The 2019 DIAGRAM Report is well underway! For those unfamiliar with our annual report, it is a compilation of input gathered from renowned experts in the community to highlight some of the most promising technologies and trends changing the educational landscape for students with disabilities in the United States. This year’s report will focus on multimodal interactions, personalization, accessible computer science, data visualization and sonification – the use of sound to convey information found in previously inaccessible content (e.g. a bell curve).
Although we have previously written chapters on multimodal interactions and personalization, the technology is moving so fast that it is necessary to continually provide updates on the latest advancements. Additionally, we also have discussed coding in previous reports, but the DIAGRAM community felt it necessary to include an updated section on accessible computer science since it is a growing field, for which we need to ensure that persons with disabilities have the opportunity to participate.
Since charts and graphs are generally a challenge for people with disabilities to access, especially those with vision impairments, we will explore ways that data visualization and sonification can be used to access the information provided in these images.
The 2019 DIAGRAM report has an expected release date of August 31, so make sure to check back for the announcement of when it has been published.
In the final quarter of 2018, the collaborative multimodal study between DIAGRAM, Mad*Pow, and NCAM concluded. Through the study, we learned that the 25 students representing varying disabilities exhibited a preference for modalities that aligned with their individual learning preferences and personal desire for varying levels of information. These preliminary findings and additional details from the study were shared with the Tactile and Research Working Groups in the first quarter of 2019 and received with much interest. Members from the Research Working Group have expressed particular interest in further examining and analyzing the associated data and have submitted a conference proposal to the Council for Exceptional Children based on the preliminary findings. We continue to look for additional opportunities to share the information and look forward to working more closely with the Working Group members around this study.
The Mathshare project boasted several new developments this quarter. The addition of Alex Cabral, a UX Researcher to the DIAGRAM Team, enabled us to conduct more user studies, distill feedback, and better plan priorities in the coming months. We also began integration pilots with edtech platform providers, including EdReady, and are continuing to discuss collaboration possibilities with additional edtech partners to reach more students. Finally, we presented Mathshare to a virtual audience of mostly special educators in a webinar entitled, “Getting Started with Accessible Math.” Hosted by CAST, the webinar was co-presented with other leading math tool providers, including EquatIO and Desmos and took place January 21, 2019.
The Accessible Interactives Library is an online GitHub repository of best practice accessible code snippets for common online interactions, such as drag-and-drop, sliders, and photo carousels, with an online demonstration of their real-world implementations. Since the initial launch in August 2018, we’ve worked with dozens of publishers and edtech developers to update, disseminate, and track implementation stories regarding this resource. To date, our collection of code samples and examples includes 24 accessible interactives and adoptions from key partners such as W.W. Norton and PhET Interactives. These implementations were shared and met with much excitement during the “Speed Geeking” rounds, held at the Strategic Planning Meeting. We plan to continue growing the collection throughout the remainder of the DIAGRAM + award period.
The Book Industry Study Group released an updated Quick Start Guide to Accessible Publishing on January 18, 2019, accompanied by an article in Publishers Weekly to help promote awareness about its utility. Although the original Quick Start Guide was completed in 2016, this revised update covers new advancements to help publishers create more born accessible content that addresses the needs of a broader audience. Alignment of standards that enable the prospect of Born Accessible also paves the way for new features such as an EPUB 3 with proper HTML tagging, ARIA attributes, and accessibility metadata. Since its recent launch, some publishers have already been calling the publication their “go-to guide for accessible publishing.”
The DIAGRAM Standards Working Group is developing two new reference documents. The “UX Guide for Displaying Accessibility Metadata for EPUB” will help libraries and bookstores promote accessible EPUBs so that students can easily find these accessible books and ensure they will meet their needs before purchasing them, and the “Accessibility Summary Authoring Guidelines” will help publishers create meaningful accessibility summary statements to be put into EPUB metadata. The summaries will ultimately assist students, teachers, procurement offices, and others in finding the right accessible EPUBs for their needs. After gathering feedback from the publishing community, we plan to publish both of these guides next quarter.
The 2019 DIAGRAM strategic planning meeting was held on February 28 and March 1 in Leesburg, Virginia. The primary goals of the meeting were to:
- review outcomes and learnings to date in the DIAGRAM project
- share and highlight tools and resources developed by the community
- identify emerging technologies and areas where accessibility support is at risk and needs to be addressed, both immediately and longer-term
- analyze and strategize on sustainability priorities and plans for our collective efforts
- agree on priorities and next steps for moving forward, including updating charters for working groups.
