Best Practices For Section 508 Compliance in eLearning

  • 4.07.2023

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    What is 508 compliance within the context of eLearning?

    Electronic learning, or eLearning, is the delivery of learning and training through digital resources. Although it is based on institutionalized learning, it is provided through electronic devices such as computers, tablets, and even mobile phones that are connected to the Internet.

    Making eLearning inclusive by making it accessible for those with disabilities is receiving a lot of attention in this time of sensitivity to inclusivity and the accessibility of electronic and information technology (EIT) devices, as reinforced by Section 508.

    What is Section 508?

    The term “Section 508” refers to Section 508 of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and its updates in 1998 and 2017 gave support to making EIT products and services accessible and inclusive of people with disabilities. It is Section 508 that has made eLearning a significant feature in accessibility dialogues.

    Section 508 prohibits disability-related discrimination in federal organizations, their programs, and employment opportunities. Organizations that receive federal funding are also required to conform to Section 508 accessibility requirements to continue receiving the funding.

    Even though Section 508 compliance standards are only required for federal organizations, the private sector has an excellent reason to make eLearning inclusive and accessible to all learners.

    While tremendous efforts are being made to ensure that eLearning is Section 508 compliant, some providers are not following through.

    The unclear directions to follow and the scarcity of knowledgeable eLearning developers who are familiar with the nuances of making eLearning courses Section 508 compliant are the primary drivers of this.

    In this article, we offer a checklist of best practices for building inclusive and accessible eLearning courses that comply with Section 508 requirements.

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      Here is the best practice for Section 508 compliance in eLearning

      For improved accessibility for people with sensory, physical, and cognitive disabilities, Section 508 specifies the minimal degree of accessibility that must be provided by an EIT product or service. Making learning accessible to everyone and taking all requirements into account should be the ultimate goal of every online learning enterprise.

      To make eLearning Section 508 compliant, one must design the program or course in such a way that differently-abled users understand all aspects of the training course, including the audio, visual elements, interactivities, content, and many others.

      Building such an accessible system requires planning ahead, familiarizing oneself with 508 and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and thinking about the prerequisites before beginning the task. This prevents having to rework the project when Section 508 compliance testing establishes accessibility challenges. To help you in this endeavor, here are 508 compliance best practices that will assure you of success at every stage:

      1. Paying attention to the accessibility and usability of the course or platform

      Accessible eLearning should accommodate all forms of disability, including sensory, physical, and cognitive disabilities.

      Best practices for ensuring accessibility and usability include embedding transcripts in courses, adding subtitles to audio narrations to help users with hearing impairments access the content, and making navigation simple by supplying shortcut keys from the keyboard rather than the mouse for learners with mobility issues.

      Making sure that content is aesthetically appealing by carefully selecting colors is also helpful in enhancing Section 508 compliance. Best practices for making eLearning accessible, visually appealing, and Section 508 compliant include the use of tools to make screen readers allow learners to finish tasks without a mouse, as well as having attractive and high-contrast images, and larger icons.

      1. Dedication to inclusivity

      Making eLearning courses usable, comprehensible, and accessible for people with different backgrounds, languages, and work situations frequently has a significant positive impact on inclusivity.

      Accessible design makes sure that everyone can read, listen to, or view content, whereas inclusive design focuses on the actual content. Greater understanding and empathy are needed for inclusivity, and it also requires you to put yourself in another person’s shoes.

      While everyone may be able to use a product or service, inclusive design is more concerned with whether everyone wants to use it and, ultimately, if everyone feels safe doing so.

      There are various best practice strategies you can implement when building inclusive learning experiences. These include recognizing and eliminating bias in writing, discussing bias and diversity, displaying diversity aesthetically, and using your voice. The proper strategy must place equal emphasis on exclusivity and inclusion. When it comes to diversity, equality, and inclusion, refraining from using exclusive terminology will greatly improve your material.

      1. Understanding how to effectively use assistive tools and technologies

      The best practice for Section 508 compliance also includes thinking about assistive technologies like eyeglasses, hearing aids, wheelchairs, software, text-to-speech tools, speech-to-text converters, screen magnifiers, and on-screen keyboards that can benefit learners with various types of disabilities.

      A color contrast checker and 508 compliance checklists are some resources you may find useful when conducting Section 508 compliance testing for your eLearning courses and platforms. E-learning professionals should, as a best practice, think about using writing tools that can make courses more accurate and compliant. The creation of eLearning resources is made easier by authoring tools.

      1. Meeting key WCAG compliance and accessibility factors

      As best practice, instructional content should adhere to WCAG compliance and accessibility standards for key elements such as color focus, tab ordering, and general accessibility settings for the eLearning platform or website.

      1. Adherence to an updated Section 508 compliance checklist

      As new avenues for improving Section 508 accessibility open up, accessibility criteria are constantly changing. As a best practice, keeping track of compliance checklist updates is crucial for ensuring Section 508 compliance in eLearning.

      The Section 508 compliance checklist calls for, among other things, implementing universal design principles in eLearning platforms and materials, adhering to the standards for text and picture contrast, improving the accessibility of audio and video content, and improving the accessibility of visual content.

      Need your eLearning platform and resources tested for 508 accessibility?

      The ideals of inclusion and 508 accessibility in eLearning are not merely “nice to haves.” They are also not mere talking points deserving of lip service. As it promotes efficient communication, cooperation, and innovation, many eLearning institutions have discovered that following best practices for inclusion and 508 accessibility has a positive impact on their business outcomes.

      To promote and maintain a diverse, inclusive, equitable, and effective business and learning culture, institutions engaging in or planning to engage in eLearning should adopt these best practices. The ADACP is ready to offer assistance to companies and institutions that are unsure of how to start the journey.

      Call us at (626) 486-2201 or schedule a consult with ADACP right away to find out how we can help you achieve the best practices for Section 508 compliance in your eLearning.