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How to Make Online Learning Accessible for People with Special Needs

Posted by Jane Shearer on August 29, 2019 at 9:06 AM

Making online learning accessible to people with a range of special needs has become increasingly important in the technological age. Online learners with disabilities have their own set of challenges, so it’s important to be aware of and remove any possible obstacles to online learning so that no-one has to be limited by their disability.
making learning accessible for special needs students
This article will look at some of the main challenges that online learners with disabilities face and tips for how to overcome them.

Removing obstacles to focus for people with ADD or ADHD

Online learners with the above conditions can have an impaired attention span and may be easily distracted. This can pose problems if for example the online learning requires completing a simulation in a busy and noisy environment or participating in forums or online discussion groups with the intention of providing peer-based support. 

The best way to combat this is to provide these learners with downloadable material that can be completed in their own time and environment absent any distractions that being online could bring.

Difficulty engaging with audio elements

Any audio-based activities should include subtitles or closed captions to cater for those that may have difficulty hearing or comprehending audio elements. When it comes to podcasts it’s a good idea to create audio transcripts so that online learners can still follow and engage with the content.

Improving accessibility to the text

On the contrary, online learners with dyslexia and other learning disabilities may struggle to learn effectively with text-based learning material. In this case, it is important that access to audio-based resources complete with written descriptions are provided. This way they can connect the two delivery formats and improve their comprehension of the content.

Providing online learning in different languages

Online learners for whom English is a second language may benefit from translated versions of an online learning course. This is particularly important if you are catering to a worldwide audience. It is possible to get learner management systems with a geolocation feature that can deliver the most suitable version based on the learner’s location.

Difficulty seeing visual elements

Online learners with some degree of vision loss or those that are legally blind will need narrations and audio captions to explore the content. You will also need to simplify any text elements to make it easier to read and decipher and avoid any technical jargon that audio conversation software could find difficult to read out loud.

Catering for memory impairment

Online learners with some form of memory impairment may struggle to recall key facts or retain information long enough to apply it during a scenario. To combat this, you should refresh and reinforce key information regularly to help support memory retention. Another way to help online learners with memory problems would be to create an online micro-learning training library that they are able to access on their own, this way they can go at their own pace and address any gaps in memory as they arise.

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