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Imageshare

2018 August 31
by Sue-Ann Ma

Imageshare is a shared, open source platform for educators and consumers to explore and find alternative image resources related to key STEM concepts. The tool functions as a registry-repository that includes accessible resources (e.g., 2D tactile graphics, 3D models, multimedia) and also allows for contributions from multiple sources and existing libraries. This quarter, we conducted user feedback sessions on the new Imageshare design mockups with members of the Tactile Working Group. With this feedback, as well as previous testing on various components, we developed a new version of Imageshare, which aims to improve usability and expand the resources in the collection. The new Imageshare will incorporate best practices previously defined by the Diagrammar content model and other accessibility standards, which support more efficient search and discovery of various accessible materials. We also expect to better leverage the broader DIAGRAM community to help expand the collection with additional 2D tactile graphics, 3D models, and other accessible resources.

The new version of Imageshare was released as a soft launch on August 27th and anticipated power users have been invited to help fine tune the tool. In addition to designing the new version of the tool, the DIAGRAM team also began discussions with NCAM on how to apply the user engagement methodology recently designed for the Accessible PEEP project to Imageshare. Look out for updates on the official launch of the Imageshare website and outcomes from our user feedback study in October!

For more on the work that’s being done with Tactile Graphics. Make sure to check out Liz Arum’s post in the Community Spotlight.

Mathshare (formally Math Editor)

2018 August 31
by Sue-Ann Ma

To align and brand our “Math Editor” with other Benetech products (i.e., Imageshare and Bookshare), we recently renamed the tool Mathshare. This quarter, we conducted product testing sessions with various students and teachers to better support learners with dyscalculia, dysgraphia, ADD/ADHD, limited working memory, and challenges with fine motor skills. The feedback was, once again, very positive, and also gave rise to new ideas and feature enhancements for making the tool more usable and inclusive for a broader range of learners. These past months, we were also fortunate to receive additional support from funders to continue our efforts towards developing an inclusive math tool for learners (read about the related press release). Plans for the upcoming quarter include an updated front-end interface and architecting a back-end that will allow students to revisit their work over multiple sessions.

Contact info@diagramcenter.org if you’re an educator interested in trying out the new tool or would like to partner with the DIAGRAM team to pilot Mathshare with your students in the coming school year.

Accessible PEEP and the Big Wide World

2018 August 31
by Amaya Webster

Last quarter, we co-launched the Accessible PEEP and the Big Wide World website with WGBH’s National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM). Over 157,000 people have viewed the videos on YouTube thus far, an increase of 33% from the last report. Views of the three live-action activity videos increased from 12,000 to nearly 19,000 during this reporting period. In addition, we hosted a webinar on the project in May, with over 300 registered participants. The webinar explained how parents and teachers can best use the videos, activities, and stories with their children and students.

General Standards Update

2018 August 31
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by Charles LaPierre

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is a set of guidelines covering a wide range of recommendations for making web content more accessible, including EPUBs built using web technology. The DIAGRAM Center reviewed and commented on various issues covered by these guidelines, particularly those addressing cognitive guidelines that were in jeopardy of exclusion in this specification. We are proud to share that on June 3, 2018, WCAG 2.1 became a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recommendation! The W3C is an international community where member organizations, staff, and the public work together to develop web standards. Because the previous version of WCAG was released ten years ago, this update offers important technologies and audiences that were not previously addressed, including mobile devices and individuals with low vision and cognitive disabilities.

Working Group Updates

2018 August 31
by Amaya Webster

Developers

The Developers Working Group was primarily engaged in preparing for and participating in the 2018 DIAGRAM Code Sprint in June. The group was instrumental in preparing a number of the components, advising on the recruitment of participants, and establishing clear projects for the event. A number of the projects will end up in our Accessible Code Repository as good examples of how to make educational content accessible.

3D Tactiles

The Tactile Working Group helped provide feedback on the new Imageshare designs and assembled over seventy accessible 3D models representing popular STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) concepts. These 3D models were also printed this past quarter and are scheduled to be tested by educators and visually-impaired end users this fall. Following usability testing of the 3D printed models, the related files will be uploaded into the updated Imageshare collection with user feedback notes, ready for broader dissemination. Additionally, members of this growing group have also been experimenting with developing 2D tactile graphics for popular STEAM concepts that might be helpful for learners with non-print disabilities such as Autism, language processing disorders, cognitive disabilities, and learning differences. We look forward to testing all these resources with more educators and students in the coming quarter.

