have stricter expectations for how we make the adaptations, but the perspective of adapting learning for individual needs is the same as it was in the classroom.

    As far as 508, if you know where to find the requirements and how to meet them in a specific situation (or can find that out), then I don’t think you have to know it. I’m getting to the point now where I could rattle off a bunch of the 508 requirements off the top of my head, but that’s because I’ve been thinking about accessibility a lot lately. Having some amount of fundamental understanding is good, even if you haven’t memorized all the requirements. That perspective and basic grounding helps you know what to look for. I expect that SCORM is somewhat the same (although I confess to having very little understanding of SCORM and zero experience).

  2. Christy, I am not sure what the issue is but all the wordpress blogs are showing up weird for me today so I can’t see your poll. Anyway, yes, I have to say that my knowledge on this comes from my actual classroom experience. I have had classes with legally blind students, special needs students, students with reading issues, etc, all in a mainstream inclusion science classroom. So, these accessibility issues had to be addressed on a daily basis for me. As far as how that translates to e-Learning, some of it has to come from the same perspective. You can build and read and assume how the folks that have challenges or different perspectives will interpret or encounter material. But at some point, don’t we have to ask the actual people or find some way to run a trial to see what works best? I read Natalie’sblog and noted the story about the visually impaired student and the narrator. Yip, that certainly is something that I saw happening, information overload. As for 508 compliance, there are so many terms out there that you really have to dive into. I look at job descriptions in elearning and see SCORM and 508 bandied about as if they are terms that all ID’s know in-depth. Is there too much to know or do we just need to know WHAT we need to know?

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