You may have heard the term “508 compliance” thrown around and know that it is important to keep in mind as you create compelling, accessible content. What exactly is 508 compliance, though? To put it simply, 508 Compliance is shorthand for a law that ensures fair and safe usage of information technologies to people with disabilities.
Now that we are spending the majority of our time online for more than just recreation, it’s important to adhere to Section 508, especially if you are using the web for educational instruction or “eLearning.” With all that in mind, here is what you need to know about 508 Compliance as a content creator
Origin and Background
A study dating as far back as 1990 entitled “Effectiveness and Cost Interactive Videodisc Instruction in Defense Training and Education” noted that certain types of eLearning could be more effective than traditional instruction. The study was republished by Oklahoma University in 1992 and has been used to determine the effectiveness and overall educational value of eLearning across a variety of fields. The study indicates that in order to make eLearning effective, instructors must create flexible eLearning systems that adapt to the learner.
It is important to first decide the goals you wish to achieve with the instructional material and how you wish students to remain engaged with the course.
Once you have a consistent strategy mapped out for how information will be presented clearly and effectively via digital content, you can begin to cater the presentation of your material to all audiences, including those who might often be overlooked.
Who Does Section 508 Help?
Section 508 is an amendment to the United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that mandates all electronic and information technology developed, maintained, or used by the federal government be accessible to people with disabilities. To be compliant, then, you must ensure that your learning material can be accessed and used by people with limited vision or blindness, deafness, seizure disorders, and other disabilities.
It is worth noting that 15% of the world’s population suffers from some form of disability. Furthermore, 285 million people suffer from vision impairment, and 10% of the global population has hearing loss to some degree. Visual and hearing impairment, along with movement disorders such as epilepsy, can affect how well learners can utilize and interact with digital content of any kind. Considering the specific needs of those with disabilities ensures that everyone has the opportunity to receive a solid education. Thus, we as eLearning content creators do all we can to ensure that all learners have access to the tools they need to make getting that education possible.
What Can I Do to Help?
Fortunately, many eLearning creation and development tools are now designed to help you produce engaging and interactive 508 compliant eLearning courses. What you might consider standard practice for building and maintaining digital content is not always the most accessible to those struggling with disabilities. Here are some things you can do to ensure that your eLearning content follows 508 Compliance standards:
1. Make Text Readable to All
Making text clear, large, and visible on the screen as soon as the user interacts with it can assure that the text is not only readable, but recognizable by a screen reader. This helps those who might be using a device to have the site’s content read to them. Any text hidden from view initially or masked in a drop down menu will not be recognized by screen reader technology. Consider text sizing and color contrast when designing your course, as some users may need larger fonts or have trouble differentiating between colors.
2. Make It Possible for All to Engage With Your Videos
You can add features to your content that ensure all users can understand the information you have provided. For example, you can include captions with any animated video or graphic instruction to ensure learners with hearing impairments can better engage with the material. Transcriptions of audio and descriptions of video and pictures can also help. Stay away from flashing text, images, or colors that might affect those with seizure disorders.
3. Make Sure Any Website or Page Can Be Navigated Easily
If you’re building a site from scratch or choosing a digital platform, you might also consider ensuring your website can be navigated via the keyboard, as opposed to being entirely dependent on the point-and-click method of using a mouse. Users with motor disabilities, especially those who use screen readers, might be dependent on keyboard-only technology.
In all educational settings, be it a classroom or a corporate conference room, it is important for all learners to feel as though they are part of a shared community, where they can play a role in the learning process without obstacle. If we leave those with disabilities behind, to fend for themselves while trying to navigate content built for what we consider the “norm,” we lose a crucial component of our learning community. No lesson can be truly effective unless all learners are given fair and equal access to the tools they need to thrive.
508 Compliance is simply a technical term that aims to ensure that no eLearning student is forgotten and that all students are given the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their limitations. At Ninja Tropic eLearning, we take 508 Compliance seriously and want to help you create eLearning videos and materials that reach learners of all educational needs. Reach out to us today for a consultation!