Where to begin?

If we knew how to, and if we had easy-to-use tools, we'd all make our content more accessible, more inclusive, more adaptable, and more configurable to individual learner needs. Of course, authoring content in an accessible application from the beginning helps achieve these goals best and makes the content more adaptable. There are also options for making materials more accessible "after the fact" (see Video content and learning, Audio content and learning, Cognitive considerations).

In either case, making content more inclusive begins with understanding what kinds of alternatives are needed, and realizing that inclusivity and accessibility are achieved through awareness, adaptation, collaboration, and flexibility. There is no definitive checklist, no machine that churns out accessible materials. With awareness and the tools (like those made through Floe), we can commit to making our materials more inclusive and more accessible.

Who is this for?

This handbook is intended for anyone producing, revising, re-purposing or reusing open education resources (OER) or other forms of digital curriculum.

The tips and advice apply whether you are creating curriculum resources for preschoolers, graduate curriculum or life long learning resources. The handbook also applies whether you are creating simple text-based resources, animations, applets, simulations or full production videos.

In the spirit of OER, if you use this handbook you are also a contributor to this handbook. We welcome all input.

Why is this important?

Learners learn differently. The goal of education is to support learners in reaching their full potential. While part of the educational process is to challenge learners to facilitate their growth, many learners experience constraints that make it difficult if not impossible to access certain learning resources.

And the impact is profound; the health and prosperity of a society is in large part dependent on equal access to educational opportunities. Inequality and exclusion have devastating social and economic impacts on society as a whole (as well as the excluded individuals). Open education resources are uniquely positioned to have an impact by supporting inclusive education.

Learning outcomes research shows that learners learn best when the learning experience is personalized to their learning needs. Learning breakdown, drop out and lack of engagement in education occurs when students face barriers to learning, feel marginalized by the learning experience offered or feel that their personal learning needs are ignored.

Digital content and digital delivery mechanisms can be harnessed to assist in addressing the diversity of learning needs because of their inherent flexibility. These mutable learning resources can be personally configured, adapted, and shared yielding a greater diversity of learning resources to address the broad range of learning needs.

To learn more, see the Inclusive Design Guide:

Who is currently excluded?

All learners potentially face barriers to learning. These can be seen as a product of a mismatch between the needs of the learner and the learning experience and environment.

Learning needs that affect learning can include:

  • sensory, motor, cognitive, emotional and social constraints,
  • individual learning approaches or preferences,
  • linguistic or cultural preferences,
  • technical, financial or environmental constraints.

Some learners are more constrained than others and are therefore less able to adapt to the learning experience or environment offered; for this reason the learning environment or experience must be more flexible. To learn more about potential learner constraints, read the Floe user states and contexts work.

To learn more, see the Inclusive Design Guide: