What can training program managers learn from a study of Dutch government websites? Their website audits reveal five insights (at least) to consider when building accessible elearning.
Accessible Elearning Insights Gleaned from Dutch Municipality Website Audits
I just finished Eric Velleman’s 2018 dissertation, The Implementation of Web Accessibility Standards by Dutch Municipalities (discovered through Laura Carlson’s excellent weekly newsletter, Web Design Update).
How does this relate to elearning, you might be wondering? As you may be aware, in order to reach all employees in your organization, all students taking your courses, all learners whose behavior needs to change, you need to ensure that all people are able to access your training, whether or not they have a disability. (You can find out more about the connection between online training and accessibility—and how to address the issues—in our Training Manager’s Guide to Accessible Elearning.) The same factors that influence whether organizations create accessible websites can also influence whether organizations create accessible elearning.
It’s hard to overstate the number of fascinating nuggets that are scattered throughout Velleman’s work. It’s important to note, as he does, that he shows correlation rather than causation (that the elements seem to be associated with each other, rather than one causing the other).
I was excited to read it—Velleman attempts to determine which organizational factors result in accessible websites. He’s not writing about theory, nor about what should work; instead, he’s attempting to figure out what really works?
He correlated professional accessibility audits of the websites of 69 Dutch municipalities with surveys of the designers who were responsible for the websites and tried to answer this question: which factors account for the successful implementation of web accessibility standards (using WCAG 2.0 Level AA)?
This is what stood out to me:
- Training matters.There was a significant correlation between knowledge about accessibility guidelines and more accessible websites. “Organizations with more awareness and knowledge score significantly higher in the audit results” (p. 165).
- Tools matter. If an organization only uses the accessibility tools provided by a content management system (CMS), then they score lower in the audit results (p. 166).
- Involving users matters. “Organizations that organize the involvement of users score better in the audit results” (p. 165).
- Involving the web development team matters. This might seem to be a given, but it’s heartening to see that involving the web development team (specifically, having a person responsible for web accessibility) correlates with audit results (p. 165).
- Involvement of organizational leadership matters. There was a correlation of positive audit results with “pressure from central government obligations with regard to web accessibility.” There’s also a correlation with “the existence of a plan written by management and the availability of top level management commitment” (p. 165).
In addition to these points, Velleman provides actionable insights. You can find a list of his recommendations on pages 170-177.
How might we use this information? Among other things, these conclusions can:
- Help people make the argument that training makes a real difference when it comes to accessibility.
- Affect the topics that training might cover (for example, there’s a case to be made that people need to be introduced to accessibility tools other than those included in their CMS—or learning management system).
- Show strong indications that involving the web development team, upper management, and users of the content will help increase the accessibility of online content.
There are caveats to bear in mind. For example, Velleman’s research is specific, not general. Can a study based on Dutch municipal organizations be applied to your organization? Or are there specific factors that would mean his results are relevant only to the context in which they are studied?
And the study is focused on website accessibility. To what extent can a study about websites be mapped onto elearning? More work might need to be done specifically in the field of online learning to show whether these results are directly applicable.
At the same time, when used with the proper caution, there’s a lot in Velleman’s work that can give insight into which organizational efforts and actions have a strong likelihood of resulting in accessible elearning.
Want more accessible elearning insights?
Click the “Accessibility” category on this page for more articles on how and why to build training in a way that works for people with disabilities.
Also consider our Accessibility Training. There are options for content creators, web developers, and others—with custom classes available.
Read through our Accessibility Services: from audits, web development, to elearning development, we can help you provide accessible online training that works for all the learners in your training ecosystem.
Finally, as mentioned before, consider The Training Manager’s Guide to Accessible Elearning. It will provide a solid foundation for understanding the processes required for buying or building training accessibly.