 

TASC

Last month we had our biannual Technical Advisors Subcommittee (TASC) meeting. In this meeting, we took a deep dive into accessible video practices, which ignited discussions about related concerns for virtual and augmented reality. Captioning within virtual reality is a new accessibility challenge due to the dynamic nature of the technology. For example, how do we provide continuous descriptions of the perceived content as a user turns her head? Where and how should captions appear? Are there other ways to make the visual content accessible? These are only a few of the unanswered questions we have begun to explore, but as this technology evolves and begins to enter the classroom, accessibility needs to be considered.

 

Math in EPUB

This quarter, the work in developing standards to display MathML in EPUB advanced significantly. DIAGRAM staff and the DIAGRAM Math in EPUB Task Force (a subgroup of the DIAGRAM Standards Working Group) continued to work on the sample files reflecting accessible ways of capturing math in EPUB, including different ways to include extended descriptions in digital files. The group incorporated various math samples into sample books that will be used to test how reading systems and assistive technologies behave with the various techniques suggested for implementing extended image descriptions and mathematics. Testing of these books will take place in the coming quarter and the results of these tests will be published on the accessibility pages of http://epubtest.org/. The results will yield new best practices and guidelines on how to make extended image descriptions and mathematics accessible. The Task Force plans to share these recommendations with publishers and these standards will also be incorporated into Benetech’s Global Certified Accessible program, which certifies EPUB books as accessible.

 

Standards

As mentioned under Math in EPUB, the Standards Working Group created two accessibility test books: Math in EPUB Advanced Test Book and Extended Descriptions Sample Book. Testers will use these two EPUB books to document how these books behave with various reading systems, platforms, and assistive technology combinations. These results will be collated and used to determine best practice techniques for publishers to add extended descriptions to images and math in EPUBs to extend reading system support for such content. Testing of these two accessibility EPUBs began on August 22, with testing on multiple reading systems and platforms using various combinations of assistive technology. The results of these tests will initially be published on the accessibility pages of http://epubtest.org/.

 

Outreach

The Outreach Working Group has continued to work on the community resources webpage on the main DIAGRAM website. This page provides a list of resources most relevant to each of DIAGRAM’s six main stakeholder groups: educators, parents, students, publishers, developers, and researchers. The group is also collecting success stories from these stakeholders to highlight the impact of the DIAGRAM Center community. Stories will illustrate how tools and resources created under the DIAGRAM Center have provided students with access to materials and enabled independence previously unavailable to them. This work will continue throughout the next two quarters.

Out and About: Conferences and Speaking Engagements in 2018

2018 August 31

What We Are Reading

2018 August 31
by Amaya Webster

Community Spotlight

2018 August 31

Spotlight on Tactiles in Education

By Liz Arum

 

A photograph of Liz sitting next to a 3D printer.I first became aware of the impact 3D printing can have on visually impaired students when I attended a three-day meeting with over fifty library, museum, and school professionals from across the country at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose in June of 2015. The conference, organized by Benetech, was created to survey and develop an understanding of the existing efforts connecting 3D printing and education and to identify ways in which makerspaces and 3D printing resources could transform the educational experience of students with disabilities. The conference built upon DIAGRAM Center’s research into the ways that 3D printing technology could be applied to create accessible educational materials.

Everyone at the conference agreed that there was a need to make educational 3D models more available, discoverable, and usable; however, there were still issues that needed to be addressed. Aside from the state of the technology and the questions of image and model ownership, a major obstacle was the lack of standards that could be employed when designing or evaluating models. To that end, the conference focused on developing a network of collaborators (educators, students, publishers, accessibility experts, individuals from 3D printing companies, librarians, museum staff, and makerspace members) who would work to develop standards and create models.

While I was inspired by the efforts of others, I can’t say that I was a “model” model contributor post conference. But, as I have transitioned through different jobs over the last few years, I have maintained a sensitivity to the issues, and, when possible, have advocated for supporting accessibility efforts.

My work as Ultimaker’s Education Community Strategist introduced me to Mara Hitner from MatterHackers. Mara has been a longtime supporter of using 3D printing to help the visually impaired. In 2017, she helped establish and run MatterHacker’s Envision The Future Design Challenge, which asked designers to create tactile models “to be used in a classroom for kindergarten all the way up to graduate school.”

