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A Beginner’s Guide to eLearning and Section 508 Compliance

Student using elearning platform aligned with 508 compliance

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In today’s digital era, eLearning has emerged as a popular mode of disseminating information and knowledge. It offers a flexible, cost-effective, and accessible alternative to traditional classroom-based training. However, if you’re developing eLearning content for government agencies, educational institutions, or companies that receive federal funding, you need to ensure that your materials comply with Section 508 guidelines.

Section 508 is a federal law that mandates that all electronic and information technology (EIT) used by federal agencies and organizations funded by federal dollars be made accessible to people with disabilities. In this blog, we’ll discuss what Section 508 compliance is and how it applies to eLearning platforms and courses.

What is Section 508 Compliance?

Section 508 compliance ensures that individuals with disabilities have the same access to electronic and information technology as those without disabilities. It covers a wide range of digital content, including eLearning courses, websites, software applications, and multimedia. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in significant legal and financial penalties for organizations.

How To Make eLearning Content 508 Compliant

Here are some of the key factors to consider while developing eLearning materials that are Section 508 compliant:

Accessibility Standards

Section 508 lists technical standards for web-based content, including text, images, videos, and audio. Your eLearning course developers must ensure that the content meets these guidelines, such as proper labeling of web pages, graphics with appropriate descriptions, subtitles in videos, closed captions, and transcripts in audio files.

Assistive Technology

EIT must be equally accessible to individuals with and without disabilities. For example, individuals with visual or hearing impairments may need assistive technology, such as screen readers, speech recognition software, or hearing aids, to access eLearning content. E-learning courses must be designed, considering the needs of such users.

User Testing

It’s beneficial to conduct user testing with individuals with disabilities to evaluate the effectiveness of the eLearning materials. User testing enables you to collect feedback and make changes to improve the accessibility features of your eLearning courses in real time.

Text Equivalents and Alternatives

Creating text equivalents within the content on an eLearning platform allows users with visual impairments access to the same content as those who have no visual impairments. This includes adding alternative text (alt text) for images and other media files as well as creating transcripts for video and audio content on an eLearning platform.

Alt Texts are short descriptions of images that are displayed when an image cannot be loaded. It helps individuals who use screen readers interpret and understand the visuals in your eLearning courses.

Navigation

To further ensure accessibility for all users of your eLearning platform, drop-down menus should be included with labels for easy navigation. By having these labels, users can more easily navigate the menus without the need to use a mouse or touchpad.

Additionally, including keyboard commands makes it easier for those who are visually impaired or have difficulty using a mouse to still access all features of your platform—including forms and other components necessary for successful engagement.

Instructions

Because people learn differently, you should provide instructional materials in different formats such as audio or video clip instructions, PDF versions of notes or presentations, and closed-captioned videos where needed. For written instructions, make sure you follow proper language grammar rules supported by easy-to-read visuals when possible.

Additionally, color contrast must also meet standard requirements for accessibility which vary based on the device or browser used to display materials for users with color blindness.

What if we don't receive government funding?

If you don’t receive government funding, it’s important to be aware of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These standards apply to private schools and other organizations as well as public institutions, so it’s essential to make sure your digital content such as websites, eLearning materials, and other digital learning tools are compliant. Not only is adhering to WCAG regulations the right thing to do, but failure to do so can also result in legal action due to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Other eLearning Requirements:

As eLearning continues to become more prevalent in today’s educational landscape, providers must ensure that their content adheres to all necessary IT compliances to protect the privacy and security of learners. Here are a few of the regulations that eLearning providers must comply with.

  • The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX)
  • Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
  • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)
  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Embark On Your Journey Towards IT Compliance

At TestPros, we provide IT compliance assessments and consulting services to help your organization adjust to Section 508 requirements and other IT regulations. With 20+ years of experience providing accessibility services for dozens of e-learning platforms, technologies, and courses to customers such as Blackboard.com, K12.com, AmeriSchool.gov., our team is ready to help you expedite the process of attaining comprehensive coverage.


Contact us today to book an introductory call
and find out more about how TestPros can address your specific needs!

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