It’s time for an “accessibility-first” (not just accessible) Learning Management System (LMS)
BY DOUGLAS GIMENES, YESLMS CO-FOUNDER
It’s easy to be confused about laws in general. It’s even easier to be confused about the law when it comes to accessibility issues—especially when those accessibility issues are about software, including websites and software-as-a-service. Many businesses are starting to implement principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which treats accessibility as more than a compliance afterthought, in their software and web-based strategies. But many businesses don’t see either the legal reasons or the common sense reasons for using UDL.
Recently a friend of mine, a senior vice president at a large US-based company, confessed to me,
“I’ve heard all about Section 508, but that only applies to federal agencies. We don’t plan to be one of those any time soon. Plus, we don’t have any employees with disabilities working here, and we don’t plan to hire any disabled people any time soon. Why should we invest in a bunch of features that nobody’s going to use?”
I was surprised by what my friend said. His candor is telling. It suggests that a lot of people might have questions about accessibility in the workplace that they are too afraid to ask. But thoughtfully addressing accessibility issues (or choosing not to address them) can have serious and far-reaching implications for the future of your organization. In all reality, it’s a common misconception in many businesses that we don’t need to think about people with disabilities as part of our business strategy. Here are some compelling reasons why we do.
Going Above and Beyond is Just Good Business Strategy
While an accessible website or software-as-a-service can mitigate potential legal issues, there are other, more fundamental, advantages having a solution built using Universal Design for Learning (UDL) that treats accessibility as more than a compliance afterthought.
By making educational resources accessible to every individual, organizations can expand the scope of recruiting efforts to address critical talent shortages while also better serving the needs of current employees who may become disabled.
“Organizations need to consider people with disabilities, an untapped pool of critically skilled talent,” a leading research and advisory company writes in a recent report. Gartner, the company, found that AI and other new technologies are now making work more accessible for those with disabilities—and benefiting the companies that hire them as well.
“Gartner estimates that organizations actively employing people with disabilities have 89% higher retention rates, a 72% increase in employee productivity and a 29% increase in profitability. In addition, Gartner said that by 2023, the number of people with disabilities employed will triple, due to AI and emerging technologies reducing barriers to access.” (4)
So, to answer my senior vice president friend’s question(s), you may not be legally required to support accessibility standards any time soon,
- You may not want to be a government contractor any time soon,
- You may not need to apply international standards any time soon,
- You may not have on your radar the growing body of lawsuits with other private-sector companies,
- You may not see the point of expanding your talent pool to include people with disabilities (including current employees who may become disabled) right now,
- You may not think you need a Learning Management System (LMS) based on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) right now,
- And you may not even want to improve retention rates, productivity or profitability any time soon.
- But the day is coming, and it might be sooner than you think.