The question we are asking is "Do online assessment tools provide a valid assessment of a broad spectrum of learners?"
Barriers to valid assessment:
Technology environment (learning platforms, software applications etc). that do not integrate well with assistive technology (AT)
Layout (environment and instrument) with poorly designed navigation, information, cues and questions that can cause missed or incorrect responses
System lock-downs that provide exam security also disallow AT, preventing students using AT from accessing environment
Content (items within the testing instrument) not coded to accepted W3C standards limiting access to and/or interactivity with information
Alternative formats (text descriptors, transcriptions or captions) not being provided denying access to information being conveyed by graphic/aural material
Interactive objects in question (applets, flash form fields etc.) that require mouse related activities to respond
Ambiguous or poorly worded questions that can cause missed or inappropriate responses
Feedback not associated with incorrect response
Time constraints that prevents those with language, processing and physical limitations responding effectively
Through the rest of this presentation, we will be looking at several questions and examining their accessibility.
This question is accessible due to the use of text and the simple radio button interface.
This math question is inaccessible due to the use of images for the equations. These images require alternate text to provide equivalent information to a blind or visually impaired student.
Like the previous example, this question is inaccessible due to the use of an image for the equation. This image requires a text alternative to provide equivalent information to a student who cannot see it. Listen to an example of how a screenreader reads the question, or read the transcript.
As the information needed to answer the question is to be found by analyzing the graph image, that image needs alternate text to provide enough information for a blind student to answer it. There is also an issue with the way the assistive technology reads through the page, as it focuses on the bottom information before the actual question. Lastly, the use of ambiguous language such as "flag" and "proceed," as well as the lack of a "submit" or "save" button, can cause confusion for students with learning disabilities. Listen to a screenreader reading this question, or view the text transcript.
Similar to previous questions, the required image is inaccessible to a student who is blind because there is no textual description of it. This issue can be solved by providing an appropriate text alternative.
This accessible question has all the required information in text format, as well as effective feedback indicators and a way to preview the symbolic formatting of the answer.
Similar to previous question issues, the required image needs alternative text to be accessible to a student who is blind.
This second question refers to the figure, but does not require it. The use of an image here is helpful to visual learners, but the image also should have alternate text to avoid confusing a student who is blind.
This is an example of using a graphic that would help a visual learner, but the graphic needs the appropriate null alternate text to allow a screen reader to skip the image.
This question relies on the image to answer it, so it needs an appropriate text description to be accessible to a blind student. In addition, the use of red may cause a problem for a student who is red-green color blind.
This question requires the user to manipulate the Java applet to answer the question. This applet is inaccessible to the blind student who cannot see it, as well as the student who is mobility impaired who may not be able to use a mouse to manipulate it.
This question has an image that is required, therefore the image needs an appropriate text alternative. View the Flash movie clip of a screenreader reading this question, or view the text transcript.
The feedback for this question does not provide accurate information for a screenreader to read. The question status graphics underneath the numbers of the questions do not have appropriate alternate text, making it inaccessible to a student who is blind.
This exercise is easily accessible to all students due to the use of text and simple drop-down boxes to select the answers.
As this is a drag-and-drop exercise requiring the use of a mouse, it becomes inaccessible to students who are blind, as well as students who can only use the keyboard to interact with the computer, such as those with a mobility impairment.
The clues to assist students with this exercise are not accessible to students who are blind.
Are we assessing abilities or disabilities? When the assessment tool limits, prevents, or makes it difficult to perceive or understand the instructions and questions being asked and to respond, the response may indicate limitation of the technology rather than student learning.
The solutions to make the technology accessible include using software or Learning Management Systems that are accessible to and usable by students using assistive technology; also, by providing tools and test instruments that allow the ability to perform all required activities without special accommodations. When choosing security systems, make sure that they provide access to the assistive technology students need to use. We also need to use instruments that allow for user-specific time constraints, or allow the user to ask for additional time. It is essential to use authoring tools to easily craft content compliant with Web Accessibility Initiative guidelines, that transform and render all content to W3C standards. For Classroom Response Systems, we need to make sure they integrate with accessible web-based response pads, and provide alternative formats to present polling questions to sight impaired students.
Solutions to make assessment content accessible include: coding all test instruments to generally accepted W3C standards, designing instruments so that all information, including questions, directions, cues, response fields, and feedback are explicitly associated. In addition, always provide text descriptors that convey the essential information from the graphic or visual object, and always provide text transcripts or captions for aural content. It is important to provide an alternative if an interactive object used in a question cannot be accessed by the user, and provide an alternative method to respond when requiring a verbal response. Lastly it is important to avoid ambiguity by writing clear and precise question and feedback responses. This will increase accessibility for all students.