Mention the word “accessibility” and it can mean different things to different people.
In the context of delivering learning content, one application of accessibility is ensuring the same content is equally available across different platforms and channels to students of all abilities.
Formatting of content is a major concern. While PDF content was an early means of enabling widespread usage, a newer format, EPUB, delivers greater flexibility. EPUB offers the added benefit of accommodating the delivery of highly interactive and engaging content. Simply stated, content that is delivered in EPUB format is accessible content.
Consumers of learning content access their materials via diverse channels, so truly accessible content needs to be available any way the user chooses to absorb it. Native applications allowing downloadable reading on Mac, Windows, iPhone, iPad, Android Phone, Android Tablet, Kindle Fire, and Chromebook is now the standard, not the exception. Truly accessible content should be readable in any browser. It should have the capability to be downloaded in any reader. Students are not always online, so another facet of accessible content is for students to be able to access the material offline and still use searching, printing, and note-viewing functionalities.
To ensure all customer-facing applications conform to the applicable standards, wherever possible, documentation should be made publicly available about that conformance. Historically this has meant providing access to the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), but lately has meant using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standard, and the upcoming 508 refresh in the United States. But going beyond the standards, the goal is not just to make the content and its delivery compliant, but to make the use of learning materials easy for students, no matter their ability.
To learn more about the practical and legal issues of accessibility, view the on-demand Inside Higher Ed webinar “New Era of Digital Accessibility” (sponsored by VitalSource). NOTE: submit the form to access the recording.