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  • Writer's pictureKevin Lopez

Making Learning Accessible: The Positive Impacts on Instructional Design

Updated: Feb 21


Hey, fellow learning enthusiasts! Today, let's embark on a journey through the realm of instructional design, where accessibility isn't just a checkbox—it's the compass guiding us toward an education that truly embraces diversity and inclusivity. Today, we explore the tangible impacts of prioritizing accessibility in learning design, complete with real-world successes, cautionary tales, and the best practices that keep the learning pathway open for all.


The Power of Prioritizing Accessibility

In the vast landscape of instructional design, prioritizing accessibility isn't just about compliance; it's about fostering an environment where every learner feels seen and valued. Let's unravel the layers of impact:


  1. Increased Engagement:

  • Consider Microsoft's immersive approach to accessibility in their learning materials. By designing content with diverse user experiences in mind, they not only comply with regulations but also create engaging content that resonates with a broader audience.

  1. Improved Learning Outcomes:

  • Take the case of Harvard Extension School, which revamped its online courses to be more accessible. By incorporating features like transcripts, alt text, and keyboard navigation, they witnessed a tangible improvement in learning outcomes, emphasizing that accessibility is not just about reaching everyone but ensuring everyone can succeed.

  1. Legal Compliance:

  • Legal requirements often drive change. The University of California, Berkeley, learned this the hard way when they faced legal action for inaccessible online content. The aftermath? A commitment to not only meet legal standards but exceed them, showcasing how legal compliance can be a catalyst for positive change. Our collective goal should be to advocate for change before reaching these extremes.

  1. Ethical Responsibility:

  • Dive into the story of the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University. Their dedication to ethical accessibility practices not only aligns with principles of fairness but also reflects a deeper commitment to creating a learning environment that values diversity, acknowledging that education is a right, not a privilege.

Strategies that Make Inclusion a Reality

Now, let's walk the talk with practical strategies that turn inclusivity from a buzzword into a lived reality:

  1. Captions on Every Video:

  • Netflix, known for its user-centric approach, takes the lead. Their commitment to inclusivity doesn't stop at entertainment; it extends to educational content. By providing captions on every video, they set a standard for making information accessible to everyone, regardless of hearing abilities.

  • Surely, they are not the first, but you have to give credit when tech giants lead the change we all need. The reach this company has helps set the bar for other companies striving for our attention.

  1. Minimize Use of Animation:

  • Pixar Animation Studios, renowned for their creativity, understands the delicate balance. While animations are their forte, they use them judiciously in educational content, recognizing the potential accessibility challenges. Their approach ensures that animations serve an educational purpose without excluding any learners.

  • This is something I often share with the teams I work with closely. Design with purpose, not solely for aesthetic. Animation integration should be a tool used strategically in learning design and should serve to enhance the experience of the learners.

  1. Image Descriptions:

  • Airbnb, a trailblazer in user experience, extends their commitment to inclusivity. Every image on their platform is accompanied by a concise and informative description, ensuring that users with visual impairments can seamlessly navigate and participate in the Airbnb community.

  1. Accessible Document Formats:

  • The Government of Ontario, Canada, sets an example in accessible document formats. Their guidelines prioritize structured headings, lists, and templates, ensuring that public information is accessible to everyone, including those using screen readers and other assistive technologies.

  1. Flexible Learning Paths:

  • Coursera, a platform renowned for democratizing education, empowers learners by offering flexible learning paths. With diverse courses and varied learning approaches, they recognize that inclusivity isn't just about catering to a single learning style but accommodating the diverse needs of a global audience.

  1. Regular Accessibility Audits:

  • WebAIM, a non-profit organization, champions web accessibility. Their annual accessibility audits serve as a reminder that staying true to inclusivity requires constant vigilance. By regularly identifying and rectifying accessibility barriers, they contribute to a digital landscape that truly welcomes everyone.


As we champion the cause of accessibility in instructional design, let's draw inspiration from these pioneers who have not only embraced inclusivity but have turned it into a cornerstone of their educational endeavors. Together, let's continue making learning an enriching and accessible journey for every learner, recognizing and celebrating the unique contributions and potential that each one brings to the table. 🌐✨

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