A little backstory….
Before I jump into today’s entry, please allow me give you a little bit of a back story as why today’s entry will be different. Part of my new responsibilities in my new role, involves starting the process of creating the accessibility plan for technology use for our institution.
Definitions of terms used.
- Accessible: refers to the concept that individuals with disabilities are able to access and use a product/system (this includes assistive technologies.)
- Accessible information technology: IT that has been designed, developed, or procured to be usable by and therefore accessible to people with disabilities.
So, needless to say that as I have worked on our plan, my perspective on Web 2.0 tools has changed a bit. Prior to my work on our accessibility plan, I didn’t really think about how accessible the tools were for people with physical disabilities. I focused on how the tools could be used to address the different learning styles and relay content in different ways. I never considered that the tool itself may be hindering instruction because some students couldn’t navigate, use or understand the content presented by the tool! You would think that as a person with a special education degree I would have had this on my radar, but as a non-disabled person, I took it for granted that all Web 2.0 tools were- by design- accessible. They are not. Perspective is everything!
Now onto the meat of this entry…
Now that you have the back story as to why this week’s entry will be a little different let’s dive into this week’s tech snack. For this entry I wanted to see how accessible some of my favorite web 2.0 tools were. All the web 2.0 tools that I looked at were tools that I had written blog entries about and have personally used with my students.
The tools reviewed were:
- Playposit(Formerly Educannon)
Below you will see how each tool ranked from highest to lowest. The tools that are higher on the list, were generally more accessible for people with disabilities, while the ones lower on the list rated poor. **Full Disclosure: some companies have not yet responded to my inquiry so no information is available. **
- Sutori: Has a VPAT available. Mostly accessible though not 100% accessible. Very purposeful in design of product and actively tries to make their product as accessible as possible.
- Playposit(Formerly Educannon): Has a VPAT available. Mostly accessible though not 100% accessible. Almost completely accessible for the student interface (meaning what the students see) but not for the instructor interface. So if an instructor has a physical disability they may have a difficult time creating content for their students.
- Nearpod: Has a VPAT available. Many aspects of Nearpod are accessible, and Nearpod lessons can be created that are accessible to students with disabilities, but the platform is not "100% ADA Compliant". For instance, some of our features work with screen readers and some do not. Also, the product is not 100% navigable by keyboard.
- Activetextbook: No VPAT available publicly, but they did a self-evaluation using the VPAT as a guide. They are somewhat accessible though not 100%. Some issues with screen readers may be present.
- Ease.ly: CEO personally contacted me after my inquiry. He will fill out the VPAT to see how his product rates. Extremely open and willing to make product as accessible as possible. Update: Now have a VPAT coompleted. Their company made 40 changes to their product to make it as accessible as possible.
- Nowcomment: CEO personally contacted me after inquiry. Tool is accessible for screen readers for people with low vision or no vision. Product appears to have many accessibility supports. CEO working with me to have his product reviewed with the VPAT. CEO fully committed to making product as accessible as possible.
- Quizizz: No VPAT available. When I inquired they were cordial and apologetic but admitted that their product is not accessible for all people. They are working on improving accessibility and have recently added a text to speech feature on their app, so that quiz questions are read aloud to the user. Navigation with keyboard not an option yet.
- Socrative: No VPAT available, when I inquired about accessibility, they very bluntly stated that they have nothing in place and do not plan to have anything in place.
- Blendspace: No VPAT available, when I inquired they were cordial and apologetic but admitted that their interface was not designed with the disabled in mind. Their interface is strictly a drag and drop and relays on mouse use. So blind, or physically handicapped people could not use their tool to create or view content.
- Flipsnack: No VPAT available, when I inquired they were cordial and apologetic but admitted that their interface was not designed with the disabled in mind. Their tool uses widgets which require mouse navigation to use as well as flash which is not universally understood by assistive technology.
- Piktochart: No VPAT available, when I inquired about accessibility, they were cordial and apologetic but admitted that their interface is not accessible for some people with disabilities.
- Wizer.me: Provided me with a response. Very cordial and apologetic, acknowledging that parts of their product are not accessible. ( for example their product is purely a click and drag interface not keyboard compatible.) Work in process.
- Biteable: No response received
- Emaze: Provided me with a response. Very cordial and apologetic, acknowledging that parts of their product are not accessible. Does work with e-readers. Since I brought the VPAT to their attention, they will be looking into it and hopefully will have something in place in a few weeks.
I found the results of my inquiry surprising, encouraging as well as disheartening. I was encouraged by the companies that were making honest efforts to make their products accessible. By making these efforts, the CEOs of these companies are saying that their consumers are important to them and that they care about the product they are pushing. (Not to mention, that they are trying to be compliant with the law (Americans with Disabilities Act) that says people with disabilities must be have comparable access to and use of electronic information technology!)
I was disheartened by the companies that didn’t have anything in place for accessibility. Some of the companies were annoyed by my inquiry and basically had me feeling like I was bothering them for asking. They had a matter of fact demeanor with their responses and unfortunately that sends a message that they value the non-disabled population over the disabled one.
As educators, we are tasked with the very big job of educating and empowering our students. We don’t get to pick which students come into our classrooms. As such, we may or may not know who has a disability. Some physical disabilities may be obvious (i.e. blindness, deafness, physical handicap), but other disabilities-like learning disabilities are not so obvious. Students with disabilities have as much right to as their non-disabled peers to have access to instructional content.
I, therefore, encourage you to look at the Web 2.0 tools you are using with your students. I certainly will be looking at this more closely moving forward. Suffice to say new blog entries will focus on classroom implications as well as the accessibility of the tools mentioned.
This concludes this special edition of this week’s Tech Snacks. See next week at the café!