What Makes Content Accessible?
The Floe approach to inclusive learning emphasizes a "one size fits one" approach. Instead of having a single resource that tries to be accessible to every possible need and preference (i.e., "one size fits all"), Floe encourages a diversity of individualized resources that meet the diverse needs and preferences of leaners through transformation, supplementation, and remixing of existing resources.
Also see Learner Needs and Preferences.
Understanding Accessibility and Inclusivity
Floe defines Inclusive Design as design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference.
Disability is the mismatch between the needs and preferences of the user and the system or environment. Accessibility, then, is the ability of the system or environment to accommodate the needs and preferences of each individual. To further understand these definitions and what it means for content creation, adaptation, and usability, look at the Floe work describing some user states and contexts.
Where to Begin?
If we knew how to, and if we had easy-to-use tools, we'd all make our content more accessible, more inclusive, more adaptable, and more configurable to individual learner needs. Of course, authoring content in an accessible application from the beginning helps achieve these goals best and makes the content more adaptable. There are also options for making materials more accessible "after the fact" (see Video content and learning, Audio content and learning, Cognitive considerations).
In either case, making content more inclusive begins with understanding what kinds of alternatives are needed, and realizing that inclusivity and accessibility are achieved through awareness, adaptation, collaboration, and flexibility. There is no definitive checklist, no machine that churns out accessible materials. With awareness and the tools (like those made through Floe), we can commit to making our materials more inclusive and more accessible.
Understanding the standards for making web content accessible is a great place to start.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are particularly important to Web content creators of text, images, forms, sounds, and more. Below is an introduction to its basic principles.
While individual resources might not be able to satisfy each principle exhaustively for every learner in all situations, the collective diversity of resources enabled through Floe could meet the needs and preferences of all learners.
Perceivability: Content should be consumable
Content should be made available in different and adjustable modalities so that learners who are more comfortable or only able to consume content in a particular mode have that option available to them.
Some ways this can be accomplished:
- Augmenting existing modalities: make things easier to see and hear (e.g., adding options to increase/decrease contrast, provide larger text, change volume, etc.)
- Provide text alternatives for non-text content (e.g., captions and other alternatives for multimedia)
Understandability: Content should be plain and clear to comprehend
- Different learners have different thresholds for wading through the complexity of the content, and complexity of the content's articulation/presentation
- Write content material that isn't unnecessarily difficult to understand
Some things that can be done:
- Provide a mechanism for content simplification: content prioritization, linearization, and reduction of non-essential clutter
- Make text readable and understandable
- Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
Operability: Interactions should be operable by everyone
- Make sure that the resource is usable using different inputs (both a combination of different inputs, and individual inputs)
- Be sensitive to different levels of dexterity when using inputs
- Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
- Give users enough time to read and use content.
- Do not use content that causes seizures.
- Help users navigate and find content.
- Examples of inputs:
- Common inputs: mouse, keyboard
- Other inputs: switch, eye tracking, etc.
Robustness: Resources should be compatible with tools now and later
- Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.
- Learning resources should gracefully degrade when using older tools, and progressively enhance when using modern tools.
Tools for evaluating accessibility of content
- How to make common word processing documents more accessible
- An example of a Mozilla browser plugin for removing clutter
- Calculate the readability of a web page
- W3C tool for validating markup by URI
- W3C tool for validating CSS by URI
- Evaluate the accessibility of web pages or HTML
Floe works with many international standards organizations to ensure that emerging technical standards are inclusively designed. In particular, Floe works with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The W3C develops web-related standards, the best known of which is probably HTML. The W3C process attempts to ensure accessibility is considered in all of its standards; in addition, several accessibility-focused standards have been produced. These are:
- Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA): defines a technology for making dynamic web applications more accessible.
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): guidelines for creating accessible web sites.
- Authoring Tool Accessibility (ATAG): guidelines for developing authoring tools that encourage and support authors to create accessible web sites.
- User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG): guidelines for developers of browsers, media players, etc. that facilitate accessible use.
Floe also works with:
- IMS Global Learning Consortium: Floe has been involved with ensuring inclusive design considerations are part of IMS Standards and has led the AccessForAll standard development.
- International Organization for Standardization (ISO): Floe has been most involved with the development of ISO/IEC 24751 Individualized adaptability and accessibility in e-learning, education and training, which is based on the IMS AccessForAll standard.