In today’s environment, companies need to rely more and more on education and training programs delivered through a digital platform. The switch from face-to-face to virtual meetings, while not without associated difficulties, has proven to be an effective and, in some cases, a more inclusive way to provide information. From this experience, there is a growing understanding of the benefits of self-paced, non-instructor lead computer-based training (CBT). The CBTs can be standalone or part of a complete blended delivery course and cover any level of information from basic introductions to complex ideas. Regardless of complexity, the CBTs need to include functionality that allows an end-user to quickly access and learn the required information.

Today’s workforce is incredibly diverse. As more and more opportunities are available to a broader range of people, CBT training courses must reflect the accessibility needs of the user. Using web accessibility laws and guidelines, companies can develop CBTs that allow all of their employees to learn effectively.

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Web Accessibility

Most people use the internet daily and don’t need to worry if they will be able to get where they need to go and if they will be able to find the information they need. However, this is not the case for everybody. The goal of web accessibility is to allow anyone to navigate web pages and consume information easily.

Laws and Standards for Accessibility

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 508) is Federal law. It requires Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities—Federal employees and the public. It includes accessibility standards that are incorporated into regulations that govern Federal procurement practices. Federal agencies that are not compliant can be held legally responsible.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), on the other hand, is a set of standards from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that provides actionable guidelines to achieve web accessibility. While WCAG is not a regulatory body, the procedures are accepted worldwide as the standard for accessibility and are used by Section 508 to help determine compliance. WCAG is currently on version 2.1, which is an extension of version 2.0. These guidelines continue to evolve as new needs arise and as technology advances allowing additional accessibility capabilities.

Web Accessibility Promotes Inclusion

Compliance to Section 508 helps people with different disabilities, including:

  • Hearing impairments – deafness and hard of hearing
  • Vision impairments – low vision, color blindness, partial blindness, and total blindness
  • Speech impairments
  • Mobility impairments
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Seizure and Vestibular Disorders

Who else is helped by 508 compliant CBTs? Just about everyone. The required features and functionality for a compliant CBT allow users to:

  • Navigate without a mouse—maybe the mouse batteries died, and there is no trackpad.
  • Read audio content—maybe there are no speakers or headphones available or the environment is noisy.
  • Hear what content is on the screen—may be visual attention is split, or the screen is small or poor-quality.

Making compliant CBTs also helps people who may be taking a course that is not available in their native language or those with learning disabilities by allowing the user to select the best way to take in the information.

While Section 508 focuses on Federal and Federally-funded agencies, it is in any company’s best interest to remain cognizant of who these standards help and how.

CBT Authoring Tools and Compliance

Using CBT authoring tools to make robust and engaging courses is nothing new. However, many of these same tools already provide the functionality to make consistent, accessible, and usable CBTs. Storyline 360 enables designers to create a more accessible CBT with little additional effort quickly.

Storyline 360 already supports all applicable Revised Section 508 accessibility guidelines. Some of the features are automatic, while others require the designer to set parameters or enter the required information.

Designing with Compliance in Mind

According to, nearly 20% of all Americans have some type of disability, half of whom are believed to have severe disabilities.

Keeping this in mind, designers need to analyze the learning objectives and make CBTs accessible to the broadest audience. For this, the designer needs to think about how users will:

  • Navigate/interact with the CBT – mouse, keyboard, voice activation, or maybe a combination
  • Receive/consume the information – through the audio and visual components on the slide, a screen reader, closed captioning, or others

Storyline 360 supports users:

  • 302.1 Without Vision
  • 302.2 With Limited Vision
  • 302.3 Without Perception of Color
  • 302.4 Without Hearing
  • 302.5 With Limited Hearing
  • 302.6 Without Speech
  • 302.7 With Limited Manipulation (drag-and-drop and Likert scale questions are not keyboard accessible)
  • 302.8 With Limited Reach and Strength
  • 302.9 With Limited Language, Cognitive, and Learning Abilities

It is essential to know what Storyline 360 does and what a designer still needs to design courses. Using the latest version and the accessible player, courses will automatically support multiple screen readers, provide a discoverable structure and hierarchy for learners using assistive technologies, and provide player controls that are logically grouped, organized, and labeled. The following table shows what Storyline 360 can do, and a few things the designer should do. The lists are not exhaustive.

