Lectora is a rapid development tool that makes it possible for developers and non-developers alike to produce eLearning. The creators of Lectora market it as having the ability to generate 508 compliant courses. But what does “the ability to” really mean? It’s more than just checking a box—creating an accessible course requires familiarity with accessibility guidelines and a plan.
I am going to help you get started on your plan and share with you five important elements for designing a course in Lectora that is accessible to learners with a visual impairment.
Accessibility means that a learner with a disability has the opportunity to take a course and perform the same functions and receive the same information as a mainstream learner. There are a variety of assistive technologies that can assist a blind user accessing the web, but, for the purpose of this article, we will focus on a tool called a screen reader. A screen reader is a software application that attempts to identify and interpret what is being displayed on the screen. This interpretation is then represented to the user with synthesized speech.
1. Provide an option for users to skip repetitive elements.
What are repetitive elements? There are elements that are repeated on every page throughout the course, such as the Main Menu button or the Chapter Title. On most pages a learner will skim over these elements and go straight to the content. There are several options you can give users with a screen reader to skip these repetitive elements.
The most common is a “Skip to Main Content” link. This link is architecturally placed above all of the repetitive elements, and, when selected, the link navigates the user to the beginning of the main content.
To do this in Lectora, add a Main Content Placeholder after all of your repetitive elements. Essentially, this place holder is just an empty text box. Then add a link at the top of the Title Explorer titled Skip to Main Content. Program the link to go to the Current Page: Main Content Placeholder. Voila!
You can make the Skip to Main Content invisible to a visual learner by coloring the text the same color as your template. A screen reader will still detect it.
2. Provide alternative text for images.
Visually impaired users may not be able to view the images you have in your lesson. A screen reader will identify an image and then read the alternative text provided.
Write the alternative text to convey, as closely as possible, the same meaning and purpose that the image conveys to a visual learner. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 suggests that a developer keep four questions in mind when creating alternative text.
- Why is this non-text content here?
- What information is it presenting?
- What purpose does it fulfill?
- If I could not use the non-text content, what words would I use to convey the same function and or information?
In Lectora, the Image Name is used for the alternative text. The Image Name field can be found in the Image Properties box. Simply select an image and the Image Properties box will display.
Place your cursor in the Image Name field to edit the text. When the course is published this will be the alternative text provided for the image selected. Notice in the example below that the Image Name and the Image fields are equivalent. That is because when an image is first added to Lectora, the name of the image file (In this case, puppy.jpg) is the default Image Name description.
To save time during development, rename your image files to the appropriate alternative text prior to adding them to your course!
Alternative text is not required when an image is purely decorative. Select the “Use empty ALT tag when published to HTML” checkbox and the current Image Name will not be detected by a screen reader.
3. Properly label text fields.
Properly labeled text fields can be instrumental in navigating through a page. For instance, a screen reader can locate all of the headings and allow the user to jump to the content they are interested in.
In the Text Properties box in Lectora, edit the HTML Text Type to properly label your text fields. In this case, the Text Type of Heading 1 corresponds to the html tag the reader uses to locate the headings.
4. Ensure that content is laid out in a logical manner.
What is a logical manner? A logical manner is simply the order in which you would like a learner to go through your content. You wouldn’t want them to read body text prior to reading the header, would you?
Lectora’s Title Explorer provides a visual layout for the content order. When using a screen reader, the course elements will be read from top to bottom starting with the Title level, the Chapter level, and then the Page level.
If the “Always on Top” checkbox is selected on an element, it will be read before any other elements regardless of where it is located in the Title Explorer.
5. Provide consistency throughout your course.
Every course is different. Your learner will have to readjust their expectations to fit yours. Make your course intuitive by maintaining the same layout throughout. Your learners will know what expect on every page and can spend more time absorbing the content instead of trying to navigate their way around!
W3C. Understanding Success Criterion 1.1.1; Understanding WCAG 2.0; 11 December 2008 [cited 8 August 2012].