Few fields fully embrace the need to address people with disabilities—learning included. But why is meeting the needs of diverse learners important, anyway?
A Call for Raising the Bar for Meeting Learners’ Needs
I recently returned from the 33rd CSUN Assistive Technology conference. It’s a conference that focuses on accessibility. And I spend most of my days designing and developing learning, especially elearning. What’s the connection?
It’s fair to say that few fields fully embrace the need to address people with disabilities, and learning is among those that can do better.
But What’s the Motivation?
Why consider people who might have disabilities relating to hearing, vision, mobility, or cognition?
Well, there is the law—private and public organizations, educational, and corporate institutions, are all being closely examined to see if they follow the various mandates that require that digital materials be accessible.
But more importantly, we need to reach our learners. We design learning so that it fits with how people learn; we create visual design solutions; we focus on learning and performance; we do our best to make it stick.
When we don’t take into account that our learners are diverse, and that some can’t hear course narration; that some can’t see videos; that some can’t click and drag a slider; that some have difficulty following complex diagrams; well, we don’t reach our learners.
They get discouraged. They become disengaged. Our courses fail them, and we don’t put them in position to succeed.
So, How Do I Address the Needs of Diverse Learners?
What can we do? We can design our courses so that all people, including adult learners with differing abilities, can access the content. Include captions for narration, audio description for video, keyboard-activated interactions, simplified diagrams.
And that’s why conferences like CSUN are brilliant. They showcase how people are designing for those who have disabilities. Sessions provide ideas, and stories, and solutions, and inspiration.
Do they explicitly address learning? Sometimes.
But even when they don’t specifically address meeting the needs of diverse learners, they spark ideas on how to create learning that reaches more people (check out my latest blog post for ways in which we can use standards, pattern libraries, and testing procedures to help make our courses more accessible).
And it goes both ways—learning professionals can offer what our field does best, ways to connect with learners, to change behavior. (We can even talk about, say, how to make elearning accessible to all.)
Until next time,
Kevin Gumienny (bio)
Senior Learning Architect
More on Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners
- Using Pattern Libraries for Accessible Elearning: Insights from CSUN 2018
- CSUN 2018 Accessibility Interview: Rebecca Cagle, Senior Trainer, UNTWISE
- Accessibility Expertise: Determining Where It Belongs in Elearning Development
- OCR Website Accessibility Complaints Hit Schools and Universities
- Accessible Technology: Computer Code, Wearables, and At-Home Developments Promote Independent Living
- Accessibility Training for Developers, Testers, and Content Creators
- Document Accessibility: Accessible PowerPoint Presentations
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This commentary originally appeared in our May 2018 Learning Dispatch newsletter. To receive more commentaries from Kevin, use the form on this page to subscribe to the Learning Dispatch newsletter. You’ll get learning insights, resources, and thought leadership for learning and development delivered to your inbox each month!