ADA Compliance in eLearning – States Face Accessibility Fines

Local governments are increasingly adopting eLearning platforms to provide training and education to employees and the public. However, many are facing challenges in ensuring these platforms comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), leading to potential fines and legal challenges.

The Importance of ADA Compliance in eLearning

The ADA requires that all public services, including educational content provided by local governments, be accessible to all individuals, including those with disabilities. ELearning platforms must be designed to accommodate users with various disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities. 

Common Accessibility Issues in eLearning

Many eLearning platforms fail to meet ADA standards due to a lack of awareness or understanding of required accessibility features. Common issues include:

  • Non-compliant Video Content: Videos without captions or descriptive audio can exclude deaf or hard-of-hearing users and those with visual impairments.
  • Inaccessible Course Materials: Texts that are not compatible with screen readers or use non-adjustable fonts can create barriers for visually impaired users.
  • Navigation Difficulties: Courses not supporting keyboard navigation can be inaccessible to users who cannot use a mouse.

Financial Risks of Non-Compliance 

The financial implications of failing to comply with ADA standards for eLearning platforms can be significant for local governments: 

  • Fines and Penalties: The first violation of ADA compliance can result in fines of up to $75,000, and subsequent violations can increase to $150,000 per violation. These fines can place a substantial financial burden on local government budgets. 
  • Legal Costs: Non-compliance can also lead to lawsuits, which involve potential settlements or court-ordered damages, legal fees, and the costs associated with litigation.
  • Loss of Funding: In some cases, non-compliance with ADA standards can result in losing federal or state funding, mainly if the eLearning programs are part of federally funded initiatives.

Steps to Ensure ADA Compliance 

Local governments can take several steps to ensure their eLearning platforms are ADA-compliant:

  • Conduct an Accessibility Audit: Evaluate current eLearning offerings and identify areas where accessibility needs to be improved.
  • Implement Accessible Design Principles: Use ADA guidelines to design or redesign eLearning platforms, including accessible navigation, video content, and course materials.
  • Train Staff: Educate staff involved in eLearning development about ADA compliance and accessible design principles.
  • Regularly Review and Update Content: Continuously monitor and update eLearning materials to ensure ongoing compliance with ADA standards.

How difficult is it to create section 508-compliant elearning?

Creating Section 508-compliant eLearning can be challenging, particularly for organizations unfamiliar with the specific requirements of the law or lacking the technical expertise in accessibility. Here are some of the key difficulties and considerations involved in creating Section 508-compliant eLearning: 

  1. Understanding the Requirements
  • Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that federal agencies’ electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities. This includes eLearning courses which must be accessible to all users, including those with disabilities such as vision impairment, hearing loss, and mobility issues. 
  • The standards are aligned with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA, which sets the minimum accessibility guidelines. 
  1. Technical Challenges
  • Multimedia: Videos and audio must have captions and transcripts for users who are deaf or hard of hearing. Descriptive audio might also be necessary for visual content.
  • Interactivity: Interactive elements such as quizzes, drag-and-drop activities, or simulations must be designed to be operated using keyboards and assistive technologies.
  • Readability: Content must be readable by screen readers, which may require special tagging in the HTML code. This ensures that all content can be navigated and read in a logical order. 
  • Visual Design: Adequate color contrast and the use of color (ensuring information is not conveyed by color alone) are essential for users with visual impairments.
  1. Resource Intensive
  • Creating accessible eLearning content often requires additional resources in terms of time, budget, and specialized skills. For instance, developing a fully compliant course may involve accessibility experts, further development and testing time, and potentially higher software or tool costs. 
  1. Continuous Monitoring and Updating
  • Accessibility is not a one-time task. eLearning content may need to be updated regularly to remain compliant, especially as technologies and standards evolve. This requires ongoing attention and resources. 
  1. Legal and Compliance Risks
  • Failure to comply with Section 508 can expose an organization to legal risks, including complaints and lawsuits. This adds a layer of compliance necessity that can be daunting for many organizations. 
  1. Training and Awareness
  • There is often a need for training developers and content creators on accessibility standards and best practices. Lack of awareness and understanding of accessibility principles can lead to non-compliant eLearning materials. 

Solutions and Tools

To address these challenges, many organizations use complex and highly specialized eLearning authoring tools that support accessibility features, such as Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline, which include features designed to help create Section 508-compliant courses. Additionally, consulting with accessibility experts and investing in staff training can be crucial steps in ensuring compliance. 

With these tools, creating Section 508-compliant eLearning is difficult.

The sheer number of technology layers that must work together is significant. An assistive technology layer (screen readers, for example) adds an entirely new dimension to an already complex landscape. Limitations are imposed to creativity and design when the intricacies of programming the technology for use with assistive technology is required by those unfamiliar with this ever-changing technology.

​Organizations wishing to expedite the creation of Section 508-compliant elearning use CourseAvenue which eliminates the need for accessibility experts and high end tools. In fact, with CourseAvenue, you avoid ALL of these issues because accessibility is built into every course, right out of the box. 


As eLearning becomes a critical component of public education and training, local governments must prioritize accessibility. By ensuring that eLearning platforms are inclusive and compliant with the ADA, local governments avoid legal repercussions and enhance the learning experience for all users, regardless of their abilities. The financial risks associated with non-compliance further underscore the importance of adhering to ADA standards.



macon Raine