Are you curious how accessible something you use in your online course is to a blind student? Well thanks to Disability Services, we have blind accessibility techs available to test your course with a screen reading program. The techs are graduate students at PSU, who have in-depth experience using screen reading programs like JAWS to navigate their learning materials and other online information and resources.
While the PCC accessibility guidelines for online course content address accessibility for many types of disabilities (blind, color-blind, low vision, photo-sensitive seizure disorder, deaf, hard of hearing, mobility, and some learning disabilities,) how a blind student operates a computer is something many people have never seen and sometimes can’t imagine.
What should be tested?
If a document uses real text (and not an image of text), it is generally readable by a screen reader. Formatting that document though is very important to it being understandable to all students, but especially someone without vision. The screen reader will read out the formatting of headings, lists and links.
Forms and objects that require input from the student need to be tested with a screen reader to determine if the buttons and form fields are labeled properly and can be navigated and operated without a mouse (a mouse is a visual tool, so blind users navigate solely with the keyboard). And software that is required but not an essential function of the course (such as publishers’ online tools), also should be tested to make sure it is usable to someone using a screen reader.
So what do you do if your learning object isn’t accessible to a screen reader user? Don’t worry, you don’t have to get rid of it. We in Distance Education and staff in Disability Services are available to help you come up with an accessible, equally effective alternative, which is the requirement under the law. Read more about the legal side of accessibility.
We recommend and can help you set up testing of publisher’s online tools and ebooks before you adopt their textbook. Schedule an appointment with me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to have something in your course tested by a screen reader user.