Advertisement

Keyboard and Screen Reader Accessibility in Complex Interactive Science Simulations: Design Challenges and Elegant Solutions

  • Emily B. MooreEmail author
  • Taliesin L. Smith
  • Jesse Greenberg
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10907)

Abstract

Interactive science simulations are commonly used educational tools that, unfortunately, present many challenges for robust accessibility. The PhET Interactive Simulations project creates a suite of widely used HTML5 interactive science simulations and has been working to advance the accessibility of these simulations for users of alternative input devices (including keyboards) and screen reader software. To provide a highly interactive experience for students, science simulations are often designed to encourage interaction with real-world or otherwise physical objects, resulting in user interface elements being implemented in ways either unrecognizable as native HTML elements, or that require fully custom implementation and interactions. Here, we highlight three examples of simulation design scenarios that presented challenges for keyboard and screen reader access. For each scenario, we describe our initial approach, challenges encountered, and what we have found to be the most elegant solution to address these challenges to date. By sharing our approaches to design and implementation, we aim to contribute to the general knowledge base of effective strategies to support the advancement of accessibility for all educational interactives.

Keywords

Web accessibility Usability Inclusive design  Keyboard navigation Alternative input Text description  Interactive science simulation 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the PhET team, our collaborators at the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University and the Sonification Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and research participants for their contributions to the design and development of the accessibility features for the three simulations discussed in this work. This material is based upon work supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the University of Colorado Boulder, and the National Science Foundation under DRL-1503439 and DRL-1621363.

References

  1. 1.
    D’Angelo, C., Rutstein, D., Harrison, S., Bernard, R., Borokhovski, E., Haertel, G.: Simulations for STEM learning: systematic review and meta-analysis. Technical report, SRI International (2014)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Keane, K., Laverent, C.: Interactive scientific graphics recommended practices for verbal description. Technical report, Wolfram Research (2014)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ellis, B., Ford-Williams, G., Graham, L., Grammenos, D., Hamilton, I., Lee, E., Manion, J., Westin, T.: Game accessibility guidelines (2017). http://gameaccessibilityguidelines.com
  4. 4.
    Smith, T.L., Lewis, C., Moore, E.B.: Description strategies to make an interactive science simulation accessible. J. Technol. Pers. Disabil. 5, 225–238 (2017)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Smith, T.L., Lewis, C., Moore, E.B.: A balloon, a sweater, and a wall: developing design strategies for accessible user experiences with a science simulation. In: Antona, M., Stephanidis, C. (eds.) UAHCI 2016. LNCS, vol. 9739, pp. 147–158. Springer, Cham (2016).  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-40238-3_15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    PhET Interactive Simulations (2018). http://phet.colorado.edu/
  7. 7.
    Accessible PhET Interactive Simulations (2018). http://phet.colorado.edu/en/about/accessibility
  8. 8.
    Wieman, C., Adams, W.K., Perkins, K.K.: PhET: simulations that enhance learning. Science 322, 682–683 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Perkins, K.K., Moore, E.B., Chasteen, S.V.: Examining the use of PhET interactive simulations in US college and high school classrooms. In: Proceedings of the 2014 Physics Education Research Conference, pp 207–210 (2015).  https://doi.org/10.1119/perc.2014.pr.048
  10. 10.
    Sorge, V., Lee, M., Wilkinson, S.: End-to-end solution for accessible chemical diagrams. In: Proceedings of the 12th Web for all Conference, Article no. 6 (2015).  https://doi.org/10.1145/2745555.2746667
  11. 11.
    Fitzpatrick, D.R., Godfrey, J.A., Sorge, V.: Producing accessible statistics diagrams in R. In: Proceedings of the 14th Web for all Conference, Article no. 22 (2017).  https://doi.org/10.1145/3058555.3058564
  12. 12.
    Smith, T.L., Moore, E.B., Greenberg, J.: Parallel DOM architecture for accessible interactive simulations. In: proceedings of the 15th web for all conference (2018) (in Press)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    King, M., Nurthen, J., Bijl, M., Cooper, M., Scheuhammer, J., Pappas, L., Schwerdtfeger, R.: WAI-ARIA authoring Practices 1.1 (2017). https://www.w3.org/TR/wai-aria-practices-1.1/
  14. 14.
    Faulkner, S., Eicholz, A., Leithead, T., Danilo, A., Moon, S.: HTML 5.2 (2017). https://www.w3.org/TR/html52/
  15. 15.
    Diggs, J., McCarron, S., Cooper, M., Schwerdtfeger, R., James Craig, J.: Accessible rich internet applications (WAI-ARIA) 1.1 (2017). https://www.w3.org/TR/wai-aria-1.1/
  16. 16.
    Moore, E.B., Smith, T.L., Randall, E.: Exploring the relationship between implicit scaffolding and inclusive design in interactive science simulations. In: Antona, M., Stephanidis, C. (eds.) UAHCI 2016. LNCS, vol. 9739, pp. 112–123. Springer, Cham (2016).  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-40238-3_12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Hung, J.: PhET John Travoltage simulation design (2016). https://wiki.fluidproject.org/display/fluid/PhET+John+Travoltage+Simulation+Design

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily B. Moore
    • 1
    Email author
  • Taliesin L. Smith
    • 1
  • Jesse Greenberg
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA

Personalised recommendations