Accessibility – Attempt 2

Shane is very good at showing and describing the motions needed to operate VoiceOver + the strengths and limitations of the tool.

Awesome work Shane and thank you.
That night, more than a little blue, I was idly surfing the net with my iPad…..

On the iPad – I noticed that some sites had a Reader button appear in the URL.
Click on it – and it becomes text.
I wonder if there are other accessibility settings in here?  Maybe VoiceOver?

———- I set up VoiceOver, showed him how it worked, and handed Dad the iPad.
Well, this looks more promising, Dad said as he put the iPad to his nose and squinted to see the screen. Typing, however, was still slow and awkward. Not sure how well this is going to work. ———- Wendy – did you think about using Siri?My brother is also in the IT space. He has occasional flashes of genius. This was one. I scampered back to the iPad. Can my father draft an email without having to type it? My answer….kinda. I still need to figure out how to delete incorrect text in a way that isn’t so frustrating. Furthermore, besides reading and writing emails, is there some way to make my Dad more independent? Not so reliant on Mom to get out and about? As it stands, Dad is still trying to maintain his old normal in hopes that the scheduled surgeries give him his eyesight back. That’s part of the process. One of the lessons learned is that people will learn what they need to know when they are ready. Meanwhile – this buys me some time to figure this whole issue out. And pray that we never need to use any of this information.

Accessibility – This One’s Personal

For 50 years, Dad has been blind in one eye.
For 25 of those years, he’s seen nothing at all out of that eye. No light, no shade, nothing.

A month or so back – he noticed something in his good eye.

A leisurely Friday trip to the doctor turned into a month of bright lights, lasers, fog and tendrils drifting through his vision.  The retina in his good eye was starting to let go.

His good eye is weak from doing the work of two eyes for the past 50 years, so recuperation hasn’t gone as smoothly as any of us hope.  Thankfully, he is getting his sight back.  There is still a long way to go and we’re not entirely certain how permanent this fix is.

The thought of my Dad becoming functionally illiterate if things go wrong scares the heck out of me.
He’s put up a good front, and has engaged in more than a little denial, but I know he’s scared too.

Right now – we have a chance to come up with a back-up plan.  Dad currently has vision enough to read (albeit uncomfortably) and learn a new tool.  Time to strike while we still have the chance.
One of the benefits of a formal instructional technology education is exposure to assistive technologies.
I haven’t had to take a look at the state of the field in a very long time (like 7+ years).

Now – I’m motivated.
My Dad is an Apple fanboy.  However – he’s of the “buy once and use until death” school of IT.

He had his Power Computing desktop for over 10 years before he finally had to break down and buy a new tower a few years ago.

My first thought was to use Mac OS 10.6.x built in accessibility tool – VoiceOver.


This sighted person could not figure out how to get the thing to work the way I wanted it to with the control I would like – even being able to SEE the screen.   I am not the only one (read the comments).

Really awkward multi-finger keystrokes are required.  Might be OK for a kid (or me).
Very awkward for a 70+ year old – even with decent dexterity.
There also didn’t seem to be any way to integrate voice commands with the technology.

I had Dad try out the solution. He (rightly) rejected it out of hand.

How do they expect me to use this if I can’t read my keyboard?  How indeed.
There had to be a better solution.

Why you want to put the activity first

Let’s say we’re designing a course that will help widget sales people overcome buyers’ objections. The objection we’re focusing on right now is this one: “I’ve read that your widget creates a lot of heat.” We have a specific way we’d like our sales people to respond to that objection.

Some people in our audience are familiar with the concerns about heat, while new people might not know as much.

How do you think most training designers would approach this? I think they’d do it like this.

Presentation followed by activity

The designers would think, “First, we’ll tell them the common concerns about heat, to make sure everyone knows them. Then we’ll tell them what our own research shows about the heat and why it’s not a big deal. Then we’ll tell them how to respond to heat objections, and finally we’ll let them practice with a scenario.”

Why did I label this “boring and inefficient?”

  • The learners have to trudge through many screens before they finally get to use their brains.
  • Some people already know the stuff presented on the many screens.
  • The how-to info is presented immediately before the scenario, making the scenario a simple check of short-term memory.

Here’s a more efficient approach that has the added advantage of helping people learn by doing.

Series of activities followed by a recap

We immediately plunge learners into a realistic scenario — followed by another and another. Then we concisely recap what they’ve figured out through the scenarios.

The material feels like a stream of activities, not pages of information followed by one lonely memory check. The recap will be memorable and concise because it refers back to concrete examples, such as, “As you saw with Ravi’s objection, it’s best to …”

But what about the information?

We can include the information about heat issues as optional links in the scenario.

Screen from scenario with links to optional information

Now our material is more efficient and a heck of a lot more interesting. People who already know all about the heat issues (or, importantly, think they know) will forge ahead without reading the optional documents. Newer or more careful people will check the documents to make sure they know what’s going on. Both groups will figure out if they chose correctly when they see the results of their choices.

In addition, the optional documents are low-tech PDFs or pages on the intranet, the same documents that people use on the job. This makes the information much easier to update and puts the scenario in a more realistic context.

But they might just guess and miss important information!

