e-learning courses and websites need to be accessible to everyone, including people who may have a disability. This is why a range of tools and techniques need to be considered to help tackle issues that could hinder someone when studying an online course.
In this article, we will focus on e-Learning websites built on the WordPress platform, discussing accessibility standards like WCAG 2.1, themes and plugins that can make websites accessible, and evaluation tools to enhance the user experience further.
With these best practices and tools, websites can be more inclusive ensuring usability for all types of learners.
The Importance of Web Accessibility
Ensuring web accessibility is more than just ethical. It’s also a legal obligation. As many e-learning providers work with universities, colleges, and government initiatives, they must adhere to strict guidelines to ensure their services are inclusive. Under current United States law, it is stated that all electronic technology utilized by the federal government must be accessible to individuals who have disabilities.
Furthermore, it makes perfect business sense from the point of view of an e-learning website, as an inaccessible website could potentially result in a large number of potential customers taking their money elsewhere. Many people suffering from a disability find it more convenient to study online in the comfort of their own homes, making this community a significant market for e-learning providers.
Accessibility is also a major consideration for Google and other search engines, with inaccessible websites often performing poorly in terms of SEO, or search engine optimization. The ease with which content can be optimized for accessibility purposes is one reason why WordPress is the best overall CMS for SEO purposes.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 detail many recommendations to make web content accessible. These guidelines consider a wide range of disabilities including:
- Impaired vision
- Impaired hearing
- Speech disabilities
- Limited movement
- Combinations of the above
- Cognitive limitations and learning disabilities will also be considered. However, only some needs of these users will be addressed.
Accessibility recommendations are provided for desktops, laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices to ensure websites and applications are accessible across all mediums. Web developers can refer to a range of documentation produced with WCAG 2.1 to ensure the necessary criteria have been met. These documents can be found here.
WCAG 2.1 Principles
The principles of WCAG 2.1 can be broken down into four key categories, which are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. These principles focus on how a person may interact with content. For example, some users may need to use the keyboard instead of the mouse or perhaps use voice commands to navigate a website.
Below are multiple best practices relating to e-learning for each principle.
- Provide alt-text for non-text content
- Provide transcripts for audio and video
- Provide captions for video
- Ensure content can be navigated using a screen reader
- Do not rely on colors to distinguish elements
- Ensure text can be increased by 200% without impacting usability
- Ensure no text is embedded as an image
- Ensure everything can be navigated with the keyboard only
- Ensure moving content can be paused or stopped easily
- Avoid flashing content
- Use descriptive titles, headings, labels, and link descriptions
- Provide an obvious and straightforward navigation
- Clearly state the content language and whether alternatives are available
- Use visible and descriptive labels for form fields
- Ensure any form errors are clearly highlighted and can be corrected easily
- Create content in HTML so it can be interpreted and parsed by assistive technologies
- Allow assistive technologies to easily identify user interface components and their changing states
- Ensure important status messages and dialogs can be seen and interacted with
WordPress Themes and Plugins That Improve Accessibility
Following core principles and best practices to make a WordPress website accessible is a great start, but e-learning platforms can be improved further with themes and plugins that are purpose-built to provide the ultimate user experience.
3 WordPress Themes Build for E-Learning Websites
You can create a fantastic learning experience with the eLumine theme, expertly crafted for educational websites. Utilizing a number of plugins that are built to boost accessibility, online content can be delivered to anyone regardless of their disability, in addition to lightning-fast loading speeds.
This premium WordPress theme for education websites creates simple and easy-to-use pages and incorporates a range of useful plugins. iAcademy is both responsive and retina-ready and users require no coding knowledge to build a fully-functional e-learning platform.
Accessibility features include an array of typography options, simple navigation, and the ability to customize all elements, from headers to page transitions.
Academist is a great theme for building modern education and learning management systems to easily present courses, classes, and training programs. The simple and intuitive layout is perfect for delivering a fully-inclusive website that follows web standards.
Accessibility features include customizable icons, a full-screen menu, a large number of typography options, and more.
Accessibility features include distraction-free layouts, clean and organized navigation, translation-ready content, 900+ font options, mobile-ready layouts, and more.
5 WordPress Plugins To Improve Accessibility
Below is a selection of recommended WordPress plugins to make your e-learning website more inclusive.
- LearnDash – Designed to make e-learning websites more customizable and easy to use, LearnDash is one of the best plugins available to fine-tune educational websites.
- WP-Accessibility – WP Accessibility tackles a range of accessibility issues that can only usually be solved by switching themes. This includes adding language and text direction attributes and labels to standard WordPress form fields.
- One-Click Accessibility – This plugin adds useful functionality such as the ability to skip to content, adjust styling options, customize links, adjust contrast, and several other accessibility improvements.
- Accessibility by UserWay – This plugin has been developed to improve compliance, avoid lawsuits related to accessibility, boost SEO, and adhere to ADA & WCAG 2.1 guidelines.
- WP Accessibility Helper (WAH) – WAH removes the barriers that prevent interaction with or access to websites for people with a disability, making it easy to adjust the font size, contrast, titles, labels, tags, alt text, etc.
Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools for e-Learning Websites
Once you have chosen the ideal theme and installed your preferred plugins you can then evaluate the performance of your website in terms of how accessible it is. To do so, you can use a few different tools that will test several aspects of accessibility.
Here is a list of web accessibility evaluation tools to consider:
- Web Accessibility by Level Access – Get a website accessibility health score based on digital accessibility standards and regulations.
- Accessibility Checker – This free ADA and WCAG compliance checker identifies web accessibility issues and gives exact instructions for fixing them.
- SiteImprove Accessibility Checker – This Google Chrome extension makes it very easy to check the accessibility score of a website, identifying issues based on the latest ACT (Accessibility Conformance Testing) rules. Feedback and recommendations are also provided to help rectify any problems.
Accessibility is a vital consideration for e-learning websites to ensure all users can participate in online courses and easily interact with content without any obstacles. By following the guidelines set out by WCAG 2.1, choosing a suitable theme, and installing helpful plugins, your WordPress-based e-learning platform can be fully-compliant and user-friendly.
Gary Espinosa is a copywriter with over 10 years of experience in software development, web development, and content strategy. He specializes in creating high-quality, engaging content that drives conversions and builds brand loyalty. He has a passion for crafting stories that captivate and inform audiences, and he’s always looking for new ways to engage users.”