Digital accessibility is one area where most businesses seem to be able to comprehend both the legal requirements and the moral imperatives of making their websites, apps, and other digital products accessible for people who are disabled.
Better still, over the past 10 years, organizations have begun to increasingly appreciate the business case for website accessibility as a clear return on investment with 15-20%” of their customers may have some form of disability.
Businesses have struggled to produce consistent, high-quality, and fair digital experiences that are compliant with all their customers’ needs.
Digital accessibility is technically complicated. It is full of jargon and precepts that are difficult to understand and often carries the fear of making a mistake.
A thirst to learn
Washington-based Level Access, a leading provider of digital accessibility solutions in the industry, launched its innovative learning platform recently to educate employees across an entire organization about digital accessibility principles and practices.
Access Academy is a unique offering. It has been seamlessly integrated into daily workflows, allowing for deep learning opportunities directly from accessibility audits.
Users can still learn on the job using text prompts and educational video that trigger when certain accessibility fails are detected. This makes the training much more relevant and impactful for the user.
This is in stark contrast to the old-fashioned way of providing accessibility training dating back over 20 years where trainers would visit the premises of clients and deliver face-to-face courses on accessibility-related topics lasting hours or over a period of days.
This siloed approach had a problem. It was too theoretical and made it difficult for participants not to be able to relate the technical and esoteric concepts they were learning with the realities of their jobs.
The picture has improved over the last six to seven years thanks to the introduction of more online courses, which were directly integrated into the Learning Management System of a company. These online learning modalities allowed for greater flexibility in self-pacing and more use of video material.
Access Academy, announced earlier in the month, goes one step further. It offers microlearning chunks that are extremely concise and bite-sized, consisting of videos that are very specific to the task at hand. These videos include adding alt tags to describe images. However, they last only one to three minutes.
Integration with the audit suite of an organization or bug tracking tickets for project administration software like Jira allows you to insert training content directly into your daily processes.
The potency and long-term worth of training lies in its immediateness and preoccupation with what the user is doing.
Tim Springer, CEO at Level Access, explains that Access Academy is more likely to make learners more open to learning and to retain information. Training that is only done in the classroom can become very theoretical and dilute the message.
Access Academy’s teachings are minimally disruptive. This helps users to remain focused on their core jobs and see digital accessibility as an integral part of the process.
Access Academy offers weekly live training sessions that are task-oriented and zooms out to cover key industry topics such as laws and regulations, mobile accessibility and testing tools, and assistive technologies.
Learning pathways are tailored to specific job roles, including content creators, designers and Quality Assurance professionals. They also include members of the leadership team, legal and compliance officers, and members of the leadership.
To motivate users and enhance professional development, leaderboards and gamification are available to track progress. Course completion badges can be added to LinkedIn profiles in order to highlight industry leaders.
Understanding the priorities
Corporate leaders who are still afraid of the potential complexities and pitfalls that digital accessibility can present and prefer to outsource it than learn the right way to solve the problem will find this model not economically viable over the long-term due to the volume of accessibility problems that frequently arise.
Springer says, “Outsourcing all things accessibility related will never be cost-effective.”
He said, “There is a saying that 90% of accessibility problems can be caused by 10% of the most frequent failures.” This includes things like adding alt text to images and labeling form fields.
If we can get the customer to manage that 10%, that model is super cost-effective and works great. It also scales like a dream. Springer says that part of the training and microlearning is to help the customer understand the 10% they should manage for themselves, as well as the 90% they might need to seek out assistance.
However, outsourcing an information management method that is important to technical details of accessibility can be a good option for training organizations. This allows them to focus more on the big picture.
Springer says, “We are increasingly finding that people don’t care as much about the laws and digital standards as they do about the experiences of disabled persons. So it’s important that we have those types of learnings which are emotionally compelling.”
It is a win-win situation for everyone involved by removing some of the burden around accessibility training, so staff teams have more bandwidth around the organization’s mission-critical values. This will allow them to see how accessibility fits in this larger picture. Particularly those who intuitively understand why digital accessibility is so important to so many.