The Importance of Universal Design in your LMS

Accessibility in design of learning materials is generally thought of as an add on to comply with the Equality Act 2010. However, our population is changing and so we need to change our thinking.

Over the last two decades, life expectancy has risen and pension age has too. This is having a dramatic effect on the UK working population. The removal of compulsory retirement in 2011 is now beginning to have an effect. The Financial Times reported in 2014 that the percentage of people over 65 still working had risen from 16% in 2007 to 26%, and the rise in the 60-64 age group had gone from 40% in 2007 to 60%. In terms of those in employment the ONS (2015) report that 30% are over 60, and of them 4% over 65.

So what does this have to do with learning provision?

Unfortunately, as you get older there are physical changes: for many there is a major eyesight change at age 40-50; hearing deteriorates as we become unable to detect as wide a frequency range; mobility can become poorer. We may not think of this older workforce as part of the ‘disabled’ spectrum, but effectively they are. I know my eyesight is not the same as when I was in my 20s and hearing on one side is worse than the other. Not designing with accessibility and usability in mind means potentially excluding a large proportion of your staff!

Including usability and accessibility in your learning management system (LMS) has three aspects:

  • Selecting an LMS that has accessibility at the heart of its design. It’s no good having accessible content if it’s in a poor container. That’s like having the best tasting sauce in a jar you can’t open!

  • Selecting tools to design and create learning materials that have accessibility as part of their design. Some tools may help you develop incredible looking content but they do so at the expense of usability. Tools may produce content that is not device responsive and doesn’t work well with native device or browser tools like zoom or text-to-speech.

  • Considering the content you create, thinking about who will use it, and how, as part of the design process. This should all be part of the working practices of an instructional designer. Small changes like, considering the size of targets to click, or simply changing “click green button for OK” to “click green tick for OK” (this helps those with colour vision difficulties too) are simple to implement.
Good design has an added bonus of working well for everyone who needs to access your resources. It’s not about making it more accessible for the few, but usable by all.

eNetLearn, eCom’s cloud-based LMS has been designed as an accessible learning platform. Our new authoring tool, eNetAuthor will enable you to develop highly accessible learning for your staff, that is device responsive. Alongside this eCom’s Instructional Design team can take your ideas and help you create a better learning experience for all.

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