Universal Design for Learning Benefits Everyone

Use technology and standards to create training content that can be used by all learners.

Are you designing accessible learning content? This involves using technology and standards to create training content that can be used by all learners. If you are not, why not? Now is the time. Start today.

But first, let’s bust a few myths:

  • Learners are required to self-identify any disability or need. (False)
  • You don’t need to design accessible learning content because people need to be fully sighted, able to hear, etc., to work at your company. (Anybody wear corrective lenses or use a hearing device? There are laws about this in the U.S.)
  • You don’t have time to do it. (If you build it into your development process, it takes no more time than what you’re doing today.)
  • You can’t do it because you have to use a corporate template. (It’s time to meet with whomever crafted the ubiquitous template and explain why it doesn’t work for learning content.)
  • You haven’t had any complaints so far. (Hmm, do the learners even know who to contact?)


At the minimum, focus on these things:

Contrast: This means dark text on light backgrounds or vice versa. Minimize use of patterns or pictures behind text as this can be difficult to read.

Color: Use colors that work for most people, which pretty much leaves shades of red or green out, except as accent colors.

Alt+Text tags: Check that the auto-generated tags make sense to someone outside of you/your process. Update them if needed. Or mark them as ornamental, so screen readers bypass them. This is also recommended for images, icons, logos, and ornaments.

Readability: We read on our devices. We prefer to skim because we can read things faster. Take the grade level down by writing shorter sentences and simplifying word use. Run the text through a checker (i.e., Microsoft Word or online).

Accessibility checker: You can find many on the Internet.


Making your learning content accessible to everyone is the right thing to do. Start by checking out the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) developed through the W3C process (https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/). User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) content is far ahead of us on this—check those resources out, too.

Dawn J Mahoney, CPTD
Dawn J. Mahoney, CPTD, is the program content manager for Training magazine. She also owns Learning in The White Space LLC, a freelance talent development (“training”) and instructional design consultancy. She is passionate about developing people through better training, better instructional design, and better dialog. E-mail her at: dawn@trainingmag.com.