7 ways accessible and inclusive content improves learning for everyone

Yellow background with image of Susi Miller and webinar info on June 13 2023 at 11 am ET
June 6, 2023
5 minutes
Yellow background with image of Susi Miller and webinar info on June 13 2023 at 11 am ET

As part of our upcoming Masterclass in Accessible and Inclusive Learning Content on June 13 at 11 am ET, we’ve asked our guest, Susi Miller to share her thoughts in a two-part blog. This is part two.

Why create accessible and inclusive learning content?

In my last blog post, I explored the difference between accessible and inclusive learning content. I explained that making learning content accessible is generally considered to mean meeting guidelines which are often required by law. Making learning content inclusive, however, goes beyond technical standards. It means providing a welcoming learning experience where no one feels excluded. In this blog, I move on to explore the “why” of accessible and inclusive learning content. In other words, the many incentives that are making more and more organisations commit to providing learning content which everyone can use and which supports inclusion.  

The benefits of accessible digital content

There are many well-documented organisational benefits to making all digital content including learning resources accessible. These include:

  • The ethical case: A focus on social responsibility enhances organizational reputation.
  • The legal case: Compliance with accessibility guidelines helps avoid potential legal issues and reputational damage.
  • The business case: Accessible organizations harness proven financial advantages.
  • The DE&I case: Accessibility legitimizes an organization's commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I).
  • The talent case: Organizations are able to attract and retain diverse talent.

In addition to these broader benefits of making digital content accessible, my own experience as a learning practitioner and my extensive training and auditing work with a wide range of organizations have highlighted two other advantages which apply specifically to learning resources. The first is that learning how to design accessible and inclusive learning content leads to better learning practitioners. The second is that these better learning practitioners design better learning experiences - for everyone.  

How does designing accessible and inclusive learning content lead to better practitioners?

  • Promotes a focus on the learner: Prioritizing accessibility results in a transformative shift that places learners at the centre of the learning experience. This change encourages practitioners to think more empathetically about their learning audience and helps them to be mindful of the different ways learners experience content.
  • Challenges practice: A well-known quote by the writer Alvin Toffler states, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." When practitioners learn about accessibility, it challenges them to re-evaluate and improve their practice. It changes the perspective from doing things based on habit, to doing things for the advantage of learners.
  • Leads to Innovation: A profound change in mindset is to realise that accessibility is not a limitation but instead leads to innovation. Designing content that is accessible often sparks creative solutions that make learning experiences more engaging and interactive for all learners.

These are just a few of the ways I’ve found that designing content which is accessible and inclusive leads to better learning practitioners. Let’s move on now to explore how these better learning practitioners create better learning experiences.

How does designing accessible and inclusive learning content lead to better learning experiences?

  • Includes all access needs: As I explored in my first blog, accessible learning content caters to the vision, hearing, motor and cognitive access needs within a workforce. Most organizations typically estimate that this applies to somewhere between 4% to 7% of their staff. Recent research by the Boston Consulting Group which involved nearly 28,000 employees across 16 countries, however, found that 25% identified as having a disability or health condition.
  • Future proofs learning content: Population ageing is predicted by the UN to be one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st Century. As a result, it’s crucial that organizations ensure that learning content is suitable for a workforce that will naturally develop access needs as they get older. But even without the ageing factor, accessibility is vital for future-proofing learning content. This is because 2% of working-age people become disabled every year, according to the UK Employers' Forum on Disability.
  • Caters to circumstances, environment, and preferences: Accessible learning content caters for temporary access needs like having a migraine which affects vision, or stress and tiredness which affect cognitive ability. It also adapts to situational access needs like having a slow internet connection which prevents images from downloading. In addition, it provides learners with different ways of accessing content that caters to learner preferences such as text transcripts to supplement video content.
  • Addresses common eLearning complaints: Making learning content accessible and inclusive has the often overlooked advantage of addressing well-known criticisms about digital learning content such as:

    - Overcomplicated and complex language
    - Distracting moving transitions and content
    - Stressful and unhelpful assessments  
    - Locked or difficult to navigate content
    - Distracting narration on slides

These are just a few ways I’ve found that designing content which is accessible and inclusive leads to better learning experiences.  

One of my favourite quotes about accessibility is from advocate Jutta Treviranus who said, "We know about the importance of diversity in biodiversity and economics, but human diversity is something that we seem to think is a problem, it’s an issue to solve. But we don’t recognize it for the treasure that it is." I firmly believe that appreciating the diversity of our learners and designing learning content which is accessible and inclusive is “the treasure” that can transform eLearning and make it better for everyone, including people with disabilities and access needs.  

Register for the webinar to learn more about accessible and inclusive learning content with Susi Miller on June 13, 2023 at 11 am ET.

Sign up for eLaHub’s free Designing Accessible Learning Content taster module to see accessible and inclusive learning content in action

Your Workforce Includes People with Disabilities. Does Your People Strategy? Boston Consulting Group

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