eLearning professionals who understand the benefits of creating products and services which are accessible for everyone, including people with permanent, temporary or situational impairments, have long been disappointed by the lack of engagement with digital accessibility in the eLearning sector. But recent changes in UK and EU legislation maybe the key to ensuring that accessibility will soon be a subject that no one in the sector can afford to ignore.
So, what is the new legislation and why do many people believe that it is a ‘game-changer’ for the eLearning industry?
The legislation originated from the EU Directive on the Accessibility of the Websites and Mobile Applications of Public Sector Bodies. This directive passed into the law of all EU member states on September 23rd, 2018 and in the case of the UK, will remain regardless of the outcome of Brexit. Each country has autonomy to monitor and enforce the legislation, but the regulations themselves are the same for every EU member state and for the UK.
Disclaimer: This is an overview only and should not be considered legal advice. For more detailed information see: The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No.2) Accessibility Regulations 2018
While the new accessibility regulations only became law in September 2018, and we have yet to reach the end of the qualifying period for their implementation, they are likely to have a significant impact on the eLearning industry for many reasons
Another result of the new legislation is that customers understand that for suppliers, a commitment to digital accessibility should be seen not only as a requirement but also as an opportunity to gain a market advantage. This was identified recently by George Rhodes, Digital Accessibility Compliance Lead at Kent County Council.
“As we are only procuring accessible services from now on, we are on the lookout for conscientious suppliers who understand our accessibility requirements. Suppliers who engage now and grow their own skills are giving themselves an advantage in future tenders, framework applications, and improving their reputation.”
Maybe not. The two main reasons for this are that the regulations currently apply only to the public sector and that failing to comply won’t lead to a financial penalty. So unlike GDPR legislation which was highly effective due to the fact that it applied to all organisations and large fines were involved, the new accessibility regulations may not have nearly such an impact.
Yet many advocates believe that they are still a significant step in encouraging better engagement with accessibility in the eLearning industry. Combined with the many other compelling business and ethical reasons for digital inclusion and good practice shown in other industries, it seems more and more likely that the case for eLearning accessibility will very soon become impossible to ignore.
Susi Miller is an Instructional Designer and eLearning Accessibility Consultant.
She started her company eLaHub (eLearning accessibility Hub) to help eLearning professionals understand and apply digital accessibility standards to eLearning.
Visit her website www.elahub.net to find out more about eLearning accessibility.
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