Monday, June 3, 2013

Learning Born Accessible - Sprint Design Challenges

With a bit of delay, I am back to documenting the "Born Digital, Born Accessible Learning Sprint". The first thing we did was show off tools and software that the groups brought to the sprint. See my previous blog post for the goals and tools we brought.

subgroup of sprint participants around a round tableNext, we broke into groups of 5 or 6 to discuss the biggest challenges that teachers and learners face with respect to accessible learning. In subsequent posts, I will show the brainstorming results and the prototypes that resulted.

Design Challenges

Customize a lesson for a class with several students using assistive technology or learning supports: This scenario is based on an actual class. A fourth grade, US geography teacher, following the common core, is preparing a lesson. In this class, one student is blind and uses a braille keyboard, one has a physical challenge and can only use a single motion to communicate and uses a switch controlled keyboard. Several have dyslexia and/or speak english as a second language. The class has a student aide who is assigned to the child who uses the switch device, but the aide helps other children as well by necessity. The classroom teacher gets regular classroom material and must figure out how to make it work for everyone. The teacher wants to
  • Customize a lesson and
  • Use a PHET simulation 
Teaching long division to visually impaired students: Long division usually can't be read by screen readers because it is just an image. A teacher wants to create good text that describes the process in the image and then share that with other teachers.

Using annotations accessibly (taking notes, participating in discussions, providing help for others). A blind learner would like to annotate text, math, and images in an educational resource and wants to be able to accessibly navigate annotations and filter them by who created them and whether the learner favorited them.
Use cases for annotation:
  • Letting people know that this image needs a description.
  • Providing a description or better description for an image or math.
  • Participating in a discussion with peers about the text
  • Taking notes for studying 
  • Parents sharing the audio descriptions they create for their own children
Making accessible authoring "idiot-proof". An author wants to create and share learning materials accessibly, but it is hard to know how to do a good job and what tools to use.

Submit research accessibly: Margaret is a STEM professor and she has a younger brother that is visually impaired. She wants her next publication to be accessible, but her time is limited. She wants good authoring tools and ways to keep track of her materials. She wants to reuse things that she has already made accessible like figures and equations in subsequent publications.
She wants to make her colleagues more aware and encourage them to do the same. Her time is limited -- if she can get others to help she would really like this. Who might benefit? Publishers and libraries (material is more searchable), researchers and students with print disabilities.

Accessible Chemistry: ChemML is a representation for chemistry that can be explored and read, but you need authoring tools that can let you produce it. Two potential users: I am a publisher and I am in charge of scientific journals and want to support ChemML. I am a student in post-secondary school and I can't draw the chemistry equations and I need authoring tools for doing my work.

Finding my own resources quickly and sharing them with others that need them: Jose is in 6th grade and has a print disability. His parents don't speak English and don't have free time. He wants to find resources to help on his homework. He wants to be able to control the process -- not wait for someone to read to him. Immediacy is important -- taking a test can't wait, doing a group project in class can't wait. Schools will benefit from any solutions that can be shared and discovered -- lowers costs.

Lack of Unicode support makes material inaccessible: Screen readers say "unidentified symbol", graduate papers often have them, close captioned television uses unicode for music symbols. The use of these symbols are context-dependent and lists of them are incomplete.

Making accessibility high priority: I am a product manager and want to include accessible authoring. How do I communicate to higher ups that you need to add accessiblity? What are the business use cases? Where are simple guidelines? As a content provider I want to retrofit existing content with A11y Metadata, but need help convincing others. 

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