eLearning, Accessibility & Section 508

Helen Tyson | 01/30/2018

Section 508 is the accessibility standard for US federal organisations and those receiving federal funding. In January 2017 The United States Access Board published new rules regarding Section 508. The new rules allowed a 12-month transition period, which is now up.

The new Section 508 guidelines bring US legislation in line with existing international guidelines: WCAG (2.0). While complying with Section 508 remains officially the responsibility of federal organisations, and those receiving federal funding, the advice for others is to follow voluntary codes of practice. This means that federal and non-federal organisations now effectively follow the same guidelines.

So, what does this mean in practice?

The changes mean access for people with cognitive, language and learning disability is given equal importance as those with a physical disability. Therefore, there are several areas eLearning Developers should be looking at:

Visuals

Set up ‘alt-tags’ and a custom tab order for use with screen readers. Avoid colour contrasts that affect those with limited vision or altered visual perception. Examples of this include colour blindness, dyslexia and visual stress. You can learn more about visual stress here.  

Audio

Any media with an audio track should be supported by captioning to make it available to those with auditory impairments.

Speech control

Any speech control should be supported by mouse, keyboard or gesture support.

Manual control

Manual controls should include mouse, keyboard and gesture support.

Readability

Check text readability levels using a system such as the Flesch Reading-Ease Test. This test analysing your text and gives it a score between 0-100. The higher the score the more readable your text is. See this table for the gradings:

section 508.png

Text layout and structure

Left-aligned text is more readable. Do not use centred or justified text. For body text, sans serif fonts are easier to read, with a minimum size of 14 and 1.5 line spacing. Tables, numbers and bullet points provide structure.

Although section 508 is a US legislation, accessibility is important for eLearning developers worldwide. There are numerous standards for accessibility, including WCAG 2.0 and The Equality Act 2010; which means all eLearning professionals need to ensure their courses are accessible.  

There are many useful resources available to make sure you’re compliant, including some relevant support articles for Articulate users:

Plus, we love this free online readability test – to make sure your courses are accessible for all of your learners.

If you have any questions about these changes, or making your eLearning courses accessible, please feel free to contact me.

Helen Tyson

Helen Tyson is a Lead Trainer and Consultant at Omniplex.

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