a11y

We want all learners to interact as fully as possible with the courses you create in Rise. We know it’s important to you as well. That’s why accessibility is a critical part of our roadmap. Below we’ve put together a journal of the work we’ve done so far—feel free to read it all or jump right to an entry that catches your eyes. We’ll update this often as we continue our accessibility journey.

Did you know—"a11y" is a numeronym created to help raise awareness of accessibility issues and causes. You can read more about the history of a11y over at the A11Y Project site.


Improved Accessibility for Labeled Graphic Blocks

January 28, 2021

Labeled graphic blocks are a great way to bring visual flair to your courses and let learners explore at their own pace. However, especially if paired with a white background, the default labeled graphics markers need more contrast to meet accessibility guidelines.

That’s why authors now have the ability to modify their markers with a handy color picker. Found in the labeled graphic block settings, the color picker lets you quickly change the color of all your markers either by entering the hex code, using the brand color, or selecting a custom color of your choice.

Other improvements to the labeled graphic block include:

  • Markers are now read as an ordered list by screen readers.
  • Screen readers announce marker icons as part of the marker.
  • The marker state (whether or not it’s been viewed) is also announced by screen readers.
  • When you open a marker, you’ll now tab into the content first instead of the controls for a more user-friendly experience.
  • Closing a marker label with the ESC key brings the focus back to the marker.
  • When you navigate away from an open marker label, it closes automatically.

With these upgrades in place, we can now say that the labeled graphic blocks are 100% accessible!

The improvements we made in this update follow these WCAG criteria: Non-text Content 1.1.1 (Level A), Info and Relationships 1.3.1 (Level A), Descriptive Labels 2.4.6.b (Level AA), Name, Role, Value 4.1.2.a (Level A)


Screen Reader Compatibility Improvements

December 2, 2020

In the past few weeks, we improved screen reader responses for quizzes and knowledge checks. For multiple choice and multiple response questions, it’s obvious when learners enter list elements. Additionally, keyboard navigation makes it clear when a choice has focus. Answer reviews and reveals are now accessible to screen readers, and feedback announcements are more intuitive. The quiz results page follows a logical order with fewer distractions, making it easier for learners to understand their results.

The improvements we made in this update follow these WCAG criteria: Info and Relationships 1.3.1 (Level A), Meaningful Sequence 1.3.2 (Level A), Keyboard 2.1.1 (Level A), Focus Order 2.4.3 (Level A), Focus Visible 2.4.7 (Level AA), Name, Role, Value 4.1.2 (Level A)


October 21, 2020

Course cards in My Learning and the library now announce all the elements within the course card rather than just announcing the card as a single unit. Those elements are presented in a logical order. For example, even though the overdue status and favorites button are listed above the course link visually, the link is announced first since it’s the most important thing on the card.

Depending on whether you’re browsing the My Learning list or the library, you can navigate to specific elements on each course card when using a screen reader. These include:

  • Course link
  • Overdue status (My Learning only)
  • Learner Progress (My Learning only)
  • Number of lessons
  • Learning path badge (Learning paths only)
  • Download Certificate link (My Learning only)
  • Quiz Score (My Learning only)
  • Favorites button

What’s the favorites button? On library course cards, there’s a heart icon that users click to save the course to their list. Even though it doesn’t look like a button, it functions like one. We made changes behind the scenes so you can toggle it via keyboard navigation just like any other button. We also improved screen reader support so the button announces itself as “Save to My List” plus its selected or deselected state. This way, users know exactly what will happen when they toggle the button.

Speaking of screen readers, the courses in My Learning are read as a list. This makes it even easier for visually challenged users to explore their courses.

We also made changes to the Global Search button. The magnifying glass icon in the upper right corner, next to the user icon, now opens the search dialog as expected when you navigate to it and press the Enter key. It also announces itself as “global search” rather than just “search” so users know they’re searching the entire Rise site.

The improvements we made in this update follow these WCAG criteria: Info and Relationships 1.3.1 (Level A), Meaningful Sequence 1.3.2 (Level A), Contrast (Minimum) 1.4.3 (Level AA), Keyboard 2.1.1 (Level A), Focus Order 2.4.3 (Level A), Name, Role, Value 4.1.2 (Level A)


Ensuring Alternative Text Is Available Where It’s Needed

September 15, 2020

Alternative text (alt text) is a key element of accessibility. With the multitude of image-based blocks in Rise, we made sure you can add alt text to your images and that screen readers announce that text elegantly.

First, we went through our image blocks and verified that alt text is only read once by screen readers. This includes:

  • Image Centered
  • Image Full Width
  • Image & Text
  • Text on Image
  • Image Carousel
  • Image Grids (2, 3, and 4 column)
  • Accordion
  • Tabs
  • Labeled Graphic marker images (not the background image)
  • Process
  • Timeline
  • Knowledge Checks
  • Quiz

If there are images in these blocks that don’t have alt text, screen readers ignore the tag and just announce them as images or read the file name.

