Learners come to FutureLearn with a variety of needs. FutureLearn takes a learner-centric approach to design, and we ask our partners to do the same. Below are some statistics to outline the needs of our learners.
- Two-thirds of FutureLearn learners are from outside the UK.
- 9 million people in the UK (estimated) are deaf or hard of hearing, according to the British Deaf Association. [Source]
- 10% of the UK population are dyslexic, and 4% have severe dyslexia, according to the British Dyslexia Association (BDA). [Source]
- 31% of our learners study on a smartphone, and 10% on a tablet. Many smartphones have in-built accessibility features - they are often preferred by people with physical or motor disabilities.
- Colour blindness or colour vision deficiency (CVD) affects around 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women worldwide. [Source]
- Autism affects about 1 in 100 people, according to The National Autistic Society.
- Over 11 million people living in the UK have a limiting long-term illness, impairment or disability. [Source] People with poor manual control may use an alternative input method called switch access scanning. Switch access allows the user to activate a button with the head, finger or other means to choose individual items rather than using a keyboard or touch screen.
What is Digital Accessibility?
Digital accessibility aims to ensure that everyone, regardless of their skills or abilities or disabilities, can access information, technology, products, and services. [Source]
Learners depend on FutureLearn and its partners to provide accessible resources. Indeed, it is not just people with accessibility needs who benefit – all learners gain from an accessible online course.
Responsibilities of FutureLearn
We are committed to providing a website that is accessible to the widest possible audience, regardless of technology or ability. We work continuously to increase the accessibility and usability of our website aiming to adhere to the guidelines set out in WCAG 2.1, where we aim for AA standard.
FutureLearn’s Accessibility and Inclusion policy supports our aims to create an inclusive environment that maximises the participation of learners on FutureLearn courses.
Below is an extract of our Accessibility and Inclusion policy, detailing the responsibilities of FutureLearn and of you as a partner:
2.2 FutureLearn’s Responsibilities
2.2.1 To develop a learning platform that aims to be compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 2.1, so that we maximise learner participation.
2.2.2 To work with Partners to create ever more accessible courses that maximise learner participation.
2.2.3 To provide moderation to challenge any flagged language or behaviour of learners that may create an intimidating or hostile environment.
2.3 Responsibilities of Partners
2.3.1 To strive to design courses with learning objectives that are achievable, whenever feasible and reasonable, for learners with particular impairments and learners for whom English is not their first language.
2.3.2 To identify and document aspects of course learning that may be challenging for learners with particular impairments so that learners can be informed of any challenges.
2.3.3 To avoid any action that could amount to unlawful discrimination under UK law, including failure to make reasonable adjustments to learning materials where necessary.
2.3.4 To develop courses that recognise, and represent learner diversity, so that learners can put in place or request adjustments that enable them to participate.
2.3.5 To work with FutureLearn to develop good practice that will create an inclusive learning environment and culture, so that we continuously improve the learner experience.
2.3.6 To work with FutureLearn to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1.
Design and Build Accessible Courses
Accessibility is not an additional extra or a 'nice to have'. It is built into our Quality Assurance criteria. Guidance on how to develop courses that are accessible is included throughout the design and build pages of this partner's site, in particular on our writing up your course page.
- Have you used subheadings in your steps and PDFs to create digestible content?
- Have you inserted alt text for all images?
- Have you given your tables headers (and alt text if possible)?
- Have you used descriptive hyperlinks and not hyperlinked the word ‘here’.
- Have you created accessible PDFs, including a table of contents for long documents?
- Have you written your content in plain English?
Useful Tools and Resources
- Test your material using a screen reader: For Windows, NVDA Screenreader is popular. For Mac, the VoiceOver screen reader is already built-in.
- YouTube video: How the NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) screen reader works
- UKAAF guide describing images
- The correct way to use alt-text
- Interview with Jamie Knight, a web designer who also has autism
- Designing posters for users on the autistic spectrum by the UK Home Office
- Simulation of how dyslexia can affect reading online
- Step 1.7 from the University of Southampton’s course Digital Accessibility
- For Adobe Acrobat users – Adobe’s full accessibility training guides.
- Simplified guide to creating PDFs from Word documents, maintained by and for the UK Government Digital Service.
- A list of colour combinations to avoid is outlined in this post on theuxblog.com.