Storyline 360: Slide Content Is More Accessible

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We want to empower people to live better lives. As part of that mission, we’re focused on giving authors the tools to easily create e-learning courses that are truly accessible for all learners. In January 2020, we introduced the accessible player for Storyline 360, which makes player navigation much easier for screen reader users and keyboard-only users. And now we’re releasing a series of enhancements to make slide content more accessible.

Check out the latest accessibility enhancements below. Then see what we’re working on next in our quest to make Storyline 360 courses inclusive and accessible.

Screen Readers Don’t Auto-Read Content

In January 2020, when we released our first round of accessibility enhancements for slide content, we adopted the standard web practice of allowing screen readers to auto-read text and images. It was a familiar web experience for screen reader users and reduced the number of keystrokes required to explore content.

Through your feedback, however, we soon learned that auto-reading content isn’t the best experience for e-learning courses since slides often have narration or video content that also autoplays. This caused overlapping audio, requiring the learner to pause either the screen reader or the slide content so they could hear each in turn. While standard web pages have the same overlapping audio behavior for screen reader users, we don’t want to follow convention just because it’s always been done that way. We want learners to have an enjoyable experience.

So in February 2020, we reversed course. Screen readers no longer auto-read slide content. Now, a screen reader announces the title of each slide and then waits for the learner to explore the content. This allows the learner to hear multimedia first. It also lets the learner control when the screen reader announces content. Learners simply use their screen reader navigation keys (e.g., the Down and Up arrows) to move through items on the slide.

We recommend installing the latest update for Storyline 360 to take advantage of all the new enhancements.

Navigation Is Easier

Prior to January 2020, screen reader users and keyboard-only users tabbed to every object on each slide. That method was technically accessible, but it was tedious. So we optimized slide navigation to make it more familiar to screen reader users and reduce the number of keystrokes required for keyboard-only users.

Now, the tab order that you define for each slide in Storyline 360 controls the reading order for screen readers as well as the navigation order of interactive elements, such as buttons, hotspots, and data-entry fields. Here’s how it works.

Screen Reader Users

Keyboard-Only Users

Learners use their screen reader navigation keys (e.g., Down and Up arrows) to move through all text and interactive objects on the slide, listening to each item along the way.

Use Tab and Shift+Tab to jump from one interactive object to another, skipping text and images.

Press the spacebar or the Enter key to activate an interactive object, such as a button or hotspot.

Learners who use keyboard-only navigation without a screen reader for mobility reasons press Tab and Shift+Tab to move from one interactive object to another on the slide. Press the spacebar or the Enter key to activate an item.

Since keyboard-only users can see text and images, these objects get skipped when tabbing through the slide content. This reduces the number of keystrokes needed to navigate the slide.

Pro Tip: See how accessible navigation works for slides with button sets, such as multiple choice questions.

Objects Are More Accessible

Slide objects are rendered as complete, semantic HTML elements that follow best practices for web accessibility. This means learners can use a broader array of assistive technologies, such as screen readers, to navigate Storyline 360 courses much the same way they browse web pages.

Here are the latest improvements learners will notice:

  • Text is treated as normal document text by screen readers.
  • Interactive objects are correctly identified to assistive technologies and function as expected. For example, screen readers properly announce radio buttons with their labels and current states.
  • Hotspots and drop-down lists are now keyboard-accessible so learners can activate them without using a mouse.
  • Video controls are keyboard-accessible, allowing learners to play, pause, seek, and adjust the volume.
  • Slide layers and lightboxes work reliably with screen readers.
  • Modal dialogs that require learner interaction automatically receive focus.

What’s Next?

We’re on a journey together to give all learners the best possible experience, no matter their abilities. With your input, we’re continually improving Storyline 360. We’re hotlisting and addressing critical bugs. And we’re working on the next round of accessibility enhancements, including:

Accessible Text

Let learners with accessibility needs change the visual appearance of text to make it more readable in your published courses.

Text Styles

Use text styles to control the visual appearance of text elements and make content easy to navigate with a screen reader. Apply styles to headings, paragraphs, and hyperlinks. You can even define styles for hyperlink states (hover, active, and visited) to provide good contrast and clear visual distinction for learners with low vision.

Semantic Formatting

Text publishes with the proper semantic formatting for headings, paragraphs, lists, etc. so screen reader users can explore content easily.

Want to see all the new Storyline 360 features we’re working on? Check out the Articulate 360 feature roadmap.