Podcast Episode 9 - Digital Education Shouldn't Bypass Disabled

the IAP Your Accessibility Podcast

This week on the IAP, we discuss an article in the Boston Globe about digital education how inaccessible school material could be considered discriminatory.

Show Notes & Links


Announcer: This is the IAP - Interactive Accessibility Podcast with Mike Guill and Mark Miller. Introducing Mike Guill and Mark Miller.

Mark Miller: Welcome to the IAP. Thanks for helping us keep it accessible. I'm Mark Miller and this is accessibility specialist Mike Guill and this is your accessibility podcast. Do us a favor, if you're enjoying the IAP share it, tell someone about it hey, even link to it from your accessible website. Hey Mike, all right Mike, we have a little bit of a topsy-turvy episode of The IAP here. I've actually gone off and found us a topic, yeah, very much in a Mike Guill fashion.

Mike Guill: Yeah, in is this strange turn of events you come up with the source.

Mark: That’s right, so, um, this is an interesting one. The story is called, Digital Education Shouldn't Bypass Disabled, and it’s actually in the Boston Globe. So, in the past we've come across these articles on Mashable and in a few places like that, and the thing that kinda excites us about that is that they're very mainstream resources to find discussions on accessibility. Accessibility kinda has been in its own corner for a few years... or for several years and it's now just kinda jumping out of that and this is the most, like, sort of mainstream common, speaking-to-the-masses place I think we've seen.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, for what its worth though, um, I think you're gonna find stories like this one in the Boston Globe. They have been making accessibility enhancements to their own website for a number of years and you have things that are in Boston. It is in some ways, you know, um, an epicenter of sorts for some types of accessibility. You've got the Perkins School there you get the Carroll Center, Um and WGBH, um stuff like that. So I am not...

Mark: ...you have the accessibility un-conference coming up in Boston on the 28... September 28

Mike: That's right, that's right, I've, uh, been to that before and it's a really good one and it's a great group for folks who put it on and all attend.

Mark: I'll be there this year so if you're listening to the podcast and ya wanna say hi to me, come by accessibility conference on 28... love to shake your hand.

Mike: Yeah, definitely, um, if you're anywhere near... are able to get to nearby Boston, around that time, it's a... something... it's a great thing to do. But, yeah, to get back the article... I mean, the gist of it is, that we're going to see more and more technology envi..., you know technology rich environments in the classroom. You know? And, but, even so, the, the technology improvements are not making huge strides toward, um, being accessible for people who have different disabilities: blindness, dyslexia... or whatever the case may be, however, they cannot consume normal text information. Um, and, you know we've been in the accessibility world... we’ve been talking about a long time... how e-books and things of that nature were going to change, um, the face of Education and make things more accessible because of simple things like, all the students will have access to the same textbook. They're just not going to have to be a braille printed book version of the American History textbook that all the other kids have. And, that's always been, you know, such a neat, sort of, a goal to have that - all these things are just the same.

Mark: Well in in essence that kind of is happening, but it's, I think, as we're moving into the that technological space now or, you know..., as we moved into it, the problem is that you do have to have that real version. And, it may not be quite as divided as a printed book and a braille book but you still need to pay attention to your digital content and make sure that it is accessible in the way that it needs to be for a person with a disability to consume it and its the interesting, a quote I’ll pull out of the article that, that makes this point is, um, the author says that, unlike printed materials which are inherently inaccessible to blind people, digital education theoretically provides an opportunity to expand the circle of participation.” So, where you can't make a book... you can't, like, put printed words and braille in the same book, you can do that with the same digital media.

Mike: Yeah, now, I'll give you a personal story, um, that will sorta illustrate this point. If there are people out there who might not entirely get why this sort of thing is significant. Because, I'm sure we've all - even if we don't, necessarily, read books on Kindles or iPad's (whatever) - we’ve at least seen it. We've seen someone flipping through a book on a Kindle or held someone else's and seen how it works.

Mark: Sure

Mike: Now the appealing part, of course, about an e-book on the Kindle or iPad is, the things like, you can increase the font size so you can read more clearly if you’re low vision. You can, you know, you can highlight a word maybe look it up in a dictionary, a thesaurus. Our daughter does that all the time on her computer. She is constantly looking upwards to see what they mean. So, therefore, the drawback to some of these things is the way that they're created. Some e-books are not created out of the text of the book itself. So, many books are created we're just photographs above the pages and put into an ebook. In that case its, um...

Mark: ...it's inaccessible.

Mike: Yeah, it's inaccessible, you know, it's just a picture... it's a picture of the page. Now why does this affect anyone who can see the print on the page? Well it’s for all the reasons that I just said, like the ability to your increase the font size or change the font. If you find it more appealing to read a book on your Kindle in a certain font that's why they put those in there for you to make changes.

