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DDA Compliance in eLearning

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I wish to ensure all our elearning courses are DDA compliant and would like to hear from others who have achieved DDA compliance - in particular what the main issues were, how you dealt with them and what groups (if any) are still excluded despite these adjustments.
David McKay

4 Responses

  1. It is a complicated business!
    Hi David,

    I have researched this at length and it is a complicated business!

    We spoke with an accessibility consultant and RNIB and have created a functional specification for a Flash based e-Learning shell, which is currently in development.

    In essence, my research has found that most developers are not aware of the need to consider the DDA. Those that are tend to provide a ‘text only’ version on the basis that they are catering for screen readers – unfortunately these people still discriminate against the majority of users that need some form of help but do not use assistive technologies – such as Dyslexia.

    This is the biggest error I have come across – most users who fall under the DDA banner have no assistive technology installed, so you have to provide the functionality in the programme.

    Providing a text only version does not help people with a low reading ability!

    In terms of issues, I have seen guidance that there should be a high contrast between foreground and background colours – but certain types of Dyslexia suffers for example read content easier if the foreground / background contrast is low!

    It is very difficult to cater for the masses and maintain good effective e-Learning, but the underlying principle is that of user choice. The latest version of Flash (or the clever use of html CSS files) can allow for the user control of:

    1. Text size.
    2. Line spacing.
    3. Audio availability.
    4. Transcripts.
    5. On screen text reading.
    6. Text colour.
    7. Background colour.
    8. Background images.
    9. Screen magnification.

    The list goes on and this is only considering the content. When looking at DDA & e-Learning there are 3 things to look at:

    1. The accessibility of your content.
    2. The accessibility of the LMS your content resides on.
    3. The accessibility of the IT system the user uses to access the LMS!

    Moving forward, you have a couple of options –

    1. You research the field of Accessibility yourself.
    2. You use an accessibility expert to expedite the process.
    3. You outsource the issue to an e-Learning company that has the capability to help you.

    If you wish to contact me I can give you further help on any of those options. Also, if you are happy to do so, send me a link to your content and I will give you some immediate feedback.

    Good luck – it is a very interesting area – but it is complex and there is very little help on the web.

  2. DDA, not a complete minefield
    David

    I’d be very surprised if you get any replies from anyone who has achieved DDA compliance with their e-learning: there are standards but, as far as I’m aware, there is no overall judge of compliance.

    We’ve been applying ‘DDA compliance’ to the e-learning we supply to our clients for at least the past two years and have even written guidelines for some of our clients for them to use as part of their briefs to suppliers. I’ve even worked with ‘disabled’ staff at a client’s premises to better understand their use of assistive technologies rather than writing training based on my ideas of how they would use them.

    I agree with Paul that a lot of it comes down to what assistive technology you have available for your learners but, unlike Paul, I don’t believe that this should be built into the learning: if staff need assistive technology they need it all of the time not just in the e-learning.

    Another issue is that companies will install assitive programmes, such as JAWS and Zoomtext, but do not do the simple things like allowing computer users to switch on basic Windows accessibility options such as sticky keys.

    You also need to be wary if you run your e-learning through the available accessibility checkers to check it. Many of these will accept it as an acceptable web page, but as a piece of learning it may still fail the learner: remember that all of these checkers are designed to check web pages not pieces of learning, and the same can be said for some of the assistive technology.

    At the end of the day you also need to ask the other question, “Does our e-learning need to be accessible?” Remember that the DDA only requires that you make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled staff: how do you currently train disabled learners if your e-learning is not accessible?

    Going forward I believe that you probably need to develop all of your future e-learning so that it is accessible; whether you need to convert your current e-learning is a matter of ‘reasonable adjustment’.

    Please get in touch if you think I can be of any help.

  3. A minefield – Part 2
    Howie is correct that there are no ‘judges’ as to the accessibility of e-Learning.

    However, there are a couple of traps to fall into and this thread highlights them.

    First of all, our legal partners suggest that corporate elearning providers should not just focus on DDA. Corporate elearning has to be the consideration of Equal Opportunities legislation – as it is this legislation a claim would be made under. Although, the guidance of the DDA should be followed. You can also look at SENDA in the Education world.

    Secondly, and more importantly, it is a wrong assumption that anyone that ‘needs’ assistive technology would / should be provided it outside the elearning –

    1. How would an assistive technology help someone with dyslexia / mild vision issues?

    2. The other thing to consider is how many adults have informed their employers of mild dyslexia or sight problems?

    This underlines the issue with Accessibility – people immediately focus on assistive technologies – hence the ‘text-only’ alternatives that are produced.

    Additionally, good design for Accessibility in programmes can actually benefit the learning process as it gives the learner individual control over how they experience the content.

    For reference, this guidance was given to me by the RNIB and various Accessibility experts, including a leading Internet Law Firm.

  4. Accessibility
    Over on this side of the pond we refer to it as 508 compliance after Section 508 of the US Disabilities Act.

    I have two useful White Papers that address the issue in relation to online learning. Feel free to email me at [email protected] if you want them. No strings attached.

    One caveat – many systems are compliant – but are the people building the content trained to do so in a manner that produces compliant content.

    pj

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