Inclusive Learning – Designing & delivering content to WCAG ‘AA’ Standards

In 2016 we were presented with a unique challenge which tested this vision.

We were approached by the Australian Network on Disability (AND), a member base organisation established to champion the inclusion of people with a disability in the workplace. When AND contacted Peopleplan about building e-learning content suitable for people with disability we realised there was a gap in our ‘offer’. We also quickly recognised the value of doing such interesting and exciting work.

We invested time and effort into understanding the protocols around Inclusive Learning and then building the modules. We were pretty pleased with ourselves but, most importantly, AND were delighted with the result.

Inclusive Learning is based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) which are published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organisation for the Internet. The WCAG specify how to make online content accessible for people with disabilities. These standards flow through to elearning and incorporate all devices including tablets and mobile phones.

The WCAG has 12 guidelines that are organised under four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. For each guideline there are testable success criteria which are at three levels/standards: A, AA, and AAA.  These three levels were developed in order to accommodate different situations that require or allow greater levels of accessibility than others. Web Sites and digital learning modules that are developed to the AA level of the WCAG are capable of including more people than those developed to the A level.

Ways in which this increased inclusiveness can be demonstrated revolve around access for people with hearing or vision impairments. For people with hearing impairments, level A level means that captions are provided for pre-recorded audio content.  AA level means that captions are provided for all live audio content and that there’s an audio description available for all prerecorded video content. For people with visual impairments, level A means that colour is not used as the sole method of conveying content or distinguishing visual elements. AA level requires text and images of text have a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. AA level also means that the page is readable and functional when the text size is doubled.

Peopleplan uses the following four-step process to ensure that inclusive design is incorporated into digital learning at the AA level: 1. Understand your users; 2. Ensure that there is a balance between inclusiveness and interactivity in e-learning module design; 3. Ensure that text, graphics, video and audio incorporate inclusive design; and 4. Undertake User Testing to ensure that the digital learning works as expected for all. This process enables Peopleplan to provide e-learning modules that satisfy the WCAG for AA level inclusivity in a rigorous and cost effective manner.

We are set for some interesting times ahead when it comes to delivering content. Rather than building specific solutions for people with disability or for our ageing population, we feel content development is moving towards increasing accessibility and inclusivity in mainstream e-learning design and delivery. After all, as our population ages, people with hearing, sight, cognitive impairment or mobility impairments won’t be in the minority.

If you’re interested to know more about the background of inclusive Learning, the WCAG and supporting documentation are available on the Web Site of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) at https://www.w3.org/WAI/.  We’ve also recently completed a credentials document which you can read here: Peopleplan Inclusive Learning Credentials Document