4 areas to consider when creating accessible training

People with disabilities make up 20-25% of our population.  80% of people with disabilities who are of working age are looking for a job.  This means that more than likely you have employees who have a disability in your workforce and more people coming into your workforce annually. They may have disabilities you can see or they may have invisible disabilities.

Headshot of Amy Ostrowski, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant

You may ask why accessibility to training is so important? First, it is the law, ADA section 508, which states that federal entities must be accessible.  “But I am not a federal entity, so why should I comply?” you ask.  Simply, because ADA accessibility lawsuits are on the rise. Businesses in the USA pay an average of $16,000 per ADA settlement. This does not count the cost of fixing the infraction.
The cost of fighting the allegation (not settling) is typically four to five times the average $75,000 in annual income generated by the business.
 (Forbes The ADA Lawsuit Contagion Sweeping U.S. States

But now to the good stuff.  Why is it important to have accessible training?  There are many reasons!  Research shows that companies who recruit and hire employees with disabilities have:

  • 28% higher revenue on average
  • 30% greater economic profit margins on average
  • 2 times the net income of industry peers (2015-2018)
  • Those rated as “Disability Inclusion Champions” are 2 times more likely to have higher shareholder returns than their peers.
  • Plus so many more

Not to mention, accessible training helps employees who do not have disabilities as well.  They can help the second language learner and they help the employee who learns best by hearing information vs seeing it and vice versa, to name a few.  So, making your training accessible is beneficial to the growth of your company.  Think of accessible training like the curbside ramps at corners.  Not only did those ramps help those who use wheelchairs, they also help parents with strollers or pedestrians with rolling carts walking to do errands. One minor change has helped a lot more people than just those who use wheelchairs.

Let’s start by defining accessible

“Accessible” means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. The person with a disability must be able to obtain the information as fully, equally and independently as a person without a disability. (ed.gov)

There are 3 main types of training: In person, online/instructor led, online/self-paced. Your company may use one or all of these types of training.  Regardless of the type of training there are four areas of access to consider. These include: Visual, Auditory, Cognitive, Physical

These areas of access can be used across one or more of the three types of training and will help make your training more accessible.  Some considerations support more than one area of access and will be noted as such.  Remember, you may not think of all aspects the first time around.  This is a process that continues as needs arise and technology changes.

Considerations that provide access for more than one area are marked as follows:

(V) Visual

(A) Auditory


(P) Physical

Things to consider for visual accessibility

  • Providing alternate copies of the information. This could be in a hardcopy or computer document.  If you are using a PDF make sure it is screen reader accessible. Or if you have PDFs that are not readable by a screen reader, software like Read&Write can help. It has a scan feature that can convert inaccessible PDFs into accessible formats that can be read aloud. (A)
  • Create Alt-text for all pictures and graphics.  This is a detailed description of the picture or graphic.  Depending on the program you are using you can search “alt-text” to learn how to insert it into your design.
  • Pay attention to color contrast.  People with low vision or color blindness can have trouble distinguishing between different colors. If you are using colors in a graph try using different variations of the same color. This will make it easier for those with visual impairments to discern between different elements. And, when it comes to choosing text and background colors, it’s best practice to set the contrast ratio to at least 4.5:1. If in doubt, use a color contrast checker such as WebAIM’s Contrast Checker
  • Make sure everything is keystroke accessible.  Many who have visual impairments do not use a mouse.  They use a keyboard to navigate.  So, it is important that they can make choices and “click” via the use of the keyboard arrows and other keys. (P) (C)
  • If you have a “live chat” feature, make sure it is accessible via screen reader.

Things to consider for auditory accessibility

  • Make sure all training is closed captioned (live or pre-recorded). This also helps second language learners. (C)(P)
  • If you know you have a participant who is deaf, offering an ASL interpreter or having ASL video to accompany your trainings is very helpful.
  • If possible, develop a script prior to the training and have it accessible to participants who need it.  If a predetermined script is not an option, create a post training script so that participants can revisit the information. There are several programs out there that will create a transcript from a recording.(C)

Things to consider for cognitive accessibility

  • Variety is important.  The more ways you can deliver the same information the higher the accessibility.  This could mean speaking the information, having a picture/graph/video, having a hands-on activity or group activity that supports one concept. (V) (A) (P)
  • Be flexible with time and timelines and remove time-based restrictions.  Cognitive disabilities can be invisible, like dyslexia or a learning disability.  This will help participants who haven’t disclosed a disability as well as those who have. (P)

Things to consider for physical accessibility

  • Location!  Both physical and virtual.  If you are in a building, can a person with a physical disability access the building and classroom?  Do they need any assistive technology to participate fully?  If it is a virtual training is your online platform accessible to keystroke choices, screen readers, closed captioning and other technology that assists a participant?
  • Allow extra time for transitions and assignments. (C)

General considerations for accessibility

  • Make sure directions and schedules are clearly communicated both auditorily and visually in clear concise methods.
  • Everyone experiences their disability in their own way.  If a participant requests assistance and accommodation listen to their needs and make the best accommodations possible.
  • Test the training to make sure it is truly accessible.
  • Never assume a participant with a disability can’t participate.  Instead ask them how you can facilitate their complete participation in the training.

The great thing is that there is technology out there to make accessibility for training and beyond easier to accomplish.  Texthelp has several tools to help make your training more accessible as well as helping you make your day-to-day work environment more accessible for everyone regardless of ability.  Remember, creating an accessible training and work environment for everyone increases productivity and helps your company reach its goals and positions you as a leader in your industry. Discover more about Texthelp solutions.

About the author

Amy has extensive experience in the disability community. Having a sister with a disability, being a special education teacher and working in job development and placement, she witnessed the struggle of both prospective employees as well as the employers and has seen the need for company wide training and support.  She has seen businesses miss out on the benefits of hiring people with disabilities because they didn’t have the support to overcome the perceived challenges. Through Strategic Employment Solutions she creates a customized experience, from recruiting through training and cultural change, that helps businesses reach their diversity and inclusion goals while overcoming the fears of hiring from the disability community.

Headshot of Amy Ostrowski