(7 min read)
In recent years, many tech firms have made considerable strides when it comes to making their products or services more accessible to all users. As a result, digital tools like security awareness training programs have become more inclusive to internet users around the world.
However, even with those improvements, there’s still a lot of ground to make up. Unfortunately, a lot of online content still excludes many users every day.
Consider the following realities:
- 80% of online content is available in only one of 10 languages: English, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, Portuguese, German, French, Russian, and Korean.
- Less than half of the world’s population speaks one of those languages as their first language.
- The average website home page contains more than 60 accessibility errors.
Combine those statistics with the poor digital usage rates of individuals who need accessible content most and you have huge clusters of users who aren’t getting the information they need to keep them, as well as their employers, safe from cyber security threats.
Which brings us to Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), an annual worldwide event that underscores how important digital inclusion is for all businesses. It’s also a great opportunity for organizations to ensure that every user has access to and is getting the most out of their security awareness training.
By enhancing usability, you’ll cultivate a more inclusive learning environment while also minimizing your cyber security vulnerabilities. The result – a stronger, more knowledgeable and more unified user base.
What is Accessible Security Awareness Training?
Before any implementation can take place, it’s important to clearly define what it means to have an accessible security awareness training program.
The key characteristic, in this case, is maximizing inclusivity or, to reverse the thinking slightly, minimizing how many people are excluded from the program. This means taking steps to make cyber security training content can be viewed by:
- Individuals who prefer learning in a language not considered the main language in your city or country
- Individuals living with a disability and/or who use assistive technology, such as a screen reader, to consume digital content
Essentially, accessible security awareness training must be designed with different types of users in mind. From all on-page course text to any interactive learning component to how your overall training program is structured, there are lots of variables to consider.
There also needs to be built-in customization options that give those who require an alternate learning experience the chance to tailor one to their specific needs. This can be as simple as a tick-box that serves as an opt-in for the accessible version of your security awareness training.
Ideally, accessibility measures don’t hinder any interactive aspects within the training program too much, although some drop-off may be unavoidable. This means keeping activities like quizzes or similar exercises intact and simply tweaking the experience to make it available to a wider audience.
In the end, it all comes back to the notion of minimizing the number of users excluded from your training program. Doing so will automatically foster a more inclusive learning experience for everyone involved.
Why Accessibility is a Key Part of Strong Cyber Security
It’s no secret that businesses who embrace accessibility as an ongoing initiative are likely to be high performers in their respective industries.
According to a study of Fortune 100 companies, those who included accessibility as part of their overall diversity strategy were more innovative brands. By removing various accessibility barriers, they also reached a larger audience and, as a result, enjoyed significant business growth.
The same logic can be applied to the subdomain of cyber security. Meeting evolving accessibility standards – most notably Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 – can strengthen an organization’s overall level of security awareness efforts via more widely available training that boosts user participation rates.
Security awareness training that’s more accessible will ultimately help mitigate the human risk factor of cyber security, an acknowledged weak spot for many companies. Human error, more than technical infrastructure, is what leads to major cyber security breaches and their negative aftereffects, which is why arming everyone with the same awareness knowledge is so vital.
All users must have access to the same level of detailed security awareness training. Through enhanced usability measures, they’ll be able to understand and retain the information they’re presented with during the program.
If your security awareness training program isn’t inclusive and cannot meet minimum accessibility standards, you run the risk of increasing your susceptibility to cyber attacks. In short, those human error pressure points will continue to be organizational weaknesses.
7 Ways to Make Security Awareness Training More Accessible for Users
Truly accessible security awareness training content is built from the ground up, with various measures considered early in the creative process. Simply copy-pasting existing training material into another module and hoping its essence translates well to the new format won’t get the job done.
In short, user accessibility must be one of the first things that your design and content teams think of.
Here are 7 tips that will help make your security awareness training more accessible to all kinds of users:
1. Write Clearly and Concisely
Clear, simple, easily understandable text is arguably the most important component of accessible training material. Even if a topic is complex, you should always write in an active voice, and avoid unnecessary verbiage and jargon. As a result, any user will be able to consume your content efficiently while retaining more information.
2. Make Training Available in Multiple Languages
Another huge part of accessible security awareness training is making all your training content available in multiple languages. Users will have a much easier time understanding course information if the text is in a language that they’re comfortable with. At the same time, you’ll avoid instances of misinterpreted information or difficulty recalling key course information.
3. Clean Up Your Lesson Structure
Besides the pure linguistics of a training program, accessibility also means streamline how your course material is presented and sequenced. If a training module or program at large is laid out in a complex manner, it may confuse users more than it informs them. Additionally, a simplified lesson structure is ideal for those using assistive technology.
4. Consider Colors and Contrasts Carefully
All aspects of your training program’s visual component are vital to accessibility initiatives. However, color choices and webpage contrast may be the most important of that group. From properly conveying non-text information to separating a foreground from a background, there’s a lot that goes into making training content distinguishable. For more information on how to ensure you’re meeting current online standards, check out the WCAG guidelines.
5. Use Descriptive Link and Alt Text
The information that will be presented in a link or image, via the alternative (alt) text, should be made clear to both the user and assistive technology aids. This means using descriptive anchor text for links (i.e. – don’t just hyperlink “click here”) and the alt text that helps explain non-decorative images. Clear, concise phrasing is also of the utmost importance here.
6. If Video is Essential, Use Closed Captions
One of the hardest security awareness training elements to work around is video content. While video can be an excellent way to briefly distill dense subject matter, it’s not always appropriate for all types of users. However, if video is an essential part of your training course, consider using closed captions to help streamline the viewing experience for everyone.
7. Use Pop-Out Windows to Maintain Interactivity
If an interactive part of a training course requires you to click through multiple slides in the same window, it can hinder a screen reader’s ability to capture all the information being displayed. A solution to this problem is the pop-out window, which will be automatically detected and scanned by assistive technology software, instead of going undetected.
Global Accessibility Awareness Day is a great opportunity for organizations of all sizes and across all industries to do a check-in with their security awareness training and determine what improvements can be made.
Prioritizing accessibility measures means your business is bringing valuable cyber security content to a larger audience. As a result, more individuals will have the opportunity to gain crucial knowledge that will help them stay safe online in both a professional and personal capacity.
With more and more people working remotely, everyone must have access to the tools they need to avoid falling victim to a cyber attack. Your training program, just like any other aspect of your organization, should be diverse and inclusive.
Inclusivity is a major ingredient in any successful security awareness training recipe.
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