Mara and I discussed strategies for how we could combine our efforts, and we joined forces by bringing together people that we knew were interested in using 3D models to help the visually impaired. Ultimaker then launched the Tactile Problem/Solution Bank Community project on March 5, 2018, which coincided with the restart of the DIAGRAM Tactiles Working Group, an ever-expanding international working group that meets over Zoom every other Monday. The most active participants include Jim Allan (chair of the group) from the Texas School of the Blind, myself, Mara, Allie Futty who is a Vermont AT consultant, Sue-Ann Ma who is the DIAGRAM Center director and product manager at Benetech, Amaya Webster who is the Community Manager for DIAGRAM and a project manager at Benetech, Jonathan Gorges from the College of the Desert , Joan Horvath and Rich Cameron who develop books with 3D printable science and math models, Lucia Hasty who is a former TVI, and Ruben Brandsma from the Accessibility Foundation in The Netherlands.

Over the last few months the goals of the project have been refined and transformed, but from the beginning, we have been interested in taking information from those who have worked with the visually impaired and sharing it with students, educators, and designers who want to create usable tactile models. We want to establish best practices and share our findings with those who want to create models that satisfy actual needs of real people, and we want those models to be easy to find and accessible to the educators who need them.

Now imagine that there is a repository of multimodal educational assets (2D and 3D tactiles, 3D models, text descriptions, videos, audio recordings, etc). Imagine that this repository is searchable by subject and modality, and that all the items in the collection are tagged with metadata. So now, as an educator who is interested in exploring alternative ways to communicate an idea, I don’t have to search a number of sites that may or may not meet my needs. I can look in one place to easily find resources that can help all of my students learn about a particular topic through various modalities or approaches. So whether a student has a disability or just demonstrates a preference for a different learning style, I can now find and use resources that support and reinforce the learning of each of my students. When I reconnected with Benetech’s Lisa Wadors last winter, she told me about just such a repository/registry. Imageshare is Benetech’s central platform that allows users to search across multiple collections using specific search parameters.

After speaking with Lisa Wadors and Sue-Ann Ma, it became clear that tactile models can be used as teachable objects for many types of students, and that some models may be more appropriate for different groups of students (differentiated by age, level of understanding, or ability). This idea of layers or gradients completely opened up our project. A model that benefits the visually impaired student can also help the sighted student with the understanding of a complex idea, and introducing color to the same model may actually provide additional understanding for a low vision or sighted student. Adding mechanisms that allow a model to move may not be suitable for a blind student, but that model could provide a deeper level of understanding for a sighted student who needs to see the relationships among parts and how one part influences another.

This community project started with designing tactile models for the visually impaired, but it has become about using design to ensure that teachers have access to educational materials that are accessible, regardless of learning styles or physical or sensory abilities. In order to determine best practices for designing models for the visually impaired, we wanted to test different types of models with different groups of students. We compiled a list of models from various repositories such as Thingiverse, YouMagine, and MyMiniFactory. These models were either recommended by a group member or were identified as being useful to visually impaired students.

Ultimaker 3D-printed seventy-six models from the list and shipped them to the College of the Desert in Palm Desert, CA. Jonathan Gorges, the Instructional Computer Support Specialist in the Disabled Students Program and Services office created the data collection form that testers will use to evaluate the models. He also made modifications during the first testing phase based on feedback from the visually impaired students he works with. The models were then sent to Benetech where other testers were recruited. The plan is to send the models to test groups from Texas School for the Blind, Houston Community College, and Indiana School for the Blind.

After best practices are compiled, the group will share recommendations for designing 3D models for the visually impaired with students, educators, and designers. From the seventy-six models tested, we hope to contribute at least twenty-five models to Benetech’s Imageshare repository.

 

From the DIAGRAM Center team:

Are you are an educator who would like to help us test the 3D models with differently-abled students? Or are you an AEM or AT Specialist who is interested in printing a few 2D tactile graphics files or 3D models? If so, please contact the Tactile Working Group at diagram3dstandards@benetech.org or the DIAGRAM team at info@diagramcenter.org.

 

Additionally, if you are interested in connecting with more educators and researchers regarding using 3D models to teach STEAM, check out the Construct 3D conference taking place in Atlanta later this fall.

 

Spotlight on Receiving an Obama Foundation Fellowship

By Melissa Malzkuhn

A photograph of Melissa Malzkuhn, Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.It is a huge honor to be part of the inaugural class of the Obama Foundation Fellowship program that supports twenty recipients for two years (2018-2020). When I was informed I was selected, I learned that over 20,000 people applied from 191 different countries. This was incredible and humbling!

As part of the fellowship program, I will be receiving support from the foundation in a myriad of ways: networking, executive coaching, leadership, organizational assessments, mentorship, and identifying my vision and roadmap.

