I’m worried that your awesome Storyline presentation is actually inaccessible (and it’s not really entirely your fault).

screaming cat

Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

I’ve been off on a rant today, warning users about the effort that is necessary to make an Articulate Storyline presentation accessible. The punchline is: it’s a heck of a lot of work, and my concern is that there are a large number of presentations that are being used that fall short when it comes to accessibility. Articulate publishes help files as well, and they have an active online community. By all means, check their site, but I’d advise keeping these pointers handy as well.

Some straightforward things you can do:

  • Use the Modern Player, and publish your content as HTML5, not Flash.
  • Add appropriate alt tags (NB: anything decorative should not have one, so that assistive technology will skip over it).
  • Configure/customize the Tab Order for every slide should so that it is keyboard navigable in a logical order.
  • Add closed captions to every slide. The closed caption editor is buggy, so budget some time to do this.
  • Embedded tables should have proper markup

These next things have some design considerations:

  • Make sure your master slides are accessible, because bad design trickles down.
  • Make sure anything you download from the online community is accessible before you start to use it.
  • Build slide sequences that have sub menus as separate slides, as opposed to layers (layers can be problematic for assistive devices). – January 2020: some improvements here, but continue to tread lightly here.
  • Avoid using interactions that are problematic for assistive devices (no drag and drop, no sliders or dials, no hotspots). – January 2020; update helped with this, but continue to tread lightly – but don’t use drag and drop, because it simply is not accessible.
  • Don’t have slides auto advance.
  • Restrict use of animations and transitions. Assistive tech will only ready what’s on the screen. If you like to have words appear in synch with audio, that’s ok, but this means that only the material that you have on screen at a specific time will be accessible. If users want to tab through a slide before your snazzy animations are done, they may miss some material.

And this is huge:

  • Hyperlinks on a slide ARE NOT ACCESSIBLE. You need to add links as buttons or build an invisible box around the text (& then go back and change the text to *look* like a link, & maybe add a hover state). This is a known issue. It’s been around for more than 4 years (link opens in new tab) , and Articulate has not addressed it, except with “work-arounds”.

  • Read the point above again…Articulate’s HTML5 output does not properly recognize Hyper Text Markup Language. – January 2020 update: best option it to create a separate text box and hyperlink that…workable, but still problematic. Ideally, we could create the link in context, but that is not accessible.

To Articulate: It seems that every vendor has a “our platform is accessible” pitch. That’s important, but when you’re pushing a bunch of the work down to the people that are using it by forcing us to use “work-arounds”, I call shenanigans. It’s irresponsible for you to say “our tool is accessible”, when you know full well how much work it is to make actually make accessible content with your tool. It’s a big problem when developers, instructors, admins, etc, are buying a subscription to your tool and creating content that they think is accessible, while you haven’t accurately told them about the work necessary to do so. That’s irresponsible.

& the rest of you: contact me if you want to chat about this stuff further.


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