60 people attended, of whom, 12 were new to the DIAGRAM community and 25 were first-time participants in a DIAGRAM Strategic Planning Meeting. Over the two days, participants explored topics such as what usability means for various disability audiences and ways to produce larger-scale impact (e.g., through adoptions, dissemination, or spheres of influence). They also discussed how technology shifts impact our priorities and work in the world of standards/best practices development and tools creation. And as always they continued to examine how to better work with DIAGRAM’S ever evolving and growing community, whether as individual contributors with specialized skills, adoption partners, or connectors who can help us reach and influence the broader technology and edtech market. Working groups also had opportunities to meet, which resulted in the following updates:
- The Outreach Working Group and Content Working Group combined, with plans to assemble real-world examples of how DIAGRAM tools and resources are being used by students, educators and parents, content producers, and edtech partners.
- A new working group addressing user feedback and testing was formed.
- The Developers, Standards, Tactile, and Research Working Groups had an opportunity to meet in person, recruit new members, and set concrete priorities and goals for the coming months.
All and all it was a fun and productive meeting, that was well-received by participants, with 95.6% of individuals describing the meeting as either productive or extremely productive.
It’s hard to believe we are already at the end of another year and what a whirlwind year it’s been — full of burgeoning prototypes, web page launches, new partnerships, and many other exciting updates. As we head into 2019, we’d like to leave you with some highlights from our collective endeavors in 2018. Thank you to our amazing DIAGRAM community for contributing your time towards making all this work possible. We look forward to an even more exciting 2019!
- The second annual DIAGRAM Report provided a look ahead at technology for students with disabilities and their parents and educators. This year we had three guest writers from our community write two of the five chapters; a big thank you again to Clayton Lewis, Lisa Dieker, and Amanda Lannan for sharing their expertise. In case you missed it, be sure to read about Accessible Coding, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented and Virtual Reality, Multimodal Interactions, and Personalized Learning in the 2018 DIAGRAM Report.
- We made significant strides in the development and testing of our new product, Benetech Mathshare, an interactive math tool intended to help students better express their work while performing online math problems.
- This year’s third annual DIAGRAM Code Sprint was co-sponsored by and hosted at the Microsoft Conference Center in Sunnyvale, California. This was the first year the sprint spanned two days and was a roaring success with more than 50 expert participants from all over the world.
- Benetech Imageshare was revamped and we teamed up with the Tactile Working Group to assemble and create various multimodal resources. These resources were tested with end users, and DIAGRAM also engaged with an independent user experience firm, Mad*Pow, to expand the testing methodology they first worked on as part of the Accessible PEEP and the Big Wide World project in partnership with WGBH’s NCAM.
- We had an amazing six months collaborating with our resident advisor, Clayton Lewis. Clayton’s generosity and willingness to share his decades of work and expertise in research and accessibility, particularly in the area of cognitive disabilities, was invaluable. We look forward to continuing to work closely with our dear friend, who has since returned to home base at the University of Colorado, Boulder… and thank you.
- The digital standard for EPUB and EPUB accessibility got some significant attention this past year. With a new EPUB 3.2 specification soon to be released in 2019 and the launch of Benetech’s Global Certified Accessible program ensuring publisher EPUB books are accessible.
This fall, DIAGRAM worked with Mad*Pow, a strategic design consultancy, to better understand the impact of using multimodal image resources to understand complex mathematical and scientific concepts. Mad*Pow conducted 25 one-on-one interviews with students who were diagnosed with one or more of the following: low vision, intellectual disabilities, autism, and learning disabilities. The session was divided into two topic areas: frog anatomy and the Pythagorean Theorem, and each participant was presented with an image with text description, 2D tactile graphic, and 3D manipulative model for each topic. Half of the participants were presented with the Pythagorean Theorem first and half were presented with frog anatomy first.
Overall, Mad*Pow found that participants exhibited a preference for modalities that enhanced their understanding of the subject matter by clarifying the relationships between elements, in this case, the relationships between digestive organs in a frog and the variables in the Pythagorean Theorem. 3D was the most popular modality for frog anatomy because its interactivity helped participants gain a deeper understanding of organ connectivity and the digestive pathway. 2D was the most popular modality for the Pythagorean Theorem because it demonstrated the relationships between variables in an easily understandable and visual way. And per our original hypotheses, participant preferences also seemed to reinforce individual learning styles and proclivity toward varying amounts of information (e.g., more or less detail). We look forward to sharing the outcomes of this informal study in the coming months and have also begun a similar study to learn more about the usability of Mathshare. For more details about the findings of the tactile or math studies please contact lisaw[at]Benetech[dot] org.
In 2018, DIAGRAM launched the newly revamped Benetech Imageshare, an open source platform that enables educators and consumers to find and share multimodal resources related to key science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts. In addition to adding new metadata to facilitate search and discovery, the collection also allows educators and end users to add instructional teaching notes, production notes, and ratings and comments after using specific resources.
