As instructional designers, we are tasked with designing courses that produce quality learning experiences and more significant learning outcomes. An essential part of our job is to ensure that all learners can access and utilize the course content. This means that individuals who struggle with vision, hearing, motor skills, or cognitive deficits must be incorporated into our design plan. Working as an instructional designer for adult learning courses in higher education, I see the importance of accessibility each day. A large majority of our adult learners struggle with visual impairment to some degree. As we age, our eyesight begins to diminish, which can impact our educational pursuits. Accessibility bridges the gap for not only adult learners but for all students who are visually impaired.
When someone mentions accessibility for the visually impaired, they immediately think of tools like a screenreader. But, there are many examples from everyday life. If you are like me, reading a web page on your smartphone involves squinting and enlarging the page. The first image below shows a standard webpage on a smartphone.
After I clicked the reading view, the web page was transformed into an uncluttered, easy-to-read page with a larger font size.
This simple step allowed me to read the content without squinting or holding my tablet 2 inches from my eyes! That is the power of accessibility: it creates a level playing field for everyone to engage and learn.
Accessibility is simply giving everyone access to education. It is not just transferring knowledge or skills from one person to another; by opening the doors to education, we empower change. Nelson Mandela said that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. If education holds power to change the world, then the future must include a commitment to making education accessible to all people.