I applied for the fellowship for several reasons: one, it’s important to me that all deaf children have a chance at life. It starts with an education, but it’s much more than just learning to read or having good literacy skills. It’s about having a family who can communicate and who embraces sign language, Deaf culture, and the Deaf identity/way of being. Deaf children thrive in that environment and build literacy skills. This is the transformation I want to achieve. Two, the work I’m doing needs more support, funding, and attention. I want people to understand why creating signed resources is important, how it empowers the Deaf community to be part of the solution, and to find support/resources to be able to do the development. Three, on a personal level, I want to elevate my career path, and I want to bring this work to the next level and toward a future with exciting possibilities through networking and collaborating with others who can make a difference.

The fellowship is non-residential; we meet four times in two years for fantastic workshops, sessions, conversations, discussions, and more. The opportunity to meet Barack and Michelle Obama and to have meaningful conversations with them about their experiences, leadership, thoughts, and what they hope for the future, was incredible. They are intelligent, deep, and kind people who truly believe that together we can find mutual connections in spite of differences and make our communities vibrant and healthy. We need to consider our own grassroots connections in creating change, while also working from a legislative and executive angle, but we cannot expect our government to do what we want without some local decision-making and civic engagement.

I hope to grow as a leader and build resources that allow many more people to participate in creative making – the most fun part here – in creating storybook apps for Deaf children in their sign languages and written languages. We will work together and build a global digital library.

 

Spotlight on PhET

By Emily Moore

 

A headshot of Emily Moore.The PhET Interactive Simulations project is delighted to announce a new grant from the National Science Foundation titled “Highly Adaptive Science Simulations for Accessible STEM Education” (NSF DRL #1814220). This grant supports research and development of new accessibility features for science simulations. Specifically, outcomes of the work will be continued advancement of auditory display features for simulations (such as verbalized text description, sound effects, and sonifications) and new adaptive visual display features (such as color contrast, zooming, visual simplification, and timing control).

We are particularly excited about the engagement with students with disabilities and their teachers that will be central to this work. Research and design will be conducted through significant and long-term co-design projects with students and their teachers. Through partnerships with schools and programs serving students with learning disabilities, visual impairments, or intellectual and developmental disabilities, we will work directly with students and their teachers in classroom and one-on-one settings.

Throughout this grant, students will engage in co-design projects that focus on design thinking, which includes building the awareness that the technology around us can be designed in ways that are more or less supportive for individuals. Importantly, students will be able to engage in technology design projects themselves, designing new features for PhET simulations and experiencing their designs in real life! As their designs come to life, together we will consider a range of needs and preferences their designs could support.

This work is a three-year collaboration between the PhET team, led by Dr. Emily Moore from the University of Colorado Boulder, and Dr. Carrie Bruce from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Lynne Harden is a senior researcher with the PhET project and will lead the facilitation of the co-design projects. If you would like more information about this project, please contact Dr. Emily Moore (emily.moore@colorado.edu).

 

2018 DIAGRAM Code Sprint

2018 May 14
by Amaya Webster

It’s official!  The 2018 DIAGRAM Code Sprint is taking place June 9-10 at the Microsoft Conference Center in Sunnyvale, California. There will be food, drinkscoding, and lots of great people dedicating their weekend to making STEM education more inclusive and accessible for students with various disabilities and learning differences. If you want to participatebe sure to register by May 18. Contact info[at]diagramcenter[dot]org to learn more about this invite-only event. 

DIAGRAM’S Newest Webinar: Introduction to Accessible PEEP

2018 May 14

On May 9, DIAGRAM debuted the new web portal on the DIAGRAM website, Accessible PEEP and the Big Wide World via a webinar that had almost 400 registrants.  The webinar, called “Introduction to Accessible PEEP” was hosted by DIAGRAM and presented by Bryan Gould, Director for Accessible Learning and Assessment Technologies at WGBH’s National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM). Bryan has also been one of the key people involved in the Accessible PEEP project and a long-time member of the DIAGRAM community. Bryan walked participants through Accessible PEEP which is aimed towards early learners aged 3-5 and provides accessible videos, games, and teaching resources from WGBH’s animated series, “PEEP and the Big Wide World.” He discussed how the site supports those who want to add accommodations to their own digital assets by offering how-to instructions for creating captions, audio descriptions, digital games and documents. From there he reviewed a research study NCAM conducted in partnership with Mad*Pow on whether accommodations can affect learner engagement, especially learners other than those for whom the accommodations were intended. For example, do captioned games increase engagement for students with ADHD?  The study resulted in a testing protocol and methodologies for user testing and assessing accessibility of educational material. The results of the study and how the tests were conducted were documented in a methodology that will be applied to DIAGRAM’s Imageshare tool in the coming months.  