To wrap things up, we addressed click-to-zoom images. Screen readers now announce a zoom button for images. The interface won’t be any different for sighted users but ensures those who use screen readers have a comparable experience. When users zoom in on an image, screen readers announce the alt text associated with it for context.

Additionally, we added elements to the Rise interface to make it even clearer what happens when you interact with UI elements.

  • The close icon in the upper right corner of the library now lets you know that it closes the library.
  • The persistent site logo in the upper left corner of Rise announces that it returns you to the home page.

The improvements we made in this update follow these WCAG criteria: Info and Relationships 1.3.1 (Level A), Meaningful Sequence 1.3.2 (Level A), Parsing 4.1.1 (Level A), Name, Role, Value 4.1.2 (Level A)


Improving Color Contrast

August 14, 2020

Most people don’t give a second thought to color contrast and how it affects design. But it has a marked effect on how you and your learners approach Rise.

If the contrast between elements is too stark, like black checkboxes on a white background, it can make things feel a little basic. Conversely, if the contrast is too subtle, like light grey boxes on a white background, it becomes harder for learners with low vision to experience the full impact of your content.

That’s why we’ve gone through and closely examined the color contrast and opacity of the following elements and made adjustments. They’re more accessible, while still ensuring your learners enjoy the high-end design they’ve come to expect from Rise. Here’s what we’ve done to improve contrast in Rise:

  • Darkened the color of the X icon in the search bar
  • Increased the default opacity of the text on image blocks to improve readability
  • Improved the contrast of unselected step counters in process blocks
  • Ensured that the “Click to Flip” text on flashcard blocks doesn’t appear lighter than what you pick in block settings
  • Darkened the colors for several knowledge check elements, including radio buttons, checkboxes, text field borders, and drag-and-drop borders
  • Darkened the border color for the interactive elements of sorting activities
  • Increased the opacity on the unselected dots and darkened the progress arrows for quote carousels
  • Replaced the download icons for the attachment block with more accessible alternatives

The improvements we made in this update follow these WCAG criteria: Contrast (Minimum) 1.4.3, Non-context Contrast 1.4.11 (Level AA)


Improving Accessibility for Learning Paths

July 14, 2020

We made the learning path overview (shown above) even better than before. We already enhanced course cards, but this time we focused on improving screen reader support for the learning path overview.

A large part of making a site screen reader accessible is consistently and properly labeling elements based on what they do, rather than what they look like. With that in mind, we started at the top with the learning path overview header.

The Start Learning Path button in the image looks like a button but, functionally, it isn’t. There’s no “on/off” toggle status. When you click it, you’re taken to the first course in the learning path, therefore, it functions like a link. So now, when a screen reader encounters the Start Learning Path/Continue Path “button,” it describes it as a link element. That way the functionality is clear and learners know what will happen when they interact with it.

Additional overview header improvements include:

  • Announcing cover photos or alt tags only if they’re present
  • Announcing your learning path progress once instead of multiple times

Since the learning path overview shares a similar structure to the course overview, we leveraged the work we did there and applied it here.

  • The Save to My List button now has toggle states that a screen reader can announce.
  • We added headings to the Description, Courses, Authors, Requirements, and Categories sections.
  • The learning path duration is now announced only once as part of the description.

Additionally, screen readers now read the entire author list, even if part of that list is hidden behind a Show More button. They’ll also ignore the alt text for author avatars since those are decorative elements.

We similarly improved the category list. Rather than being announced as graphic elements, screen readers now announce the category list as, well, a list.

The improvements we made in this update follow these WCAG criteria: Info and Relationships 1.3.1 (Level A), Meaningful Sequence 1.3.2 (Level A), Identify Purpose 1.3.6 (Level AAA), Content on Hover 1.4.13 (Level AA), Keyboard 2.1.1 (Level A), Link Purpose (link only) 2.4.9 (Level AAA)


Improving Sidebar Accessibility

May 28, 2020

After the course overview, we focused our attention on the sidebar. The sidebar is more than just a menu. It displays a list of lessons and sections and also functions as a results box when you use the search bar. We wanted to make it even easier to access the information in the sidebar when using just the keyboard or a screen reader.

Keyboard Navigation

When you use the Tab button to navigate, you should only be able to interact with the elements displayed on the screen. We made sure that you can’t press Tab to access lessons hidden under collapsed section headers in the sidebar.

Also, when the sidebar itself is hidden completely by the course author, we found that you could still tab to the search field. Not only is that not accessibility compliant, but it can bypass author intent. We changed this and now you can’t access the search field if the sidebar is hidden.

Speaking of restricted course navigation, if the learner is required to take a quiz to continue in a course, there are several visual cues, including a pop-up tooltip. Those tooltips now display when a user tabs to a lesson they can’t yet access.

The improvements we made in this update follow these WCAG criteria: Content on Hover 1.4.13 (Level AA), Keyboard 2.1.1 (Level A), Focus Order 2.4.3 (Level A), Name, Role, Value 4.1.2 (Level A)

Screen Reader Support

Since the sidebar does so much, we wanted to make sure that screen readers properly announced each section. We labeled each individual portion of the sidebar with its true function, rather than having the entire element announced as a “menu.”

