Take a look at the following list and see if you can determine which link would get you to the Wikipedia article on Universal Design for Learning:
Without clicking on every link, do you have any way of knowing which one leads to what you want? The text of your link matters.
Why Link Text Matters
Sighted readers often skim a page for links; screen reader users can use a list of links or skip from link to link for the same purpose. Unfortunately, this means that screen reader users can miss the context around the links. Therefore, your link text should still make sense on its own (or at least provide users with a clue as to the content).
What To Do
This is fortunately an easy way to improve your accessibility, requiring no technical expertise beyond creating links. Just link on text that means something and would tell you where the link goes even without the surrounding context. Avoid linking on the words “Click here” or “link.” This applies to blogs, wikis, and pretty much any other online content, not just formal e-learning. You’ve probably seen blogs say something like “I’ve talked about this before here, here, and here” with three different links all on the word “here.” That isn’t particularly helpful if you’re skimming through links with a screen reader.
Checking a box in your e-learning development tool for “Section 508 compliant” may or may not catch vague link text. Write more effectively to link on stronger words. Instead of “Click here to learn more,” use “Read more about Universal Design for Learning” or just “Universal Design for Learning.”
This addresses the following standards:
- WCAG 1.0 Guideline 13.1: Clearly identify the target of each link
- WCAG 2.0 Guideline 2.4.4: Link Purpose (In context) (“The purpose of each link can be determined from the link text alone or from the link text together with its programmatically determined link context, except where the purpose of the link would be ambiguous to users in general.”)
Further Reading & Resources
- Links and Hypertext from WebAIM
- Writing Hyperlinks: Salient, Descriptive, Start with Keyword (This is focused on usability rather than accessibility, but improving usability helps all users.)
Yesterday one of my SMEs asked me how I learned about accessibility requirements for online learning. Like most of my instructional design knowledge, I guess I’m self-taught on accessibility. In a previous job, I was given the task of figuring out how to make text-based versions of interactive Flash practice activities. That project forced me to think about what it’s like to listen to content rather than read it. I didn’t have JAWS or another screen reader, but I used the Windows Narrator and at least tried to imagine whether the content would work if I was just listening.
Since then, I’ve spent more time educating myself. I read Joe Clark’s book, Building Accessible Websites (a bit outdated now, but available for free on his site). I’ve attended some conference presentations and have actually read through the all the legal requirements. I’ve been gradually adding accessibility features to courses over the last two years as I learn more. But it hasn’t been particularly systematic or formal learning.
At a conference this week, Natalie Kilkenny had a very valuable experience with informal learning about accessibility. The presenter never shows up, so someone in the audience started a discussion to share what people knew and what they were struggling with. As a result of that discussion, she found several new resources and gained some new perspectives on usability.
I’m curious about how you’re learning about accessibility in e-learning. I’d appreciate if you could take a minute and answer my poll. It’s only one question, but if you’re reading this in a feed reader you’ll probably need to visit my blog to take it.
If you have more to say, feel free to leave a comment too.
In Groups Vs Networks: The Class Struggle Continues, Stephen Downes makes this statement about assessment:
I want to change the system of assessment in schools because right now we have tests and things like that that are scrupulously fair, particularly distance learning where we outline the objectives the performance metrics and the outcomes and all of that. I want to scrap that system. I want testing to be done by at random by comments from your peers and other people and strangers based on no criteria whatsoever and applied unequally and unfairly.
I found this a little jarring at first. Don’t we want things to be fair, to apply the same rules to everyone?
But applying the rules uniformly to everyone isn’t fair. The rules of baseball require that people run between the bases. Would you ask someone in a wheelchair to get up and run though, just because the rules say so? No, of course not. It’s absurd, not fair.
Most of the time, our educational system is set up with equality held up as the ideal. Everyone should be treated equally; we should hold everyone to the same standards. No exceptions should be made for individuals to bend the rules. In the US, NCLB is a prime example of this: every child is expected to meet the grade level goals, regardless of learning or other disabilities. We start from the assumption that everyone will learn and be assessed equally.
A better ideal for the system would be equity. We can move the emphasis away from applying the rules consistently across the board to giving people what they need as individuals to be successful. We should recognize that people do have obstacles to overcome and provide support for them to get around those obstacles. Being in a wheelchair means someone won’t run, but it certainly doesn’t mean they can’t participate in any sports.
The ALA article Equality and Equity of Access: What’s the Difference? describes equality as “fairness as uniform distribution” and equity as “fairness as justice.”
It occurred to me as I read Stephen’s ideas about assessment that connectivism may be a better way to get to the ideal of equity. It’s better for equity and accessibility when you don’t start from the assumption that everyone will learn and be assessed in the same way. If we start with the assumption that individuals will find their own path in learning, and that our job is to give them lots of opportunities and ways to participate, we’re more likely to help people get past their obstacles.
The CCK08 class is modeling that approach of letting people find their own path and giving them a chance for equity. Everything Stephen talks about with valuing diversity over uniformity reinforces that idea. The 2000 people can figure out what works best for them–lots of time in the Moodle forums or none, multiple blog posts or just reading and lurking, concept maps or word clouds, live sessions or only asynchronous. It’s what allows me to still be a participant in this class even though I knew I’d be out for a few weeks while I moved. I could take that break when I needed and step back in now.
I don’t know whether anyone in the course is visually or hearing impaired, but I can’t see any reason why they couldn’t find ways to actively participate and learn. Not everything is accessible to everyone, but you don’t need to see every image or hear the audio presentations to find value in the course.
I do wonder though–with the course so open and flexible, and with so many people participating, how much diversity is actually represented by the participants of the CCK08 class?