Designing Accessible Workplace Training Programs

Published September 9, 2022

The ADA mandates that employers provide equal job opportunities to individuals of differing ability levels. Companies will often uphold these laws through a lack of discriminating hiring practices. Adherence to these laws means about 33% of the American workforce comprises individuals with disabilities. 

Fair hiring helps create an accessible job market, but it is only part of the picture. It’s just as important to give employees the skills they need to sustain their employment. Companies or businesses can ensure the longevity of employees with varying ability levels through accessible training.  

Why it Matters

The ADA and the 1973 Rehabilitation Act mandate accessibility in the workplace. It’s within a company’s best interest to adhere to these laws. From a liability standpoint, companies and businesses that don’t maintain the ADA’s accessibility laws may leave themselves vulnerable to lawsuits.

Employee longevity is another reason companies should ensure that their training programs are accessible. When employees, regardless of ability level, are given the tools they need to succeed, they are less likely to quit or face termination. This benefits businesses by providing a stable and competent workforce.

If companies don’t provide accessible training, it is to everyone’s detriment. The workforce becomes unbalanced, and a number of employees face an avoidable disadvantage.

Standard workplace training programs do not typically offer much in the way of accessibility. Individuals with differing ability levels often face many challenges from standard training structures. 

Understanding Accessible Training

The purpose of accessible work training programs is to accommodate the various needs of employees with differing ability levels. These training programs can apply to workers with disabilities, foreign language speakers, and various other demographics within a workforce. 

Workplace training programs without accessibility in mind can potentially leave many workers unable to learn or apply the provided information. For example, live training sessions can be difficult for individuals with hearing impairments. PDF training programs may be difficult for individuals with visual impairments. Furthermore, timed assessments may be a challenge for individuals with intellectual disabilities. 

Accessible training programs make for an inclusive and productive environment in the workplace. Here are some tips to consider when designing an accessible training.

Account for Visual Accessibility

Almost 20 million Americans have some sort of visual impairment. Employers should consider potential needs around sight when designing training programs. 

One of the ways to accommodate sight needs is to include alt-text for images. Alt texts are written descriptions of images that a screen reader can interpret. Alt text can be incredibly useful if a training utilizes image-based power-point slides.

If a training uses video-based content, designers of the program can expand the accessibility of the video by adding a voiceover with an audio description. Audio description is a narration track that describes the sequence of events in a video program. In addition to individuals with visual impairments, audio description can be useful to those with needs around comprehension. 

Another way to ensure visual accessibility is by using proper color contrast ratios. These ratios refer to the pairing of background and text colors on a digital page. According to the WCAG, the appropriate minimum ratio is 4:5:1. For more information, see our article on color accessibility.

Account for Audio Accessibility

When planning for audio accessibility, the most common demographic to consider are individuals with hearing impairments. However, audio accessibility may also benefit workers who are foreign language speakers. Training designs that consider these needs in advance will ultimately benefit many different audiences.

A common method for achieving accessible audio is closed captioning. Closed captions provide subtitles for the spoken content of a video.  Offering multiple language options for video subtitles makes for an even more accessible training program.

Another way to achieve audio accessibility is to provide written transcripts of a training program. This will allow workers to read or catch up on segments they may have missed during the live training session. Written transcripts will include the spoken segments and non-speech audio information needed to understand the content. 

Providing employees access to an ASL interpreter is another way to make a training program accessible. 

Account for Physical Accessibility

It is best to schedule training programs on the ground floor of a building or in an elevator-accessible location to ensure they are physically accessible for those with disabilities that impair their mobility. 

The training room should also be accessible. Trainers can achieve this by arranging desks so the room can accommodate mobility aid devices like wheelchairs. 

Another way in which employers can make pieces of training more accessible is to offer them remotely. Employers can use programs like Zoom or WebEx to provide a virtual training option. Data reports tend to favor this method’s efficacy. Training leaders have reported that remote programs resulted in better learning outcomes.

It should come as no surprise. Remote learning has shown itself to be more accommodating than in-person learning. 

Collect Feedback from Employees

When designing an accessible training program, companies should engage their employees to gather feedback. Whether through surveys or one-on-one meetings, gaining employee perspective is essential. Not only does it help build effective training programs, but it also creates a trusting work environment. When employees feel heard and considered, it creates a better work environment.

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