Accessibility Expertise: Determining Where It Belongs in Elearning Development


Building accessible online courses requires specialized skills—but do all accessible elearning development skills reside in a single role?

Manage Accessible Elearning Development by Looking at Processes

Finger points to a single block on a complex flowchart. | Microassist Learning Dispatch. Image:

We talk a lot about making sure that elearning is accessible to all learners. Accessibility, in the context of elearning, means ensuring that people with disabilities (generally related to cognition, mobility, hearing, and vision) experience the course in the same way as those without disabilities.

It’s a big topic. There are rules and regulations to be familiar with and technical solutions to implement. And don’t forget testing—the ideal testing situation is when your target audience (people with disabilities) validates the course.

Do I need an expert?

Accessibility, like any specialized area of skill, requires dedicated time to master. You might not expect a subject matter expert to have a grasp of the intricacies of instructional design. Would an instructional designer be expected to master the details of making a course accessible?

While making all members of the team experts on all facets of accessibility is a heavy lift, bringing in an accessibility expert at the end to verify your course has its own difficulties. If the course fails, it’s a lot more expensive to remediate it at the end, than it would be to incorporate accessibility into the creation process.

One way to address this might be to focus on process, rather than production. Instead of making everyone on your team an accessibility expert in all things, formalize and implement processes that place appropriate knowledge and skill in the right role. And then set expectations and give the team members the tools to fulfill those expectations.

For example, an instructional designer might not need to know how to code images with alternative text (which allows learners who use screen readers to hear a description of the image) so that it’s available to the learner; but instructional designers may need to know what alternative text is and how to write it.

So, do I need an accessibility expert on my team? Maybe not on the team; but maybe as a resource to help develop processes so that team members can ensure that the course is accessible. And if accessibility is incorporated into your process, then establishing a verification check at the end (done either by an expert in accessibility or through a quality assurance process) might be a great way to ensure that everything works the way it’s supposed to.

What do you think? Do you incorporate accessibility into your development process? Do you bring in an accessibility expert? What’s worked for you? Please comment below.

Until next time,

Kevin Gumienny
Kevin Gumienny
Microassist Senior Learning Architect

Create Content that Works for All Your Learners

Whether it’s online courses, accompanying PDFs, PowerPoint presentations, or LMS’s, or video, we’ve worked with all sorts of accessible elearning components. We’d be glad to talk with you about what it would take to make your courses accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities, and how to make your learning compliant with internationally recognized accessibility standards.  To see where we can help support your organization’s accessible elearning development, get in touch with us. We’d love to hear what your goals are and see if we can be an asset to your group.

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