How to Include Accessible Learning in Your Orientation

13 July 2018

Accessibility is a crucial part of the design of any onboarding program. Prioritizing ‘accessible learning’ in your orientations means ensuring that all workers start on a level playing field and have the same opportunities in regards to information and resources. The purpose of your orientations is to provide workers with information that will keep them safe on-site, and you want each and every member of your workforce to have access to this information. In heavy industry, you will often have a very large and diverse workforce which makes conducting complex training a challenge. You should aim to make your orientations as simple and as accessible as possible to ensure everyone has the information they need to stay safe.

In the US, there is an average of 14 workplace deaths every day, according to 2016 statistics from OSHA. Construction had the highest number of fatalities, with over 20% of all workplace deaths occurring in the industry. Falls were the most common cause of death in construction, accounting for more than one death every day. The most common OSHA violation also concerned fall protection, so it is clear more needs to be done in this area. OSHA emphasizes that every worker should receive proper training before starting work. This needs to be accessible learning “provided in the language(s) and at a literacy level that all workers can understand.

So how do you achieve accessible learning?

Accessible learning in hard-hat industry

Understand that Workers Have Different Learning Styles

It’s generally recognized that not every worker learns the same way. There are various different ways to categorize learners. These categories are based on scientific studies done on how the brain works. We won’t get into the science but it’s important to say that these models are based on human physiology. One of the most common ways of categorizing learning styles is the visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic (VARK) model. So what do each of these learning styles mean:

  • Visual: These learners best learn through visual representations of ideas. They learn best through visual displays such as charts, diagrams, illustrations, handouts, and videos. Orientation should be designed in a visually appealing way to engage these workers. They are more likely to remember information if they can visualize it in their mind after having taken their training.
  • Auditory: These are learners who retain information best when they are told it. They don’t remember information in a visual sense but are simply good at remembering what they are told. These are the workers who were best suited to traditional classroom orientations based around a presentation. Auditory learners quite often read out loud to help them remember the information.
  • Reading and Writing: These learners are most comfortable with the written word. They learn best through passages of text which they can absorb and rephrase if needed. When designing an orientation, you should never completely rely on reading and writing because there may be workers of varying literacy levels within your workforce. For example, you are reading this blog so you might learn best from the written word. However, this might not be true for your colleague seated across from you. Perhaps they would learn best from a video. At Initiafy, we recognize this and produce other forms of content such as videos and infographics. It’s a good idea to do something similar for your orientations.
  • Kinesthetic: These are learners who prefer using their body, hands, and sense of touch. Kinesthetic learners like to get some hands-on training in the orientation. This learning style is suited to heavy industry where workers often have to do some on-site training before they start work. Workers need to be shown how to use equipment, as well as correct working practices. For these workers, a site-specific orientation carried out by a site manager can be hugely beneficial.

Accessible learning hearing

Use an Online System for Accessible Learning

More companies are discovering the benefits of using an online platform for their onboarding. Online platforms are more flexible and customizable which makes it easy to provide accessible learning in your orientations. An online platform like Initiafy allows you to create content that caters to every learner style, giving you peace of mind that your training is accessible learning for all your learners. A well-trained workforce lowers the risk of accidents and injuries, a positive for your workers and your company. Fewer workers are injured, and your company saves time and money. Worker’s compensation and insurance premiums are a massive burden for businesses in the hard-hat industries, and you can reduce these costs if you can prove your workers receive quality safety training.

Even courses provided in person by a site manager can be added to the system as an ‘external course’ so you can keep all your training records in one place. Another benefit is that an online system is available to workers any time of the day and night. Your workers can take courses at their leisure using the device they want. This might seem like a minor issue, but it significantly increases the accessibility of your training content.

Accessible learning on site

Create Engaging Content

If you want accessible learning to be part of your orientations, you should try and make your content as engaging as you can. You should include videos, images, illustrations, and diagrams in your orientation to provide rich training material. This makes your orientations more engaging and accessible to workers of different learning styles. Use the medium that best suits the information you are providing. Text might be appropriate when describing your company’s values while video may work better to show how to correctly use equipment or machinery. It’s crucial that you structure your orientation correctly so that workers don’t get lost. Information should be presented in a clear, linear way that covers every aspect a worker needs to know before they start work.

The Secret is in the Details

There are many small things you can do when designing your orientations to improve the level of accessibility. Minor considerations like including alt text to images and captioning to your video content can make a big difference to the accessibility of your training. These don’t take much time but show that you value all your workers. In the US, the number of Americans with disabilities is growing yet the unemployment rate of such individuals is still much higher than the national average, according to the The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). Of course, not every job is suitable for someone with a disability but improving accessibility can make a difference.

Accessible learning using a phone

The workforce in heavy industry, construction, for example, is diverse and likely made up of workers of various different nationalities. You should design your orientations with this in mind. Use simple language so that you have accessible learning in your orientation. Initiafy’s online platform is fully integrated with Amazon Polly, and can conquer language barriers and make content accessible to non-readers. Amazon Polly is an auto-reader and can read written content in a wide variety of languages, including detailed, technical information. You get peace of mind that your orientations are accessible to all your workers, and learners get access to the knowledge they need to be safe on site.

How Initiafy Can Help

The easiest way to give your workers access to accessible is to use an online platform like Initiafy. The customizability of an online platform allows you to include multiple forms of content in your orientations. It’s easy to structure an orientation that suits workers of different nationalities and literacy levels. The added flexibility of an online platform makes orientations much more accessible for the end user. A user can take training using whichever device they choose. Going online not only saves time and reduces costs but breaks down the barriers for learners.

Jenny Snook
Jenny Snook

Jenny Snook is content executive at Initiafy with the job of researching the latest health and safety trends in the heavy industry. Her past-experience includes the research of large museum collections such as the Louth County Museum, many from the industrial age.

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