Section 508 compliance is something you may have never heard about if you’re new to eLearning. Or perhaps you’ve heard other eLearning developers throwing around the word “accessibility” but never quite understood what they meant. Creating 508-compliant eLearning courses has many benefits for your learners, so let’s take a look at the reasoning behind Section 508 and how you can make your online training accessible to all.
Section 508 of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act is a law that requires federal agencies and their contractors to make their electronic and information technology accessible to those with disabilities. It outlines the minimum acceptable standards, such as “the use of text labels or descriptors for graphics and certain format elements.” This section also addresses the usability of multimedia presentations, image maps, style sheets, scripting languages, applets and plug-ins and electronic forms. The purpose of Section 508 is to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals.For those people with certain types of disabilities, the traditional use of a Web site or eLearning course is often difficult or impossible. Consider these statistics:
Since June 2001, Section 508 has required that all content created using federal money be 508 compliant. Industry best practices encourage even those not receiving federal funds or affiliated with a federal agency to ensure their online training is 508 compliant. Many eLearning authoring tools, like Lectora eLearning software, are built with functions that help you easily create engaging and interactive 508 compliant eLearning courses.
Accessibility in the eLearning industry is slightly broader than what Section 508 requires and is generally voluntary—although highly encouraged—on the part of instructional designers and eLearning developers. “Accessibility” is about making your content easy to use for everyone, from a person with a severe vision or hearing disability to a person who wears glasses to a person with a physical disability.An accessible eLearning course allows a diverse range of people to access and use it comfortably and effectively. Everyone benefits from eLearning that is easier to use with well thought out colors and clear language.To promote the importance of accessible digital design, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) launched the Web Accessibility Initiative in 1997 endorsed by The White House and W3C members. This initiative provides some guidelines for accessibility and checklists you can use to grade your content. Keep in mind, these are not eLearning-specific guidelines; they were initially created for web developers. However, the tools and standards developed by the W3C provide a good guide for all digital developers, including eLearning developers and instructional designers. One feature in Lectora eLearning authoring software which helps create 508 compliant courses is the 508 Compliance Check tool. This tool generates a list of any issues that need to be resolved in order to comply with 508 requirements before you publish your eLearning course.