If you were unable to attend the webinar, we will be posting it on the DIAGRAM website once the closed-captioned recording is available. In the meantime, we encourage you to explore the Accessible PEEP website. It has a little something for everyone! 

Coming Soon, an Easier Way to Find DIAGRAM Resources on our Website

2018 May 14
by Amaya Webster

Thanks to the tremendous efforts of DIAGRAM’s Outreach Working group, a new section on the DIAGRAM website is under construction. This section will provide information on the resources available to DIAGRAM’s specific target audiences: educators, parents, students, publishers, developers, and researchers. Simply select the group of interest, then use the links to access the resources that are most relevant to the selected audienceWe have just completed our first round of reviews and are currently undergoing user and accessibility testing. Stay tuned for an announcement on when it goes live. If you have any suggestions, send them to info[at]diagramcenter[dot]org. 

Another Successful CSUN has Come and Gone

2018 May 14
tags:
by Amaya Webster

The DIAGRAM team was out in force at the 2018 Cal State University Northridge (CSUN) Assistive Technology Conference. The DIAGRAM Center held its annual office hours on March 22, gathering dozens of community members for lively conversations and impromptu technology demos over food and drinks. And per usual, the DIAGRAM team was involved in several overflowing sessions sharing the collective work of the accessibility community. Highlights included a session about the annual DIAGRAM Report, a panel session about accessible math editors (representing Pearson Education, TextHelp, Wiris Math and Benetech), and a group session about exploring ways to automate image description production for STEM.  For those interested in learning about additional presentations involving Benetech’s DIAGRAM team and the DIAGRAM community, all sessions are available through the updated blog, DIAGRAM Out and About: CSUN 2018 EditionAll in all, it was an excellent CSUN experience and we look forward to CSUN 2019 in Anaheim, California!  

Imageshare Update

2018 May 14

Imageshare, a shared, open source platform for educators and consumers to explore and find alternative image resources related to key STEM concepts, is a registry-repository that allows for contributions from multiple sources and pulls from existing libraries. Types of modalities include extended text descriptions, simplified text descriptions, 2D tactile graphics, 3D objects, and captioned videos.  

Imageshare currently has 250 concepts with alternative accommodations. In recent weeks, we focused on incorporating prior user testing feedback to design and roadmap development that will expand usage and the size of the collection. This includes usability improvements in the search and discovery process, as well as adding in new features such as the ability to rate resources and add user comments. Development recently began on the aforementioned features and we expect to have our updated site available later this summer. The longer-term goal for Imageshare is to grow the collection and increase quality by allowing users to share comments and feedback on the files they used from the collection.  

Math Editor Update

2018 May 14
by Sue-Ann Ma

The Benetech Math Editor prototype was presented to the DIAGRAM advisory board earlier this year, and then debuted more publicly, alongside other major math tools, to a standing-room only crowd at this year’s CSUN conference in March. Since then we have conducted dozens of demos and user test sessions with special education teachers and assistive technology specialists, representing students with various learning disabilities and challenges such as dyscalculia, dysgraphia, ADD/ADHD, working memory limitations, and restricted eye movement. In one particular case, a math learning specialist who works with students with various learning disabilities was so excited about our tool that she immediately responded with, “I think this tool would be so great for our students. The step-by-step history feature alone would be enough reason to use this tool – but there’s so much more!”  

 We are already using the feedback gathered from educators and students to further enhance and build out the Math Editor. Our future test plans aim to receive feedback from an even broader set of students and educators representing various disabilities and learning differences. Upcoming developments kicking off this summer include front-end improvements and building out a back-end infrastructure (with user registration, database, etc.). We are also reviewing fellow open source platforms and talking with potential edtech partners about integration. Please reach out to Sue-Ann (sueannm[at]benetech.org) if you have platform contacts you would like to put us in touch with or want to get more involved in the user testing this summer. 

Quarterly Working Group Chairs Meeting Update

2018 May 14
by Amaya Webster

Every quarter the chairs of all of our working groups get together to make sure we are all on the same page and that our cross-group communication is strong. In the past few months, the working group chairs actually connected twice. The first was an in-person meeting at CSUN, where we discussed ways to keep each other abreast of key activities, upcoming plans, and barriers inhibiting continual progress. In our most recent quarterly meeting, progress from the tactile, standards, and outreach working groups were highlighted (see details in the sections that followand a draft of the new Community section on the DIAGRAM webpage was shared.