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Accessible in-person training: it's unacceptable to be inaccessible

With 19% of working age adults in the UK classified as disabled or living with a long-term illness, creating accessible training content is not just a nice-to-have but a need-to-have.

In recent years, the conversation around accessibility has become more prominent, both in the workplace and educational institutions. The best learning programs take the different ways that people learn and retain information into consideration, both in their design, creation and delivery. When it comes to designing training with accessibility in mind, the same principle applies. The information presented within the training – be it a live, in-person session, a pre-recorded webinar, an e-module, video or document – must reach all members of the audience fully and fairly to be accessible. 

In part one of our dive into accessibility and training, we're exploring how to create accessible in-person training sessions or events. Let's take a look. 

Find out beforehand if anyone has any specific learning or accessibility requirements

Simple things can make a huge difference to someone’s learning experience. Before any in-person training event, consider your audience and find out their requirements well in advance. Send out an email to ask attendees about any specific needs they have. Someone may have dyslexia and require handouts in a specific font and on a certain color paper to make it easier for them to follow along with what’s on screen. An attendee may have hearing loss and need a reserved seat closer to the front. As a rule, try to book a wheelchair accessible event space for in-person training sessions. If this is not possible, then make it clear on the event invite or promotion.

Person with hearing aid presents to a person in a wheelchair

You may also need to consider extra technology. The principles of universal design for learning (UDL), emphasize tech-driven, multifaceted approaches to improving access to learning. The goal of UDL is to use a variety of teaching methods to remove any barriers to learning through the principles of engagement, action and expression, and representation. This could mean wearing a mic for those who are deaf or hard of hearing or using a combination of on screen text and audio to ensure everyone can understand instructions.

“Simple things can make a huge difference to someone’s learning experience. Before any in-person training event, consider your audience and find out their requirements well in advance.”

Remember that preparation is the key to success, so ensure all accessibility bases are covered.

If presenting from a screen, ensure any words on the screen are large enough to be read by participants at the back of the room. As a general rule, minimize the amount of text on a screen to one or two sentences at most, to avoid participants focusing on reading the screen and ignoring what you have to say. 

Read out any text on the screen and describe any images or videos. Some people may struggle with reading, their vision, or understanding written English. Read the words that appear on the screen aloud and explain the contents of a video or photograph so that everyone in the session knows what’s going on. 

Provide options for different formats of handouts, and send out information prior to the training event. Some people may require handouts in large print, braille, in a specific color or font, or in an Easy Read format. Providing handouts stops the need for note-taking and lessens the chances of attendees missing what you are saying. However, if you want to save on printing costs and benefit the environment, emailing handouts in an appropriate format ahead of time can work for some people, too. Just make sure that any images included in the digital handouts have appropriate Alt Text.

Keep to the point. Use simple language. Yes, you’re the expert in your field and there’s the temptation to show off your knowledge by using fancy terminology and acronyms galore, but consider your audience. Could you say it in fewer words? Turn your paragraphs into sentences as it can be hard for those with cognitive impairments to keep up. It’s difficult for almost everyone to hold their attention if you’re covering a topic for 15 minutes when it could be done in 5. 

Have frequent breaks. Adding short breaks benefits everyone, especially those who struggle with bladder control, have ADHD, or diabetes. Studies have shown that after 25-30 minutes, people tend to zone out, so breaking up the flow of content with short breaks can help your audience to retain more information. 

Keep it interesting and interactive. Save yourself from a dry mouth and keep things exciting by encouraging group work and interaction amongst your attendees. Role play situations, example scenarios, and team building exercises keep participants engaged and make sessions fun. 

Infographic outlining the dos and don'ts of accessible in-person training

While the above is not an exhaustive list on how to make in-person training more accessible, it’s certainly a starting point. Consider your attendees as individuals and treat them as such — everyone is different in their own ways, and some people just need extra help to achieve the same level of equity as others. 

The most important consideration when creating any type of training, is to know your audience and consider their needs. The world is full of weird and wonderful gadgets and workarounds, so you can’t really plead ignorance anymore. It’s just not acceptable to be inaccessible.

Want to find out more? Get in touch to find out how we can help you design training experiences that are tailored to your audience. 

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