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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.  

3D Tactiles Working Group Update

2018 May 14
by Jim Allan

The Tactiles working group is currently focused on 3D printing and conducting a survey with printed objects/models. We hope to gather data on utility and whether 3D is the best tactile medium for each object. The group has expanded to include VI educators from the Netherlands and Germany as well as university and other VI professional in the US. We have also helped provide feedback on early designs for the revamped Imageshare and are helping to review the DIAGRAM Report. 

Standards Working Group Update

2018 May 14
by Charles LaPierre

The Standards group is working on perfecting the section in the Advanced Reading test suite for including extended descriptions in EPUB and on the web. This new advanced book for extended image descriptions will be tested on multiple reading systems using different combinations of assistive technologies. The results of these tests will be recorded at epubtest.org, and based on these results we will update our best practices on how to include extended image descriptions. The group already has an improved recommendation for doing extended descriptions and updated the Accessible Image Sample Book to reflect these changes. These updates will continue to evolve as the results of our testing best reflect what the reading systems can support. 

 And if that wasn’t enough, the Standards Working Group has also been working closely with their Math in EPUB subgroup to create a math-based EPUB file that will be added to the Advanced Reading Systems test suite. The group will also help evaluate how various reading systems display math given the guidelines developed by the Math in EPUB subgroup mentioned above. Results from these tests will not only be distributed to publishers via the epubtest.org site, but also added to DIAGRAM’s Math Support Finder tool. This is a huge breakthrough because this is the first time we are close to a universal solution for reliably displaying math online and in EPUB files. A huge congrats and thank you goes out to the Math in EPUB subgroup and Standards Working Group for making this all a reality!  

Outreach Working Group Update

2018 May 14
by Bryan Gould

The Outreach Working Group, chaired by NCAM’s Bryan Gould, really hit the ground running this quarter. The group broke into eight mini task forces to examine the needs of DIAGRAM’s stakeholder groups including publishers, developers, and educators. The goal was to gather the DIAGRAM resources most relevant to each group in order to better communicate how DIAGRAM supports them. The result has led to the creation of a new section of the DIAGRAM website (detailed here), which is slated to go live this summer. This new resource will be helpful for those of us in the DIAGRAM community who wish to present relevant DIAGRAM activities to our various audiences without overwhelming them with the full depth and breadth of DIAGRAM’s work. 

What’s Trending at DIAGRAM

2018 May 14
by Amaya Webster

Out and About

2018 May 14
by Amaya Webster
  • ETS Accessibility Week in Princeton, NJ May 17-18
  • American Institute of Mathematics (AIM) Workshop in San Jose, CA May 21-25
  • W3C Publishing Face-to-Face in Toronto, May 30-31
  • I Annotate in San Francisco, CA June 6-7
  • 2018 DIAGRAM Code Sprint in Sunnyvale, CA June 9-10

Planning for the Third Annual DIAGRAM Code Sprint is Underway

2018 February 28
by Amaya Webster

DIAGRAM is thrilled to announce that we will be hosting our third annual code sprint. While we typically hold the sprint in conjunction with the CSUN conference in San Diego, we will be bringing this event to our very own San Francisco Bay Area in June 2018. As part of the planning process we are asking our community members to provide suggestions for new product developments, enhancements to existing tools, technology gaps, or day-to-day challenges relating to STEM education for students with disabilities. Please share your ideas via this brief survey prior to March 9th and stay tuned for more details.

Focus Groups at CSUN – come try our new tool and see what the hype is about

2018 February 28
by Sue-Ann Ma
  1. Will you be at CSUN this year?
  2. Do you work with students who struggle with mathematics?
  3. Do any of your students have a disability, especially a disability that is not considered a visual impairment (e.g., cognitive disability, autism, dysgraphia, physical disability)?

If you answered yes to all three questions, we would love to get your thoughts about our new Benetech Math Editor (still in development)! Please share your background and availability at the conference using this form.

Introducing: Accessible PEEP and the Big Wide World!

2018 February 28
by Amaya Webster

PEEP is the main character of an animated television program teaching science and math to early learners (3-5 years old). Set in and around a pond, a bush, and a tin can, the show follows a newly hatched chicken named PEEP, and his friends Chirp and Quack (a robin and a duck), on their daily adventures. Surrounding them is a large urban park — a place of great wonder and mystery they are eager to explore — a place they call “the big wide world.”