Mark: I'll tell you, I think, I mean, it that's a great point when you have a picture you essentially have a printed page represented digitally.

Mike: Yeah but it gets way worse. Okay, if you, if you're doing something in your study that requires you to take notes – okay- then and you're flipping through your book – now there are aps out there for the iPad. I I've seen many where you can highlight a piece a text and added a comment.

Mark: Sure.

Mike: Right, even for sale something like collaboration. Let's say that you're working on homework assignment or something with some other students you're trying to collaborate on this document. If you're trying to say highlight an element: you can't copy and paste it; you can't make comments on it. Even as a sighted person it’s inaccessible to what you're trying to accomplish.

Mark: If it were a page at least you could wright on it. You know what I mean? You can even do that on your computer or your tablet. And, I’ll tell you I just purchased a book on a tablet and, being an abled user, I was a... I flipped it around. I made a single column. I made some stuff bigger. I did some stuff to it. But, the fact that my tablet just crashed, I can’t excess anything at all. It's now inaccessible to me, so I’m bitter. I’m bitter about that.

Mike: (laughs)

Mark: If I can just complain for a minute, you know? But seriously, I gotta fix my tablet. But, I'm seriously, I enjoyed as is a user with... that's the abled... I enjoyed the ability to manipulate that content.

Mike: Yeah, I and when the content is in the proper form then people who were low vision users or blind can use their braille displays or screen readers to get the content from the page. If they're relying on that kinda thing and they’re seeing a picture on a printed page they're not getting any of the content at all.

Mark: Right, well you know, I think that those are all great points and the article itself - I really encourage people to, kind a, pick up on this article because, I thought it was really well-written. And, it was nice to see it in mainstream. And also, they did a really good job drawing some correlations which you've done Mike, with some the videos that I've seen you produce and just conversations. You always like to bring in architecture as an example for why digital accessibility benefits all of us and will continually... continue to give all of us an increasing benefit. And by all this, I mean people with disabilities and people without disabilities, um, you know you've always said when you're leaving the grocery store and you got that automatic door and the kid tuggin’ on your pocket, an a couple groceries in your hand, you're pretty thankful that is nice and wide and opens automatically. And you don’t think about it at the time - that it does that so that a person with, you know that uses a wheelchair, can get through there with ease.

Mike: Right

Mark: Or the mom pushing her kid along in the stroller zipping up and down the sidewalk like it's nothing big, because they're all ramps. Well that was originally party ADA. It's all there because the ADA.

Mike: Well and the thing is, you know, what we're really after is universal design... you know, someone like me – I’m using myself as an example - I'm after something that just works for everybody, right, and that's a pretty lofty goal, because, you know, you got and actually in reality you can please everyone.

Mark: Right

Mike: ...but you sure can...

Mark: ...you can hit a good percentage though.

Mike: Yeah, things can be made a lot better than they currently are. And, your shopping cart example, I would challenge someone to start to think about if they've ever been to a store or recently, especially to have that memory in their mind about pushing a shopping cart through very-very crowded store, that didn’t have anywhere to go - like, you can’t navigate the cart. I was in a store recently, I had to use a shopping cart but the entrance and exit doors we're much narrower than they probably should have been and it must have been a building that had a grandfather clause for the ADA so they didn't have to quite have front door requirements, you know, that’s why. But getting out of that place was a nightmare. And, you know, here I am able to see it you know and fit through. So...

Mark: Right. Well, we have to wrap it up here. Is there’s any last points Mike?

Mike: No, I just... I'm very fond of this article and... again and we in the inaccessibility community, we've always been looking forward to this day when more schools adopt electronic...

Mark: ...yeah...

Mike: ...material and so...

Mark: ...well and that’s the place to start because if it starts in education it’s gonna go through to work-life.

Mike: Right.

Mark: Just like they bring every other bit of technology that they're use to using when they're young, they’ll bring this into their workspace. So, it sort of does... education does set it up nicely for the next generation.

Mike: Oh, absolutely, yeah.

Mark: ...you know, so all right well, check out the article we’ll put it in the show notes its, Digital Education Shouldn’t Bypass Disabled written by Kyle (I'm in it not even attempt the last name here...) Well I guess I should, right? Shachmut.

Mike: I if we're going to give it a shot at the Shachmut.

Mark: Shachmut, yeah thanks Mike... better at that than I am.

Mike: I will let this out on Twitter too... see if I can get the conversation started about it.

Mark: So... So kudos. Kudos to Kyle for the article the Boston Globe for running it. And we will catch you next time on the IAP. This is Mark Miller...

Mike: ...and Mike Guill...

Mark: ...reminding you to keep it accessible.

Announcer: The IAP - Interactive Accessibility Podcast brought to you by Interactive Accessibility, the accessibility experts. You can find their Access Matters Blog at Interactiveaccessibility.com/blog


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