7 tips for designing accessible elearning

Everyone should be able to have a great learning experience. This means making sure you consider accessibility when designing elearning. There are some simple and practical changes you can make to your course design to meet (and exceed!) WCAG 2.0 standards. Here are 7 tips to help you create accessible elearning experiences.

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What does accessible elearning mean, and why is it important?

Accessible learning means that anyone, no matter their needs, is able to fully experience your learning. For instance, if a partially sighted person were to use your elearning course, they should get as complete an experience as a fully sighted person.

Making your elearning accessible is essential. In fact, it’s law:

“In the case of disability, employers and service providers are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments to their workplaces to overcome barriers experienced by disabled people.” Equality Act 2010 (UK, called Section 508 in the US)

This doesn’t have to be a problem for you, the content creator; in fact, it should be something that is integrated into your development process. Here are a few simple guidelines to follow to make it easy:

7 practical tips for designing accessible elearning

1. Design with audio and visual in mind

There are several reasons why a learner may prefer an audio or visual version of your course. Therefore, it’s important to make sure all your audio content is also available as text, either via a transcript or closed captions, to cater for all those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

If visuals are a must-have, make your content compatible with assistive technologies (e.g., screen readers). This can be done by:

  • Adding captions
  • Providing a transcript
  • Choosing your language wisely

(we’ll explore this more further down!)

Here’s a list of screen readers you can test for free:

See Jane Bozarth’s Designing for Accessibility for more information!

2. Add subtitles to your videos

If you are including video or audio, ensure that you include an introduction before the video to introduce the content and tell the learner how to interact with it.

Always ensure that you include subtitles of the multimedia content. This can be done either via closed captions or by including a separate transcript field. This way, individuals with visual or hearing disabilities can have an equally as effective experience.

Video box with subtitles

3. Add captions to images

If key information is included in your images that you need all learners to understand, then add a caption to your images. Make sure you also include the text alternative, or “alt text,” to explain what the picture is displaying.

This might not be required for all images (e.g., if they are supporting graphics that are not essential for understanding your content).

4. Check your color contrast

Contrast is key to the readability of text. Ensure that contrast is high, either by using very different tones or very different colors. Consider boosting your text size too, to improve legibility.

accessible colors contrast grid

If you’re placing text on a background image, then use a colored tint to knock back the image so the text stands out as clearly as possible – try to avoid placing text over busy backgrounds! Effective color contrast will make any text far easier to read for individuals who are partially sighted or color blind.

5. Use similar hues

A well-designed graph or table with a range of distinct colors may look great, but it’s not heavily accessible.“When designing visual aids, using a variety of colors might seem like a good idea at first, but it can make it a lot harder for people with color blindness to interpret the data.” (Steve Schoger – Designer)

accessible hue color graph

Instead, try using multiple shades of the same hue – it’s much more accessible and looks better, too!

6. Consider your interactions

Certain interaction types are not fully-accessible for all learners. For instance, some drag and drop and sortable activities rely on a learner using (and being adept with) a mouse, which will exclude anyone using keyboard navigation. Consider whether your content can be reworked slightly to allow an alternative, more accessible interaction.

If using an image explorer, consider switching the hotspots from icons to text labels to ensure they are not reliant on the image alone and clear for all users.

example of an accessible interaction

7. Think about your choice of words

Words like “click” imply that learners are using a mouse. Links are summarized by screen readers, so ensure you make the sentence that is linked self-sufficient so it will make sense out of context.

For these reasons, consider using “Select this link to find out more about XXX” rather than “Click here.” We recommend that you read this great article on inclusive language: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disability_etiquette


Designing accessible elearning is a win-win. Not only will applying these simple design and development changes help you meet content accessibility guidelines, but it also ensures that you’re creating great learning experiences for everyone. This will naturally boost overall performance and understanding within your organization.

We can help you do it!

Feel inspired by these examples? Book a demo today to discuss how Elucidat can help you create great learning experiences.

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