This post appeared in its entirety in eCampus News.
The accessibility of learning content is undergoing a dramatic change right now. This change is being built upon existing standards that key parts of the industry are implementing, as well as new standards. All the changes that are happening are, for the first time, enabling the ability for institutions, instructors and learners to adopt and access accessible content, that is the exact same content, at the same time, on the same platforms as any other user.
Vendors must ensure that the content they provide is available where and when users need it, and that the platform and the content are created in a way that they will work together to ensure accessibility.
Getting Everyone on the Same Page
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) have emerged as the benchmark for creating this common platform for accessibility. The WCAG technical standard’s 12 guidelines, that fall under four principles, provide testable success criteria.
Published and maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), WCAG is also an ISO standard. The international success and adoption of this standard has increased the expectation of what every company should do.
With the prevalent use of web technologies everywhere today, it would be unthinkable to consider a part of a learning ecosystem that did not work with the internet. In the US, the recently announced refresh of the Federal Government Accessibility Standards (Section 508) has brought the specifics about the WCAG standard to the forefront, and the WCAG standard now defines the requirements that must be used.
Working Together for Improved Solutions
As we all work to improve our solutions, we will continue to find other gaps that must be filled. We might find these gaps in functionality, the standards, the laws, or even the testing process. Participants from the ed-tech community, disability services offices and instructional technologies must be involved in identifying and filling these gaps. We all need to roll up our sleeves and participate in working groups, test creation and community discussions about the best ways to partner, fill these gaps and ensure transparency around every facet of the problem. Providing accessibility is a never-ending journey and vendors must understand the commitment it requires. It must be at the core of their operation and development processes. They will never solve the problems at hand if they are trying to fix things afterward or in later releases. Vendors must design in accessibility from the start, commit to the journey and ensure it is a fundamental part of their DNA.