2019 was a year of many changes in the DIAGRAM Center. While many of these changes were exciting, some brought mixed emotions. In January 2019, we said goodbye to the Director of Content Acquisition and Core DIAGRAM team member, Robin Seaman, who passed suddenly leaving a hole in many of our hearts. She continues to be missed. In February we also said goodbye to the VP of Labs, Anh Bui, who left Benetech to pursue a passion project with her husband working on satellites. Lastly, we said goodbye to Sue-Ann Ma, who moved to Germany and left Benetech to pursue a different type of passion project with her husband. They welcomed their daughter Maddie in May.
While 2019 brought many losses to the DIAGRAM Center, it also welcomed some new additions. In January, Alex Cabral joined the team as our UX researcher to help make sure we are developing our products for and with input from our targeted audiences. Next we welcomed Matt Nupen to our staff as the senior product manager for DIAGRAM Products, including Mathshare and Imageshare. Additionally, we added a new position to oversee all of the education research and development projects including DIAGRAM. While not new to the team, I assumed the role late in 2019 as the Director of Education R & D. With change brings new opportunities and we are excited to embark on this new year and decade with you.
-Lisa and the rest of the DIAGRAM team
In 2019 we continued to add to and improve the Imageshare tool. We updated the filtering capability and added tag & search resources based on grade level. We also expanded the content collection by partnering with RNIB so Imageshare users have access to their full tactile graphics library. In addition, we added a lot more content giving us a total of 6,000 images in the collection!
For 2020 we will be updating the search feature and how resources are organized so they will be more user friendly. And speaking of user friendly, we will be adding training materials on creating resources. Feature-wise we will be improving the bulk import mechanism and adding user accounts. Stay tuned for status updates as we start working on these new developments.
2019 was a very exciting year for Mathshare. For starters, we launched the beta! Feel free to check it out and see what Mathshare can do for you and your students. If launching the beta wasn’t enough, we also had the opportunity to pilot it with EdReady and a class in Montana for a semester. From there we added updates to make it more screen reader accessible. We also added integrations for Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams so that teachers can use it in conjunction with learning systems they are already using. Lastly, we added personalization features for students with disabilities to modify for their individual needs.
In 2020 we are exploring advanced sketching features and ways to make the sketchpad more usable and accessible for students. We will also be adding grading for assignments and ways for teachers to determine student progress. Make sure to check back for updates on our 2020 progress.
If you are a parent, educator or student, the 2019 DIAGRAM report is written for you. Meant to explore new innovations in technology that have the potential to impact learning, the report focuses on Personalized Learning, Accessible K-12 Computer Science, Multimodal User Interfaces, Accessible Data Visualizations, and Sonification. Each chapter was written by experts in the field, so you are getting the information straight from the source. We here at the DIAGRAM Center would like to extend a huge thank you to Alan Harnum, Richard Ladner, Emily Moore, Jenna Gorlewicz, Doug Schepers and Bruce Walker who authored this year’s chapters.
Work on the 2020 DIAGRAM report is underway. Please keep an eye out for communications about potential topics and other calls to action. The more our community gets involved the richer the report is. We can’t do it without you!
We hope you find the 2019 report interesting, educational, and a valuable resource. Feel free to share it broadly and as always, we welcome all feedback.
2019 saw the passing of two superstars in the accessibility field. At the beginning of the year, we lost Benetech’s Robin Seaman, who passed suddenly on January 7th, 2019, leaving the DIAGRAM community reeling. Jim Thatcher, a disability rights lawyer and pioneer of digital accessibility passed away on December 7th, 2019. His death leaves a huge hole in the hearts of his friends and community. While both Robin and Jim will be missed their legacies will live on. You can read more about Robin in Benetech’s tribute and more about Jim on the tribute published by the law office of Lainey Feingold.
We are thrilled to announce that the 2019 DIAGRAM Report has been published and is live on our website. An accompanying blog post is live on the Benetech website. A truly communal effort, this year’s report features chapters written by DIAGRAM community members who are experts in their respective fields. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to Alan Harnum for authoring the chapter on Personalized Learning, Richard Ladner for writing the chapter on Accessible K-12 Computer Science, Emily Moore and Jenna Gorlewicz for their co-authored chapter on MultiModal User Interfaces, Doug Schepers for providing the chapter on Accessible Data Visualizations, and Bruce Walker for his chapter on Sonification. Their participation has made the 2019 edition of the DIAGRAM Report truly special.
We are particularly excited about the accessibility and UX responsiveness of this year’s report. Using accessible coding best practices, we have built a report that works for people using screen readers as well as those viewing the report on a mobile phone. We’ve also included enhancements to a few of the chapters, including audio sonification of graphs, an accessible SVG graph, a heat map accessible table, and a fully accessible embedded PhET simulation!
We hope you find this year’s report interesting, educational, and a valuable resource. Please feel free to share it broadly and as always, we welcome any and all feedback.
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.