Search Field

Searching from the sidebar needed additional tweaks to make it work better with screen readers. This was tricky. After all, we’re taking a section of the interface you usually use to navigate and turning it into something completely different—a search field and results list. Now, screen readers announce if the sidebar is displaying search results or the course outline.

We reworked the icons as well. The X that closes the search field was announced simply as “X,” so we gave it more context. Now, screen readers announce that button as “Close the Search Form.” Much more descriptive! We also hid the magnifying glass icon from screen readers since it’s purely decorative.

The improvements we made in this update follow these WCAG criteria: Non-text Content 1.1.1 (Level A), Identify Purpose 1.3.6 (Level AAA)

Progress Indicator

As you scroll through a lesson in Rise, one thing happening in the periphery is that the “progress pie” fills up in the sidebar as you reach completion. For quiz lessons, you can glance at the sidebar and see if you passed or failed based on their icons. They’re nice visual reminders when you return to a course of how far along you are and how you’re doing.

Screen readers now announce the lesson title as well as the current recorded progress as a percentage. If it’s a quiz lesson, the screen reader announces if you passed or failed that quiz previously.

And to support our sidebar labeling effort, all of these lessons are now listed as buttons with the necessary pressed and unpressed states.

The improvements we made in this update follow these WCAG criteria: Non-text Content 1.1.1 (Level A), Identify Purpose 1.3.6 (Level AAA)

Sidebar Control

Learners can collapse and expand the sidebar using the menu icon (☰) in the upper left corner of the lesson content. And now, screen readers announce the icon's function so visually impaired learners know what it does: “Open/Close Lesson Sidebar.”

The improvements we made in this update follow these WCAG criteria: Identify Purpose 1.3.6 (Level AAA), Name, Role, Value 4.1.2 (Level A)


Making Course Cards Screen Reader Friendly

May 12, 2020

One of the great time-savers in Rise is the ability to create learning paths from multiple courses. To interact with that feature, learners use the learning path overview. And on that overview, we have course cards, as shown below.

An orderly grid of cards is visually appealing, but screen readers have difficulty interpreting it. So we took the logical step of allowing screen readers to see this grid of cards as a numbered list.

Next, to make our new list of courses more useful, we tell the screen reader to ignore certain visual elements, like the course card cover photo and the number icon, so that the card information is presented clearly and in a logical order: title, course length, due date (or completed date), and progress. If a course can’t be accessed yet (because progress requirements haven’t been met), screen readers announce the tooltip that displays.

The improvements we made in this update follow these WCAG criteria: Info and Relationships 1.3.1 (Level A), Identify Purpose 1.3.6 (Level AAA), Content on Hover 1.4.13 (Level AA), Keyboard 2.1.1 (Level A), Link Purpose (link only) 2.4.9 (Level AAA)


Making the Course Overview More Accessible

April 10, 2020

With this update, we improved accessibility for the course overview that displays whenever you launch a course.

Keyboard Navigation

While Rise already supports keyboard navigation, we made refinements so it’s even better. One example of this is the persistent user profile menu in the upper right corner of the screen. This avatar is available in every main tab of the Rise experience. Clicking it displays a menu where you can access your user profile, get help, or sign out of Rise.

We improved the functionality so you can’t tab into those menu options when they aren’t visible. Now, the menu is accessible only if you tab to the avatar and press Enter or the spacebar to interact with it.

The improvements we made in this update follow these WCAG criteria: Keyboard 2.1.1 (Level A), No Keyboard Trap 2.1.2 (Level A), Keyboard (No Exception) 2.1.3 (Level A), Focus Order 2.4.3 (Level A)

Screen Reader Support

When you visually navigate an interface, it’s easy to take for granted the elements that provide information but aren’t crucial to understand the content. For example, on the course overview page, we have headers for things like title, description, and course outline, which convey the most information:

But there are also elements that give you “at a glance” information like course duration, author, and completion requirements.

That information gives you a full understanding of the course but doesn’t have header labels. We added those labels so it’s easier to navigate the course overview with a screen reader.

Another important part of the course requirements section is the status icon, letting you know if you completed a course and passed the quiz (if there is one). We streamlined this element so screen readers don’t announce the icons if they’re not in use. And when they are in use, we do a better job of describing their state.

We made a number of additional screen reader enhancements as well:

  • Title attributes were added to the iframe on the course overview page. Now, when a screen reader encounters that iframe, the course title is announced. This ensures we only have one main attribute, per WCAG standards.
  • The Save to My List button announces whether or not it was pressed.
  • The trophy icon is decorative, so we hid it from screen readers on completed courses.
  • We improved the process of downloading a certificate so screen readers announce what’s happening during and after download (including if it was unsuccessful).
  • We removed the Back to My Learning button from the My Learning page so it’s not accessible when hidden.

The improvements we made in this update follow these WCAG criteria: Bypass Blocks 2.4.1 (Level A), Headings and Labels 2.4.6 (Level AA), Name, Role, Value 4.1.2 (Level A)


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