As our culture becomes more inclusive, so is the e-Learning industry, and we’re experiencing more requests than ever for e-Learning development that can meet accessibility standards. Accessible e-Learning has been defined as e-Learning content which any learner can access—including those with visual, auditory, or mobility differences.
While there are many facets to accessible e-Learning development, one of the most powerful features we have for ensuring accessibility with Storyline 360 is Focus Order. Many learners use screen readers to access information within an e-Learning. Focus Order is how we determine, as the e-Learning developer, the order in which they access that content.
Therefore, let’s answer this common “as heard in training” question today: “What is Focus Order in Accessible e-Learning?”
To adjust the sequence of accessible elements (for both non-interactive and interactive slides), begin by selecting Home | Focus Order.
From there, use the trash button to remove any non-essential elements from the “Include in Focus Order” list. This includes any items that are on screen for decoration purposes only and are not critical to understanding the content.
Tip: When it comes to graphics and images, you don’t necessarily want to remove all imagery from Focus Order. Oftentimes, facial expressions, body language/poses, colors, and symbolism within photos can contribute to the mood or theme of the e-Learning!
Next, select Create a custom focus order and reorganize the objects to reflect the order in which they should be accessed. By default, Storyline 360 will order objects from top-to-bottom/left-to-right.
To finish things off, add alternative text, as needed, to provide descriptions of graphics and imagery for learners using a screen reader. You do not need to add alt text to items that have text in them (like text boxes and labeled buttons or tabs), as screen readers will automatically read the originally typed text from those objects.
Tip: On interactive slides, we like to organize the Focus Order so that a layer’s elements are listed below the corresponding interactive base layer object. This way, it’s easier for the developer to determine if all layer elements are included and properly organized!
Slide Master Level
What about when you want to remove objects from the Focus Order, but you notice that the delete option is grayed out?
If you’re unable to use the delete button, this may be a clue that the object you wish to delete is on the Slide Master!
Since Slide Masters include layouts that can be applied to numerous slides throughout the course, we can’t delete those elements on a single slide. So, to remove those items, begin by selecting View | Slide Master.
Then, on the appropriate layout, right-click on the object you wish to remove and choose the Accessibility option. This will open a window that will allow you to delete the object from the Focus Order by unchecking the option: Object is visible to accessibility tools.
Tip: For grouped objects, you must remove each individual element from Focus Order as well as the group as a whole.
Have you ever tested a course with a screen reader only to have it identify an object that isn’t present in the Focus Order? Where is this mystery object coming from…is it the ghost of Storyline 360 projects past?! More than likely, it’s an object that is part of a customized state.
When elements are added inside of the state of an object, they’re not necessarily a slide-based or Timeline-based element but more of a states-based element. That’s why they don’t show up on the Timeline or in the Focus Order!
To remove access to states-based elements from accessibility tools, select the object and then Edit States. From there, you’ll use the same method used for Master Slide elements.
Tip: If an icon is grouped, you may choose to ungroup it first, which then leaves all the elements in the group selected, and then you can perform the right-click | Accessibility step. This can save time and ensure that each piece of the icon has been removed!
It Takes Practice!
Developing accessible courses becomes easier with time and practice but understanding how to use Focus Order goes a long way in making courses accessible to all learners. We also invite you to check out the following resources to continue your journey in accessible e-Learning development:
- Section 508
- WCAG 2.1 Quick Reference Guide
- Articulate VPAT
- All About Accessibility
- 6 Best Practices for Designing Accessible E-Learning
- Articulate 360 Feature Roadmap
- Yukon Learning webinar: Developing Accessible Courses in Articulate Storyline 360
Feel free to reach out to us one-on-one or add your thoughts using the comment section below. And happy accessible developing!