Building accessible digital content for online learning

Ilyana Sawka/ November 29, 2019

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) releases open standards for the web to drive web use, development, and growth into the future. This includes setting standards for creating accessible content – that is, content that can be perceived, understood, and operated by any individual, especially those with impairments and disabilities. To guide web designers, developers, and content creators in creating accessible digital content, the W3C released the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Why does (truly) accessible content matter?

A large part of the world’s population is affected by impairment. According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 285 million people worldwide with some form of visual impairment and around 360 million people with some form of hearing loss. Add to that the people who have cognitive and physical impairments, and the numbers are staggering. When digital content is developed without taking these impairments into account, we run the risk of excluding hundreds of millions of people from the benefits of its use.

So, is LabXchange accessible?

We worked with Cape Town-based Hubble Studios to design the LabXchange platform, including our one-of-a-kind scrollable interactives and simulations. One of the main requirements for the project was compliance with the WCAG guidelines to ensure that our interactive content can be used and understood by all web users.

A screenshot of a LabXchange interactive motion graphic, indicating alternate text and descriptive labels such as "Foreign DNA" and "Plasmid."

An interactive motion graphic, indicating alternate text and descriptive labels.

This challenge was taken up by Hubble Studios’ user interface and experience designers, illustrators, animators, front-end developers, and, finally, by a testing team focused on ensuring that our content complies with the guidelines.

Creating accessible content is more than just complying with the relevant standards. It is about understanding and empathizing with your users, and ensuring that content can be accessed by all. Click here to learn more about accessible design – and how Hubble Studios tackled this accessible design challenge.

Screenshot of the LabXchange protocol simulation, "Using a Micropipette," indicating the equipment teleport menu.

A scene from our protocol simulation, “Using a Micropipette,” indicating the equipment teleport menu.