The usual argument for the boring and inefficient approach is, “We have to make sure everyone is exposed to the information.” But who cares whether they’ve been exposed to it? What we care about is whether they know it and can apply it.

So we’ll design scenarios that make them prove they know it, and we’ll design enough challenging scenarios about the same important information to make sure no one is slipping through the cracks. And if we’re really worried about information being missed, we can include it in the feedback, as shown in this post.

But you didn’t show them how to overcome objections!

We haven’t led them by the nose through the Heat Objection Handling Process because we want them to figure it out through experience. Our feedback will help. For example, if someone chooses option C above, they’ll see the following result:

“I’m not surprised that your studies don’t show any problems,” Ravi says, sounding a little annoyed. “But Widget World does rigorous, independent testing, and they found heat issues. What can you tell me about the heat?”

From this, learners realize that shoving research at the customer backfires. It sounds like option A was the better option, and for their next step, they’ll want to calmly discuss the concerns. (This post goes into more detail on why we’re just showing the result rather than telling the learner what they did right or wrong.)

More design time, less development

This approach usually requires more in-depth discussions with the subject matter experts and more careful script writing. However, it often results in quicker and easier development. We’re building fewer screens and, happily, we feel less compelled to add bling in a desperate attempt to make a boring presentation more interesting.

Scenario design workshops and online seminar

The example used in this post is taken from my new and improved scenario design webinar. It’s a one-hour online workshop you can request for your team or ASTD chapter.

I’m also developing a 4.5-hour scenario design mini-course that anyone can sign up for. We’ll meet online for three 90-minute sessions starting this fall. If you’d like to be notified when the online course is available, please sign up here and you’ll be among the first to hear about it.

Have you had any success designing material that puts the activities first? Let us know in the comments!

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3 powerful ideas you should steal from marketing

Marketers and trainers have the same goals: They want people to do something. But they achieve those goals in vastly different ways, and I think marketers often do it better. Let’s look at some techniques we can steal from a successful marketing video.

This post includes two embeds that probably won’t appear if you’re reading it through email or an RSS reader. I recommend you view this post in the blog.

Here’s our role model, the immensely popular commercial for the Dollar Shave Club. Not allowed to watch YouTube? Watch the same video here on Vimeo.

Put on your headphones — inappropriate language is bleeped out but could still offend.

The video was so effective that the influx of traffic knocked the Dollar Shave Club site offline. The commercial has been featured in several publications as an example of highly effective, low-budget marketing.

Now for the “training” version

What does the Dollar Shave Club guy want us to do? He wants us to go to his site and sign up for his service. Let’s look at how an instructional designer might try to inspire the same action.

Here’s the training version, without audio. Many elearning developers would have a narrator read the screen to you, but I couldn’t make myself do it.

What does the Dollar Shave Club guy do differently?

Here are just a few differences.

1. “I think you’re smart.”

The Dollar Shave Club guy uses a fast pace, he mocks other commercials because he knows we see them as dumb, and he lets us draw conclusions rather than telling us everything explicitly. He says, “I think you’re smart,” and that makes us like him.

The training version plods and spoon-feeds us predigested information. It doesn’t let us draw any conclusions on our own. It says, “I think you’re dumb, so dumb that I have to lead you by the nose through the most basic of information.” Who wants to be told they’re dumb?

2. “I’m an actual human being with a personality.”

The Dollar Shave Club guy really is the Dollar Shave Club guy. He’s talking about his business. He’s also an underdog in the world of shaving products, and we tend to root for underdogs.

Who’s the person behind the training version? There’s no one there. It’s the tiresome Omniscient One, the faceless, personality-free voice of the nobody who knows everything. It’s no underdog, it’s Big Brother.

Also, in the video we meet Alejandra, a person who’s real and therefore memorable. In the training version, she’s replaced by a forgettable abstraction, an “order fulfillment position.”

3. Surprise!

The Dollar Shave Club commercial is one huge surprise filled with many smaller surprises. Big surprise: “This can’t be a real ad! Wait, it is!” Smaller surprises: Everything else.

The training version, like most training materials, has zero surprises. It’s a dry, predictable conveyor belt of dry, predictable information.


You or your stakeholders might already be saying the following.

“We don’t have that kind of budget!” It’s not the budget, it’s the ideas. I’m not saying, “Produce a funny video commercial.” I’m saying, “Treat your audience like they’re smart,” “Use a real person with a personality,” and “Don’t be so predictable.”

“But we’re not selling anything. The comparison is unfair.” Marketers want to inspire a specific action. It can be “Buy the razor,” but it can also be “Sign up for our email list” or “Test drive our car.” Just like marketers, we want people to do something. We want them to encrypt emails, use the 5-step Difficult Conversations model, stop standing on chairs to reach high shelves… Marketing has tested a bajillion ways to get people to act, and we should steal the good ones.

“Obscenities are a low form of humor and we could never use them.” I’m not suggesting you use any obscenities. I’m suggesting you look at the larger picture, such as the three ideas listed above that separate lively marketing from conventional training.

What do you think? What ideas can we steal from marketing? Do you know of any elearning that applies any of these principles? Let us know in the comments!

If you thought the commercial was funny and would like to use humor in your materials, you might like my post How humor helps.

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