Schools increasingly use digital tools and online learning materials to support virtual education. That’s why it’s never been more essential to provide digital accessibility in online school programs for students with disabilities. Removing barriers gives them equitable access to new educational formats and helps them thrive in learning environments alongside their peers. Schools must also integrate hardware, software, and assistive technology solutions that empower these students to enjoy a complete learning experience.

Let’s start by learning more about the advantages of digital accessibility in online learning

The Benefits of Accessible Online Education

  • Advances The Learning Process

Digital accessibility is a state and federal legal responsibility. But most importantly, it’s morally and ethically critical to empower teachers with technology that supports learning for every student, regardless of their ability level. That all starts with removing obstacles that hinder their comprehension of content and ability to navigate digital learning environments.

Digital accessibility tools also level the playing field for students with disabilities, so they can focus on studying, producing, and engaging with high-quality content. Digital accessibility transcends compliance; it empowers all of your students to succeed. 

  • Enhances Website UX

Digital accessibility features for websites and mobile devices benefit everybody, significantly improving the ability to search for and engage with desired content. Here are some examples of accessible features most people use at school, work, and home: 

  1. Speech-to-text
  2. Font size/style modifications
  3. Teleprompters
  4. Zoom and magnification
  5. Visual and vibrating alerts and notifications
  6. Voice control and voice input 

Engagement levels suffer when students with disabilities can’t take full advantage of digital media. But solutions are readily available. For example, audio descriptions via headphones boost their learning performance but don’t distract others in the classroom.  Other accessibility features include:

  • Alt Text
  • Customized font styles and colors
  • Closed Captioning
  • Proper Background & foreground color contrast 
  • Mobile compatibility 
  • Broadens Website Visibility

It’s called digital “accessibility” for a reason. The more accessible your site, the easier to find and use, increasing your visitor base and deepening end-user loyalty.  

  • Enhances SEO

Digital accessibility features like alt text increases exposure, which helps search engines recognize web content.

  • Elevates Usability & Repeat Visitation

A digitally accessible website enhances UX for users of all abilities and backgrounds. Digestible content and intuitive navigation simplify engagement with your most vital information. This makes the website experience enjoyable and encourages people to use your site regularly.  

  • Mitigates Costly Lawsuits

Accessibility may be a choice, but it’s also a legal requirement. So, the choice should be clear: make your site accessible to avoid costly lawsuits for non-compliance.  

Online school programs are on the rise and will play a significant role in the future, as this next section illustrates. 

The Massive Increase in Online Learning

Online learning will only become more pervasive with time. People, companies, and organizations increasingly rely on the digital world. This has naturally led to more online school programs, as education is an ideal arena to fully utilize remote technology. The stats below illustrate this trend, particularly concerning accessibility in higher education:

  • The e-learning market exceeded $315 billion In 2021
  •  MOOCs elevated from 300,000 to 220 million learners from 2011 to 2021
  • Hybrid learning at traditional universities saw a 36% uptick between 2012 and 2019
  • COVID accelerated traditional universities’ growth by over 90% in 2020 
  • Forecasts predict the E-Learning market will be $848.12 Billion (17.54% CAGR) by 2030

Of course, these projections and research efforts exist in a vacuum if schools aren’t willing to commit to change. Teachers expect their students to embrace the idea of applied learning, which should be no different for decision-makers at every level of education. In short, it’s time for all organizations, including schools, to apply what they learn about the need for digital accessibility. 

Online School Programs: The Future of Education

Emblematic of society’s rapid tech advancement, online school programs are here to stay. With that comes the inarguable need for digital accessibility to accommodate students with disabilities. Amazingly, 7.2 million (15%) of all public school students ages 3–21 received special education services under the IDEA in 2020–21. This significant chunk of the student population must have equal educational opportunities.

And from a legal perspective, this issue shouldn’t be taken lightly. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and the U.S. DOJ’s Civil Rights Division recently collaborated on a letter that increases public awareness of joint efforts to address obstacles to online education services.  It specifically covers initiatives and activities funded by colleges, universities, and other academic institutions. 

The information and technology are readily available to make online learning fair for everyone. So, it’s time for online high school programs, executive educational institutions, and online schools and colleges to embrace inclusivity. It’s the right choice for educators, the right choice for learners, and the right choice to make the world a better place.   

See why UserWay is a globally trusted source for digital accessibility and compliance. 

UserWay: Digital Accessibility, From A to Z

Online education has never been more critical, and it needs digital accessibility to ensure learners of every ability have a fair chance to succeed. UserWay’s comprehensive range of AI-powered tools helps organizations of every kind achieve accessibility and compliance. Learn how UserWay’s A to Z approach can support your online educational efforts now and in the future.

Start by learning from an accessibility expert today.

Answers to Common FAQs

Why is Digital Accessibility Essential in Online Education?

Because it gives students with disabilities equal access to educational technology and materials. 

What’s an Example of Accessibility in Higher Education?

Assistive technology includes text-to-speech, screen readers, and speech recognition. These tools help students with disabilities select, attain, and use the tech that meets their needs. 

What Web Accessibility Errors Should Be Avoided? 

Always prevent the following errors:  

  • No image alt text 
  • Weak foreground and background color contrast
  • Substandard (non-descriptive) link text
  • No form labels
  • No data table markup 
  • No keyboard navigation