Accessibility in the E-Learning Industry: The US Legal Perspective

André Bastié
André Bastié
Posted in E-learning
5 min read
Accessibility in the E-Learning Industry

This article explores the challenges, legalities, and methods for improving accessibility in the U.S. e-learning market.

The e-learning business has seen explosive growth in recent years, with more and more people turning to online courses for training, learning new and important skills, and furthering their education. Research revealed that 77 percent of every business in the US used online learning in 2017, and 98 percent planned to use it by 2020.

Any higher institution student can also now study better and experience some interaction with the world around them with the help of digital learning technology. Thus, training them to build unique understandings and improve their learning. Massive Open Online Courses, onboarding, personalization, learning management systems, micro-learning, and mobile learning platforms also sprung to life.

E-learning Accessibility in the US

However, despite the many benefits of eLearning, there are still significant challenges regarding accessibility. A digital divide still exists in some parts of the United States. Others with physical, visual, or hearing impairments also need online courses tailored specifically for them. There's also the case of technical and technology illiteracy and language barriers, to mention a few.

Join us as this article explores the state of accessibility in the US eLearning market, discusses the legal requirements, and considers what you can do to improve it.

Accessibility Challenges in E-Learning

Digital Divide

The disparity between people who possess a connection to technology and the internet and those who lack it is known as the "digital divide." For underprivileged communities or people living in rural locations, restricted use of gadgets, dependent power, or internet connectivity can make the eLearning experience more challenging.

Physical Disabilities

One of the biggest challenges that face the e-learning market is ensuring that courses are accessible to people with one disability or another. This includes individuals with visual, hearing, mobility, and learning disabilities. Unfortunately, many eLearning courses are not designed with accessibility in mind, making them difficult or impossible for someone with a disability to use.

For instance, interaction features may not be accessible using assistive technologies like keyboard-only navigation or other input devices, or content may not have the correct structure for screen readers.

Language barriers

Some e-learning platforms may only provide important information in a single language, restricting access, education, and interaction for learners who are not native speakers of that language or who come from different linguistic backgrounds. Increased accessibility for a wider group of learners can happen by offering multilingual technologies and localized content.

Technical literacy

Some students may need more education, time, and experience with study technologies or digital literacy. Comprehensive and important assistance and guidance resources, straightforward directions, and user-friendly interfaces should all have an important place in the design of eLearning technologies.

Accessibility in the E-Learning Industry

Legal Requirements for Accessibility in the US

In the United States, accessibility in eLearning falls under the jurisdiction of various laws and regulations, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Section 508 of the same act. These laws require educational institutions like public universities and eLearning platforms to ensure equal access to educational opportunities for people with disabilities.

Under these laws, every eLearning platform must provide reasonable technologies to learners with disabilities, such as captions and transcripts for video content, alt text for images, and keyboard navigation options for people with mobility impairments. Failure to comply with these important requirements can result in legal penalties and damage the platform's reputation.

Improving Accessibility in E-Learning

While there are significant challenges when it comes to accessibility on e-learning platforms, there are also many ways that you can address this issue. Below are a couple of those ways:

Construction of inclusive audio and video learning resources

It's important to be mindful of providing audio descriptions to videos in a class of students with a visual disability. Although Zoom offers user-friendly shortcuts and hotkeys that pupils might use to study, these technologies are only sometimes thorough. Try paying attention to a video without seeing it to see if you can determine if it needs an audio description. Is the information understandable without a description? If it doesn't, you should include descriptions of the scene, the actors' actions, and their important expressions.

For important lessons to be accessible to students that face hearing difficulties, one way to go is appropriate captioning. The issue is that specific automated captioning technologies fail to detect accents in speakers. As a result, professors might need more time and attention with their automatic captioning to guarantee it is proper before putting it out.

Going back to the course design process

Another critical way to go is to prioritize accessibility from the beginning of the course design process. This means working with research experts in accessibility and education and consulting with people with disabilities to ensure that the course is accessible to everyone to study.

Inclusion of accessibility features

A meaningful way to take this is to incorporate various accessibility features into the course. This can include captions and transcripts for video content, alt text for images, and keyboard navigation options for people with mobility impairments. Incorporating these important technologies will make e-learning courses and platforms can prioritize interaction and become more accessible and inclusive.

Compliance with international accessibility requirements

Adhering to international accessibility standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), can help eLearning platforms ensure compliance with US legal requirements. These important guidelines make up a set of best practices for making web content more accessible to people who face one disability or another, including important procedures for text contrast, keyboard accessibility, and alternative text for non-text content.

Using culture-inclusive teaching methods

Unlike higher institutions like universities, teaching online offers an easy-to-use way that fits everyone when promptly getting courses into students' hands. Despite this, it's important to maintain fairness in the foreground by concerted effort to recognize every student's experience and create curricula that consider students' cultural origins. Even though they are training remotely, take your time to ensure pupils are acknowledged, valued, and cherished by doing this.

The Impact of Accessibility in E-Learning

Improving accessibility in e-learning is the right thing to do from an ethical standpoint and can also significantly impact the course's success. By making classes more accessible, the eLearning technologies used by different students can reach a wider audience and improve interaction and education among all learners, regardless of their abilities.

Furthermore, prioritizing accessibility can positively impact the market and reputation of eLearning technologies. By demonstrating a public commitment to accessibility, these important technologies can improve their social proof and show that students with a disability can enjoy the same training experience and education as their counterparts.

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