This article was written by Sonya Trivedi by Moodle news on May 12, 2023.
Digital accessibility is an inclusive practice that allows everyone, including people with disabilities or some form of impairment, to perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the online environment.
Moodle’s team has been working hard to ensure that our platforms are accessible to everyone and compliant with all regulations and standards. Today, we’re proud to announce that Moodle LMS 4.0 has achieved WCAG 2.1 Level AA accessibility compliance. Not only that, it’s also our most accessible version of Moodle ever!
Our team has worked closely with an independent, third-party accessibility expert to ensure that our Moodle LMS 4.0 complies with the latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) of the World Wide Web Consortium: WCAG 2.1 AA.
Why is accessibility important for learning?
Have you ever experienced browsing videos in a setting where audio usage was not possible? In such cases, captions likely aided your viewing experience. This scenario exemplifies how accessible design benefits all learners, irrespective of their needs.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1.3 billion people experience significant disabilities. This represents 16% of the world’s population or 1 in 6 of us. Many countries worldwide have legislations that extend to the accessible design of digital content for this very reason.
Accessibility is key, especially in the field of education. When learning materials aren’t accessible, it can be challenging for students with disabilities, making it harder for them to learn. At Moodle, we want to ensure that every student has an equal opportunity to learn. When creating digital educational resources, it is essential to include accessibility features like alternative text descriptions, closed captions, and audio descriptions. Prioritising accessibility in education helps to build an inclusive learning environment that supports every student.
Our journey to accessible platform design
Moodle has an ongoing commitment to accessibility. We aim to provide the same functionality and information to all people. There should be no barriers regardless of disabilities, assistive technologies, different screen sizes, or input devices.
Brett Dalton, Head of Educational Solutions at Moodle, says, “One of the key drivers of Moodle as a company is that we want to make learning accessible to everyone.” He added that, “in staying true to our goal of constantly enhancing learners’ experience, Moodle plans to continue bringing new LMS features with accessibility in mind.”
For each Moodle LMS release, our team diligently invests time in verifying that our new features cater to individuals with disabilities as well as users from diverse social and cultural backgrounds. Our developers and community follow established best practices when building new code in Moodle LMS. To accept new code into Moodle core, we also test pages carefully and gather expert feedback.
To ensure accessibility, since 2019, Moodle has worked with Digital Accessibility Specialists from WebKeyIT – a company providing digital accessibility services – to identify issues preventing some of our users from having an optimal Moodle experience and and continually work to improve this experience.
“The audit was a comprehensive and time-intensive process. For each major release of Moodle LMS, we select a representative sample of pages for our platform while also covering key new features for that Moodle version and submit these pages for the accessibility audit. Their report guides us to iteratively make changes to reach WCAG 2.1 Level AA compliance. The accessibility accreditation process took about a year for Moodle LMS 4.0. We have come a long way and are proud of the product we’ve built for our community,” said Jun Pataleta, Integration Lead at Moodle.
Ensuring accessibility in online learning
Moodle LMS includes various features, tools, and integrations to ensure educators and administrators create courses, resources, and activities that enhance accessibility.
This includes Brickfield’s Accessibility Starter Toolkit, which provides the automated analysis of Moodle courses against accessibility standards, reviewing the content inside all of Moodle’s core activities.
Although our Moodle LMS is WCAG 2.1 AA compliant, our users should also know that how they organise their sites and create courses and content impacts accessibility.
If you’d like to know more about making your Moodle courses more accessible, check out the following resources and tips:
- If you are an educator or admin, check out our Accessible course design page.
- If you’re a developer, read about accessibility in dev documentation when you create new plugins or features.
- Use the ‘Accessibility Checker’ in Moodle’s text editor, which scans your content and alerts you to various accessibility issues that may be within the text.
- Learn more about accessibility on Moodle.Academy.
This includes the Brickfield’s Accessibility Starter Toolkit, which provides the automated analysis of Moodle courses against accessibility standards, reviewing the content inside all of Moodle’s core activities.
Furthermore, we have also created various ways for educators to learn how to design accessible online learning environments, including courses such as Introduction to Accessibility, Accessible Teaching Basics and Accessible Development Practices.
“Accessibility is not something you achieve. It’s a continuous journey. We will continue collaborating with WebKeyIT to ensure our newer platform pages and elements comply with accessibility standards supporting an optimal user experience for all,” said Brett Dalton. He added that with the newer WCAG 2.2 standards scheduled to be released by Q3 2023, Moodle is planning to upgrade the platform to meet these criteria.
Our journey continues and we can’t wait to inform you about new significant achievements in this area!