Bringing 508 Compliance into the Light!
(First in a periodic series)
There is a widely held and mistaken belief that eLearning is, for the most part, a type of web site. That slapping a table of contents, next button and a few questions on a series of pages and this “course” can be managed like any other set of web pages. This “it’s so simple” approach is then propagated by technology marketing departments promising no coding and courseware developed by anyone.
Just as developing any eLearning is more complicated than is marketed, developing courseware that is useable by those using adaptive technologies (e.g. screen readers, alternate pointing devices, etc.) has proven to be extremely difficult. The challenge is also masked by tools and technologies that try to simplify this process with the 508 compliant box.
As many organizations have found out, simply checking the 508 Compliance box does not produce useable or necessarily compliant software. This gap between perceived compliance and actual useable/compliant eLearning introduces stress, cost, and inefficiency to everyone involved. The worst of these effects is that the people that could likely derive the most benefit from 508 Compliant eLearning technology are often the ones who have the greatest difficulties using it.
Disclaimer: We recognize that the above comments are generally negative but we do not want to cast all attempts at building accessible eLearning as “failures”. There are many examples of companies providing truly accessible content.
Section 508 has provided an extensive and valuable framework for building accessible materials. However, there is a huge gap between “standards and guidelines” and their practical implementation.
This gap exists primarily for any of the following reasons:
The interactions between accessible technology, web browsers, eLearning content and the LMS are very complicated. A significant number of layers of technology must be in sync for things to work. Consider the following software that must work together for every learner:
- Type, version, and options used in the operating system and support components (e.g. how are accessibility features of Windows XP, Vista used?).
- Type of and version of the browser (e.g. IE 6.x, 7.x, 8.x), Safari, Firefox – are there any add-on’s? Type and version of multimedia player (e.g. Flash player x.y, version).
- Make and version of accessibility tools (e.g. WindowEyes 6.x, 7,x or JAWZ x.y, or x.y)
Simply navigating and coordinating this matrix of technologies is challenging. The addition of an accessible technology layer adds another dimension to an already complex landscape.
A Process Problem
When developing eLearning, many organizations suffer from the “funnel problem,” in which all eLearning content is dumped or funneled down to an author. The author uses their desktop authoring tools to integrate all instructional design, graphics, multi-media, corporate standards, subject matter experts, and the ever-changing input from the “functional owner” of the course. Add to all of these demands the need to be useable and 508 compliant, and the likelihood for success is minimal.
Additionally, many organizations list “adaptive usability” and 508 Compliant as one of the requirements. For any number of reasons, treating 508 Compliance as one of the requirements likely will not work. From our experience, often regardless of 508 Compliance, by the time the core eLearning content is reviewed and approved, the content itself may be outdated. If you treat integration with adaptive technologies as another step in the review process, the timeframes extend greatly. Combine this process problem with the technology complexities, and, frankly, it is a wonder any accessible eLearning is created.
Accessibility Standards are a .pdf
Section 508 is a specification, a listing of do’s and don’ts. While there are tools out there to assist with adherence and interpretation, for any given organization or eLearning developer, adherence means understanding and applying a very large and complicated set of standards and guidelines. In summary, this is not an efficient or necessarily repeatable process. When organizations have the “funnel approach” to development, their results are dependant on “who” the effort is funneled towards.
When you combine a multitude of complicated technologies and inefficient development processes with open interpretation of requirements, it is clear why building effective and useable accessible content is so challenging.
Keep following this series to read more about what is happening with accessibility and 508 Compliance today and how we should meet these challenges.
About CourseAvenueVisit us at www.CourseAvenue.com
- Check out this list of the best iPhone education apps for children with special needs. bit.ly/WGpNK4 #ally #edchat #edtech #mobile - 1 month ago
- Less developers equals less cost, makes sense right? Wrong! Find out why here: wp.me/pzgsk-hB #edchat #elearning #platform #edtech - 1 month ago
- Still haven't checked out our platform series? What are you waiting for! Here it is: wp.me/pzgsk-jA #elearning #edchat #edtech - 2 months ago
- "With a platform, it is easier than ever for your audience to receive your course and for you to check their progress" wp.me/pzgsk-js - 2 months ago
- Check out the FINAL PART of our Platform series: wp.me/pzgsk-jH #edchat #edtech #elearning #mlearning #mobileculture - 2 months ago