In the last post, we left off talking about how creating a great online learning experience starts with making our learning accessible to learners.
We, and that’s the royal “we” of folks who work in the software industry, have written standards that we need to follow when it comes to access. The requirements defined for accessibility vary regionally. In the U.S., accessibility is typically looked at through the lens of Section 508.
Similar to the ADA physical design standard linked in the previous post, Section 508 defines the requirements for software to be considered accessible. Section 508 is the section of text in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that provides for equal access to electronic and information technology for disabled employees of the Federal government. [Sidebar: If you want to do business with the federal government, your software better be Section 508 compliant.] Many states also use Section 508 as a minimum requirement for their software as well as having their own definitions.
That sounds complicated. It can be, but you’re not alone in this. There is a whole field of Accessible Technology which is designed to help users in the online world the same way that technology in the physical world assists folks. Blind/low-vision users can get a lot of information via screen readers, which are text-to-speech converters that will read your site to them. Deaf/hard of hearing users can have videos interpreted via closed captioning, transcripts, and when available/if appropriate sign language translation.
One of the goals in Section 508 is to make sure the things we create, software, websites, and content, will work with those existing technologies. As of this year, Section 508 also incorporates Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to expand accessibility requirements and standardize what success looks like when it comes to accessibility.
So what do I need to do? Well, that’s going to depend on what you do, but it’s easy to get started. The next posts will go in depth on what you need to do to make sure your content delivery system and your content are accessible.