How confident are you that the training at your organisation has been designed with matters of accessibility and disability in mind? This is likely to remain one of the key issues for employers as we move through 2005. And rightly so.
As Jessica Jarvis points out in her initial summary of some new CIPD research on inclusive learning (see page 16), we really must ask ourselves if e-learning in particular is offering disabled people better access to training and to work.
There are plenty of reasons why we should ask these questions. Apart from the moral and legal obligations to offer effective training to disabled people, there is also the business imperative. Employers are continually searching for and trying to retain skilled people but a potential bank of talented people is still being overlooked. According to the Employers Forum on Disability, there are 6.9 million disabled people of working age, but only 3.39 million in work – quite a shortfall.
Technology should be providing some answers to this conundrum, but before e-learning can be seen as an effective solution to providing accessible learning, the challenges relating to its design and development need to be addressed – in particular, the thorny issue of e-learners feeling they are isolated.
All customers of e-learning can make a difference, by testing and evaluating products, and thinking how they will be used, before buying. As Jarvis points out, there are few official guidelines as to the accessibility of products, but responsible organisations should be seen to set a standard and to make a noise about it.