eLearning in the workplace

eLearning is training that is delivered through digital technology or media format. Most types of organisations use some form of online learning for their employees.

When a new employee starts a job, they will probably have to do some eLearning. This is usually because eLearning is a cheap and efficient way to train lots of staff. One problem is that a lot of eLearning is still not accessible.

Accessibility issues with workplace training videos

Organisations understand they need to train their staff so they can do their jobs well. But how is that possible when so much eLearning excludes disabled people?

Many disabled people have reported accessibility problems with workplace eLearning. Issues with low quality captions or no captions at all caused most problems.

I’ve recently had training at work which featured several videos with no subtitles.

Survey respondent

Common myths about disability can mean suppliers do not think accessibility is important. One of these is that accessibility only affects a small minority of learners. To improve this situation, it is important to:

  • change attitudes in the eLearning industry
  • show suppliers that accessibility is a priority
  • educate everyone creating eLearning platforms and content about accessibility

How many people are we excluding?

Statistics are helpful to show how many people inaccessible eLearning excludes:

  • In the UK, there are more than 3.7 million disabled people in work.
  • This is 11% of the working population.
  • In most countries, 20% of the total population have a condition or impairment.

When eLearning is inaccessible, we could be excluding 1 in 5 learners. This is because the true number of disabled people in the workplace is probably higher than 11%. The reason for this difference is that:

  • many people do not feel comfortable sharing an impairment or condition at work
  • some people with access needs may not identify as disabled
  • many people have undiagnosed impairments and conditions
There are 2 columns. The left column shows common colour contrast issues. The right column shows the same content with the colour contrast issues corrected to show the difference.
Common colour contrast issues with eLearning resources and how to fix them.

For example, colour contrast is a common issue. High colour contrast ratios help people with:

  • visual impairments
  • colourblindness
  • low contrast sensitivity

At the same time, having a high colour contrast makes the text easier to read for everyone.

Impact on organisations

Some common topics taught on eLearning platforms are important for all staff. For example:

  • induction
  • policy and compliance
  • health and safety
  • leadership skills

Staff who cannot access this training miss out on essential learning. This could make them less efficient and less productive than their colleagues.

When eLearning is not accessible to everyone, this also impacts the organisation:

  • It could be a huge risk, for example if someone cannot access health and safety training.
  • The cost and time needed to find other ways to deliver individual training. Or make technical changes to the eLearning.

The UK law and workplace training

There are laws in the UK that mean eLearning should become accessible to everyone.

The Equality Act 2010.

This says that all organisations have an ‘anticipatory duty’ to make be accessible. It means that organisations should have accessible content from the start. They should not wait until someone requests it or complains.

The Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018.

This is an extra step that should make more online content accessible.

This law says online content must meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This incudes content for:

  • the central government
  • the local government
  • the NHS
  • higher and further education institutions
  • many charities

The regulations only apply to the public sector. But it means eLearning suppliers will have to make accessible products. So, all the products they sell should become more accessible. If suppliers do not make more accessible products, they will be losing customers.

Subtitles on staff training videos at work are inconsistent, I can’t understand them.

Survey respondent

There is also hope that the new regulations will have even more impact. People who make eLearning courses have to use tools. They are called ‘authoring tools’ because they make it easier to create a course. There are Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG). They encourage authoring tool providers to make it easier to create accessible content.

Quick checklists to create accessible training materials

Attitudes to accessibility can be slow to change. Individuals play an important role in making eLearning accessible for everyone. These tips can help you understand accessibility better.

For visual impairments

These are some important aspects to consider:

  • Add alternative text to images and visual elements.
  • Provide audio description and transcripts for videos.
  • Do not use only colour to give something meaning. For example green for right and red for wrong.
  • Make sure you check the colour contrast between your background and your text.
  • Use heading tags so your content is accessible for screen readers.

Common alt-text mistakes

Colour contrast accessibility

HTML heading tag structure and website accessibility

For hearing impairments

These are some important aspects to consider:

  • Caption your videos and provide transcripts.
  • Provide transcripts for other types of audio, like podcasts.
  • Make sure learners can stop the audio and control the volume.
  • Avoid background audio playing at the same time as speech.

A guide to using subtitles, captions and transcripts for accessibility

For motor impairments

These are some important aspects to consider:

  • Make sure learners can navigate your resource using only a keyboard.
  • Do not set time limits for tasks so that learners have enough time.

For cognitive impairments

  • Use plain English.
  • Explain abbreviations.
  • Use clear and consistent navigation.
  • Allow learners to pause, stop or hide moving elements.
  • Include a warning if you use flashing elements.
  • Never include content that flashes more than 3 times per second. This can cause seizures for some people.

How to improve your writing with plain English

7 ways to make your content more accessible

More eLearning resources

How to Meet WCAG guidelines (Quick Reference)
Why we need more than ‘tips’ on eLearning accessibility – eLNetwork blog

Related services

Workplace disability inclusion programme
Content accessibility training