Accessible learner profiles

 

Accessible learner profiles

May 20, 2021

Making something accessible isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ because everyone’s needs are different. However, it is useful to consider these four key areas that we refer to as ‘profiles’. This will help us to consider their general requirements and incorporate recommendations from experts.

These profiles are:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Motor
  • Cognitive

 

The four accessibility learner profiles. Visual, auditory, motor and cognitive.

Figure 1: Four key areas of accessibility requirements as shown by https://webaim.org/intro/

 

In this article, we suggest a range of areas you should consider for each of these profiles. Please note that we are not experts in accessibility or any of these specific areas and the aim of this article is to share with you where we are now and the useful tips and considerations we have learned. We encourage you to do your own research and share your findings.

Visual impairments

Visual impairment is a term used to describe any kind of vision loss or colour vision deficiency. This impairment can range from being blind to having an impairment that affects their ability to read. It also includes people with colour-blindness which affects their ability to identify and distinguish between certain colours.

Key things to consider:

  • Make sure the information you are providing is legible to all. One technique that will help in making sure the colours you use have the right level of contrast. We use the WebAIM contrast checker tool that checks your text is legible. It is important to use this tool, even on brand colours as they might not be compliant.
  • Standardise your fonts, don’t use too many, and where possible use san-serif fonts. Make sure your font size is a minimum of 12pt.
  • Videos should include an option to toggle audio descriptions for essential visual elements. This way, vital visual information isn’t lost.
  • Some users will use a screen reader to complete the module. This tool will attempt to read everything on the screen including buttons, images and text. It is important that you make sure the items on your screen are placed in a relevant order, ALT text is available on images and buttons, and you have excluded non-essential items (such as decorative images). This streamlines the learners’ experience and helps to make sure that they are only given information that is important and helpful. For more information on making these types of changes in Articulate Storyline see this previous post.
  • Avoid using visual techniques only to present information. For example, don’t rely on colour alone to communicate information such as good or bad, use icons and alt text too.

Figure 2: Example of how icons and text can aid a colour-blind learner in clarifying what is right and wrong.

 

Auditory impairments

Auditory impairments relate to having partial or a total inability to hear.

Key things to consider:

  • Avoid creating elearning that is led by an audio track (for example a presenter). This has a number of accessibility issues that affect three of the profiles we are describing:
    • The solutions you implement for someone with auditory impairments can be disruptive for a screen reader unless set up correctly.
    • People with cognitive impairment or learning difficulties may find the pace difficult to keep up with and/or revisit.
  • Any information that is presented audio-only is also given another method of delivery. For example, videos and audio tracks should include closed captions, and where possible transcripts should also be provided.

 

Motor impairments

Motor impairments are partial or total loss of function of a body part. An individual with certain motor impairments might have difficulty using a mouse. When designing your elearning you will need to consider where alternatives will need to be provided to the use of a mouse.

Key things to consider:

  • Users should be able to navigate your elearning via both keyboard and/or mouse. Many screen readers have their own keyboard shortcuts to navigate through the content (usually up and down keys) but users may also use the tab key to navigate through content. Although this is important for someone with motor impairments, someone with a visual impairment may also navigate via their keyboard, also requiring hand-eye coordination to navigate through the learning.
  • As we outlined in our article with tips for improving accessibility in your Articulate Storyline modules, by default, Storyline will set up a focus order for you. The focus order is the order in which your keyboard navigable content can be cycled through. This, however, is often not in the correct order; you will need to manually reorder the objects on each screen to make sure that the experience is the same regardless of how you navigate it.
  • Certain interactions like drag and drop interactions cannot be completed via a keyboard! This does not mean you should never create a drag and drop, instead provide an optional alternative version of the interaction. This means the user can still access the information without getting stuck.

 

Cognitive impairments

Cognitive impairment is when a person has difficulty with their memory or thinking. This can range from learning difficulties to brain injuries. Individuals within this learner profile may find content difficult to understand or find it hard to concentrate on the learning for lengthy periods of time.

Key things to consider:

  • Provide the learner with a resume function to allow them to come back to the elearning and continue where they left off. This is good practice for all learners, but particularly important for people with cognitive impairments.
  • Include clear navigations buttons that allow users to move forward and back through the content if they wish to revisit a slide/topic.
  • Consider if your content and interactions are suitable for the audience. Is the language unnecessarily complicated? Could you include visual aids to support the text? Could you include an option to recap what they have learnt so far?
  • Avoid timed interactions as someone with a cognitive impairment may require a little more time to read or answer a question.
  • Reduce the amount of text that is on screen at any one time, small bite-sized nuggets of information are far easier to digest.
  • Make sure that the instructions you are giving are clear and obvious. For example, using instruction text on a popup like “Click close.” Is less clear than “Click next to continue.” As it can be misunderstood that by clicking “Close” that the learner will exit the whole module.
  • Avoid complex motion, animations and flashing objects. This can be overwhelming for some users making it difficult for someone to concentrate, or digest what is going on. It can also be a huge sensory overload for certain people.

 

A final note of warning

One last thing and perhaps one of the most important things we would like you to take away from this article. We can’t stress enough that there will be huge variants of need inside each of these areas. It can be tempting to focus on one profile, or even one access requirement within one profile, and seek to focus on supporting their needs. This can be a dangerous assumption and will cloud your decision making when designing solutions.

For example:

  • Presuming that everyone with a visual impairment will make use of a screen reader. This is not true and will not solve a problem for people that can navigate the internet without a screen reader. There are still specific requirements you should consider, for example, font size, colour contrast etc.
  • Including automatically played audio to support people with restricted vision. This will interfere with their screen reader that’s needed to support their navigation.
  • Including the full transcript onscreen to support those with auditory issues that cause cognitive overload for learners who are reading the text while having it read to them.

Further reading

To learn more about accessibility, we would recommend you have a read of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

You may also find it beneficial to head over to our other blog post on 5 tips on improving accessibility in Articulate Storyline. Whether you use Storyline or not, there are some helpful tips on how to improve the accessibility of your elearning.