We look forward to adding more accessible resources and content into the collection in 2019, including feedback currently being collected by the Tactile Working Group about the usability of specific resources in the collection. Read more about the testers in the Tactile Working Group update.
2018 was a huge year for one of DIAGRAM’s newest tools, Benetech Mathshare. Not only were we fortunate to secure funding from three additional organizations to continue the work through 2019, but the tool continued to receive positive support as we showcased the prototype to educators and students.
Version two of Mathshare, which debuted this past fall, included enhancements to the visual design, workflows to support the creation of custom problem sets, and the ability for students to save and share their work. Since the launch, we have been working on classroom pilots to collect feedback about these new features, including the usability of end-to-end workflows for educators. In the final weeks of 2018, we have also been engaging in larger-scale pilot discussions with integration partners and wrapping up dozens of in-depth student feedback sessions, including formal studies through our partners at Mad*Pow. We look forward to an exciting 2019 for Mathshare and continue to invite educators interested in piloting the new version of Mathshare in their classrooms. Contact sueannm[at]Benetech[dot]org to get involved.
In 2017, we launched the inaugural DIAGRAM report that explored six technologies predicted to impact schools now and in the future, particularly for students with special needs. We followed with the second annual DIAGRAM Report in August 2018 that contained updates on Personalized Learning, Accessible Coding, and Multimodal. We were honored to have some distinguished guest writers: Clayton Lewis wrote a chapter on Artificial Intelligence while Lisa Dieker and Amanda Lannan contributed a chapter on Augmented/Virtual Reality.
As soon as the report was published, we began working on the 2019 report. If you have not already had an opportunity to weigh in, we ask you to share your insights about what we should focus on for the next report by filling out a brief survey: https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/4590803/DIAGRAM-Report-2019 (please complete by January 4, 2019). If you are interested in sharing your expertise or being a guest writer, please contact Charles LaPierre at CharlesL[at]Benetech[dot]org or Lisa Wadors at LisaW[at]Benetech[dot]org.
With 2018 wrapping up, we are actively planning for lots of exciting developments and gatherings in 2019 and beyond. One of the major events scheduled for the coming year will be the 2019 DIAGRAM Strategic Planning meeting, which will be a two-day affair in the Washington, D.C. area. This will be another opportunity for the DIAGRAM community to strategize on the vision and future of the DIAGRAM Center. In addition to sharing goals for the remaining 18 months of the current DIAGRAM + award, we will also be thinking big about the types of impact that our community can bring to advance accessibility and inclusive education. If you are a DIAGRAM advisor or an active working group member, but have not yet received an invitation to this event, please contact Amaya[at]Benetech[dot]org. Outcomes of the strategic planning meeting will also be shared in the next DIAGRAM newsletter, so stay tuned!
Web Publications Working Group
The formal W3C working group continues to meet weekly. George and Charles are active participants ensuring accessibility is built in to any new standard this group publishes. The most pressing need in the publishing industry is a specification for audiobooks. Audiobooks are very popular today, but the production and distribution of this content from publishers is disorganized. The working group will focus on this area of publishing first to develop a specification that can be used next year.
W3C Personalization Task Force
The Personalization Task Force, co-facilitated by Charles LaPierre and Lisa Seeman, made huge steps forward with the publication of three public working drafts and an explanatory document for the specification on how to make the web personalized. The three modules are: Personalization Semantics Content, Personalization Help and Support, and Personalization Tools. Having these as W3C public working drafts is a big deal as this means they have evolved from something that was just a whitepaper into something now that is on track to become a W3C specification. This work will fundamentally change how we perceive the web by allowing us to customize how the information is presented to us to suit our specific needs. For example, say you are on a weather website and numbers are challenging. You could have the temperature be expressed with pictures instead.
Other Developments at the W3C
Knowledge Domains Targeted for Development
A “knowledge domain” is an area that relies on symbols for communicating information, such as math, chemistry, or music. All of the knowledge domains have been identified as having significant accessibility barriers. A task force has been formed to look at how these barriers can be addressed. It is clear that simply delivering images of math or music, for example, is not appropriate and significantly disadvantages persons with disabilities.
Correct Pronunciation Task Force Launched
For a long time, Text-To-Speech (TTS) has suffered from the mispronunciation of many words. Now that TTS is being used in high-stakes testing and assessments, more of a focus has been brought to this problem. A task force has been formed to identify how correct pronunciation can be added to HTML.
Braille Music Technical Developments
The DAISY Braille Music Working Group met in London on November 30, 2018. This meeting attracted more than 35 organizations in the DAISY community. The primary focus was on embossed braille music and the distribution of files for embossing. A third meeting is being planned for May, 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland.
For more information on any of the Standards activities, contact George Kerscher: kerscher[at]montana[dot]com