Industry Insights

Making standards and standards-based learning accessible for all…Part II

Part I of my message focused on compliance as well as accessibility being so much more than just meeting compliance standards. Conformance to international and domestic standards such as those from the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3) and WCAG standards should be baseline elements to any accessibility measuring stick. It’s about enabling consumers to access standards so they can benefit from the research and effort that brought the standard to life. This review of accessibility in the SDO sector focuses on technical attributes of content that enables access for all.

Standards developers spend countless hours researching, collaborating, vetting, testing, and publishing new standards. But what if a selection of the population that needed to consume this content simply couldn’t? Or possibly couldn’t without an element of duress or limitation?  That’s the next element of accessibility that all SDO’s need to focus on. The status quo isn’t working, and something needs to change. SDO’s need to focus beyond the current norm.   

Provoking thought is not an exercise in criticism; it’s simply taking effort to encourage those in control of standards publishing to take a fresh look at what options are available and, more importantly, focusing on removing the barriers to content which will benefit all.  A first step in this forward-thinking approach is to provide potential consumers a clear understanding of the accessibility features available to them before they make a buying decision. Informed consumers will have a much higher satisfaction level which further supports the essential purpose of the standards they are reading or listening to. Standards can be purchased, or subscribed to, through multiple channels and multiple resellers therefore, by providing consumers with a clear understanding of the available accessibility features, an SDO can be confident that their content is being accessed in the optimal format for each person’s individual needs.

Technical accessibility features are not only those built into the chosen reader platform but of equal importance is compatibility with the built-in assistive technologies that common operating systems provide like VoiceOver and TalkBack. Compatibility with popular screen readers like NVDA and JAWS is also key particularly when combined with read aloud functionality that can be paused, reversed, and advanced. Some platforms can provide consumers with multi-language audible access to Standards text from anywhere and on any device even if they aren’t using assistive technologies. In support of the anywhere and anytime model, free accessibility apps for iOS and Android devices are driving some of the most measurable increases in accessibility technology usage. If your standards and learning content isn’t accessible in this manner, then it’s likely time for a review. 

Accessibility features within a reader platform are not always fully controlled by SDO’s. As such, flexibility and options can be limited depending on the distribution model and relative digital reader platform. Again, this article is meant to provoke thought therefore I’ve listed a selection of the key elements to a full scope accessibility model that should always be considered.

Content controls are the most often used features of a platform that provide current accessibility functionality. Tools such as night reading mode, text size and spacing options, magnifications as well as specialized fonts such as OpenDsylexic can all provide access and comfort to the reader. Technology designed to improve content navigation for individuals with accessibility requirements are also key. Dynamic TOC’s, search bars and scrubber bars and Braille displays achieve this goal. All of the above stated accessibility features ideally should be provided to the consumer to ensure complete transparency during the purchase or subscription process.

The topic of content accessibility is far more diverse than the snippets of information I’ve provided within this article. Once again, my goal is to provoke thought with the hopes that SDO’s at large improve the accessibility options for their critical content. So………… is your content truly accessible or are you just meeting the minimum requirements?”

Author:  
Michael Dunnigan  
Vice President, Gilmore Global  
www.gilmoreglobal.com
dunniganm@gilmore.ca  

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