User Storyline 360: The designer needs to:
Without vision or with limited vision Supports: Screen readers Audio descriptions keyboard navigation Set a logical tab order for people using only a keyboard to navigate. Apply custom alternate text for images and other non-text. Add keyboard shortcuts to one or all slides.
With limited vision Course player conforms to minimum contrast guidelines Set color contrast to minimum ratio or better increase initial font size.
Without the perception of color Provides robust authoring options to engage users without the need for color differentiation Create content understood by learners who don’t perceive color. Set color contrast to minimum ratio or better.
Without hearing or with limited hearing Supports: Closed captions transcript Provide visual alternatives for audio-dependent content. Change the accessibility focus color, as needed.
Without speech Does not require speech.
With limited manipulation Provides multiple compliant interactive features Use only keyboard-accessible features. Do not use drag-and-drop or Likert scale questions or provide keyboard accessible alternatives.
With limited reach and strength Courses can be navigated via mouse, keyboard, and mobile touchscreen gestures Create content that is suitable for learners with limited reach and strength.
With limited language, cognitive, and learning abilities Provides robust authoring options to engage users in multiple ways Create content that is easily accessible for learners with limited language, cognitive, and learning abilities.

It is also important for designers to avoid using timed content or tests. If timed content is necessary, there should be a way for a user using assistive technology to extend the time or stop it to allow sufficient time.

Testing to Verify Accessibility

Once the course is built, it needs to be tested to verify all of the features work as expected. There are three primary ways to test and validate conformance to Section 508 accessibility standards:

  • Automated – High-volume 508 conformance testing tools automatically scan and test electronic content;
  • Manual – Manual testing uses a documented, consistent, repeatable process;
  • Hybrid – A combination of automated and manual testing.

Manual tests can be created using the Section 508 ICT Testing Baseline as a starting point. The 24 baseline tests establish the minimum tests and evaluation guidelines that determine whether Web content meets Section 508 requirements. The ICT Testing Baseline is not intended to be a test process itself.

The Trusted Tester: Section 508 Conformance Test Process For Web from the Department of Homeland Security uses the ICT Testing Baseline, but groups tests together and puts them in a logical, practical order.

When testing manually, there are a few tools that can come in handy. Some free applications are listed in the following table, but others can be purchased.

Tool/Software Description
ANDI (Accessible Name & Description Inspector) ANDI (Accessible Name & Description Inspector) is a free tool to test websites for accessibility. It is a “favelet” or “bookmarklet” that will: Provide automated detection of accessibility issues. Reveal what a screen reader should say for interactive elements (the accessible name computation). Give practical suggestions to improve accessibility and check 508 compliance.
Color Contrast Analyzer CCA 2.5 for Windows CCA 2.4 for macOS The Color Contrast Analyzer (CCA) is a free, open-source tool that displays the contrast ratio for two selected colors—developed by Steve Faulkner and the Paciello Group.
NVDA Screen reader NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) is a free and open-source screen reader for the Microsoft Windows operating system.
Screen reader Focus Highlight An add-on focus highlight for NVDA. By drawing a colored rectangle, this add-on enables partially sighted users, sighted educators, or developers to track the NVDA navigator object’s location and the focused object/control.
Accessibility Insights Accessibility Insights is available for Web, Windows, and Android and helps developers find and fix accessibility issues.

Using the baseline processes and available tools, perform the compliance tests by imagining how different users will go through the course.

  • Turn off the sound and use the closed captions, transcripts, and other features for hearing impairments.
  • Use descriptive audio and a screen reader to move through the course.
  • Navigate the course using just a keyboard.
  • Check for flashing screens, timed components, and interactions that cannot be completed.

The CBT is compliant when all of the testing criteria have been confirmed.


Storyline 360 continues to improve their accessibility options as end-user needs change giving designers access to the latest compliance options. Radiant can assist you with developing or testing 508 and WCAG compliant eLearning and other learning applications. Let us help you better reach all of your learners.

by Emily O’Neill, Radiant Digital
Project Consultant

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