Designing Accessible eLearning Courses With The POUR Principles Of Accessibility

Understanding The POUR Principles Of Accessibility
Summary: To create all-inclusive training programs and achieve the desired training results, businesses must adopt vital principles of accessibility. In this article, I outline the POUR principles to get you started with designing inclusive learning courses.

What Guidelines Should You Follow When Developing Accessible eLearning Content?

If you ever wondered what guidelines to follow when developing accessible eLearning content, then the 4 principles of accessibility are an excellent place to start. There are 4 overarching principles that provide a framework for your content throughout the writing, developing, and testing phases of your course. They are Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust, or POUR for short.

But before diving into the principles themselves, let’s get some context as to how these 4 principles came to be.

How Are The POUR Principles Categorized Under The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)—crafted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)—offer “a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.”

A series of guidelines are laid out under the POUR principles of accessibility. The WCAG also categorizes three levels of conformance according to the needs of different individuals and situations—A, AA, and AAA. There are testable success criteria aligned with each of these three levels.

Understanding The POUR Principles Of Accessibility

Now, let’s get into the 4 principles and how WCAG briefly describes each of them. WCAG specifies that eLearning content must be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (POUR).

1. Perceivable

In order to be perceivable, the learning material must be presented to at least one of the senses. This includes images, use of color, and structuring of content. Some learners find it hard to view, read, or hear content. In these cases, alternative text descriptions should be provided so that all learners can use the training seamlessly. For people with hearing disabilities, auditory content should be captioned.

Some of the recommended approaches and best practices are:

  • Include non-text information; for example, radio buttons or checkboxes must have their corresponding labels;
  • If an image serves as a link, an alt text description must be provided for its purpose;
  • Videos must be accompanied by voiceovers and aptly describe the content (avoid applying auto-play—the learner should be in control);
  • All headings and lists have to be coded; for example, <h1>, <h2> for headings and ul>, <ol> for lists; and,
  • Certain backgrounds may also cause discomfort (e.g., for dyslexic users) so consider using lighter tones.

2. Operable

Learners must find it easy to operate any eLearning course, click buttons, and submit answers to quiz questions. They should be able to navigate through the course and do this without depending on a mouse or trackpad.

Some of the recommended approaches and best practices are:

  • Have consistent navigation, and the navigation buttons should be large enough so that the learners can easily click the button.
  • Provide progress indicators but avoid tight completion times that pressure learners.

3. Understandable

Refrain from using jargon. The content should be comprehendible and words that are likely to be unfamiliar to learners should be explained.

Some of the recommended approaches and best practices are:

  • Avoid text formatting that uses capitals or italics. Also, refrain from using text effects like shadow or glow that make it even harder for learners to read;
  • For images of text, the text has to be native in HTML. Content should be available when learners want to resize text (zoom)—it should be clear and legible;
  • Make use of instructions like "Select" instead of "Click," and avoid instructions that the learner will need to interact with solely based on color or locations;
  • Avoid abbreviations or acronyms. Separate content in terms of paragraphs of a maximum of 4-5 lines, and keep the key points at the start of the paragraph; and,
  • Don’t use generic phrases like "Click here," but explain more accurately what is going to be achieved.

4. Robust

The assistive technologies used by the learners need to complement the course effectively. The learner should be able to rely on and use all buttons and links successfully, without any glitches.

Some of the recommended approaches and best practices are:

  • Test the course with JAWS reader or any other assistive technology; and,
  • Consider adding PDF documents that help learners who struggle with navigation or interactions, but only where required.

Always keep these vital POUR principles in mind when developing accessible eLearning content. Although you may be meeting some of the criteria as part of your standard eLearning development already, these brief explanations of the 4 principles is an excellent starting point to examine your content or gain more perspective.

Parting Thoughts

Don’t stop at the basics but keep improving your stages of creating accessible eLearning content. Continue to dig deep down into those success criteria and levels of conformance. Try to figure out if there are any accessibility features missing from your current courses and identify the next steps you are going to take to ensure your eLearning is accessible for all your learners.

I hope this article gave you requisite insights on the POUR principles and helps you design or enhance your already existing accessible courses. Meanwhile, if you have any specific queries, do contact me or leave a comment below.

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