Each half-hour episode contains two stories that highlight specific science concepts, plus two live-action shorts presenting real kids playing and experimenting with these concepts in their own big wide worlds.

DIAGRAM has partnered with WGBH’s National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) to bring that “big wide world” to even more learners by creating Accessible PEEP and the Big Wide World, a new section of the DIAGRAM website. On the Accessible PEEP website you will find episodes of PEEP and the Big Wide World that have closed captioning and audio descriptions as well as being available in Spanish. You will also encounter games that help students practice specific skills like memory. These games are keyboard friendly and can be played without a mouse in addition to having audio descriptions, closed captions and Spanish language options. How-to guides for adding accommodations such as captioning to digital resources are available as well, along with tips for inclusive teaching and an in-depth research methodology for testing the effect of accommodations on student engagement. The research methodology was developed to test long held assumptions that certain accommodations can be beneficial to a much wider set of students than originally intended. For example, do the presence of captions increase engagement and learning in students who are English language learners or who have attention deficit disorder? The Accessible Peep site details the methodology as well as the user testing that was done with students with learning disabilities as well as typically-developing students. It provides a detailed examination of the types of testing done, and how engagement with the curriculum was measured. The methodology will also serve as the foundation for ongoing work the DIAGRAM Center will be doing around user testing.

Accessible Peep is an ongoing project that we are very excited about. We encourage you to provide feedback and ask questions as you explore the accessible PEEP website and accompanying activities and resources.

Museum Makes Art Inclusive Through Description

2018 February 28
by Sina Bahram

The open-source Coyote software was developed by Prime Access Consulting, an inclusive design consulting firm founded by Sina Bahram, for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago to allow anyone at the museum to describe images for the museum’s website. The MCA team is creating both alt-text descriptions of 20–30 words, as well as much longer descriptions, particularly of collection works using the online Coyote tool. Believing that visual descriptions of art are helpful to everyone, not just those who use screen readers, the MCA has now surfaced these beautiful descriptions on their website for all visitors to enjoy. Some of the same techniques that Sina Bahram and the MCA team have used to surface visual descriptions of art are now informing the best practices being examined by the DIAGRAM Center for making STEM materials accessible in EPUB books.

Register Now For the Experience Programming in Quorum (EPIQ) Conference

2018 February 28
tags:
by Amaya Webster

DIAGRAM is pleased to announce The EPIQ conference on behalf of DIAGRAM community member Sina Bahram who gushed about it. “I’ve been part of EPIQ for 8 years, and I have rarely seen a nicer, more fun-loving, brilliant, and all-around amazing group of people that gather every year for this important conference. It’s one of the most fun and rewarding things I do all year.”

EPIQ is an international professional development workshop for educators to learn the foundational skills necessary to teach students computer science using the fully accessible Quorum programming language. The conference takes place July 15th – 23rd, 2018 in Austin Texas at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired where Jim Allen, another DIAGRAM Community member, is the Alt. Media Specialist.

Early bird registration is $350 and available until March 31st. Registration includes Access to all EPIQ programming tracks as well as breakfast and lunch catered by local vendors for the duration of the event. You can register at https://goo.gl/Wexoxg.

If you have any questions you can email the EPIQ organizers at EPIQ@QORF.org.

General Standards Update

2018 February 28
by Charles LaPierre

Breaking news! As of January 30, 2018, the WCAG 2.1 specification is now considered an official W3C candidate recommendation. Why is this news important? WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) is the guiding light for accessibility and has long been referenced by lawmakers when lawsuits arise around digital content accessibility; it also happens to be the foundation behind EPUB (electronic publications) accessibility. The prior release of WCAG 2.0 was in 2007, and a lot has changed in the standards and accessibility worlds since then. WCAG 2.1 incorporates these shifts with additional guidance to better address the needs of users with low vision and cognitive disabilities and users of touch and mobile interfaces, such as tablets and smartphones, and paves the way for future advances in digital accessibility. If everything goes according to plan, we hope to announce WCAG 2.1 as an official W3C recommendation sometime this summer, so stay tuned.

Speech Rule Engine Update

2018 February 28
by Volker Sorge

Editor’s Note: Back in the fall of 2016, the DIAGRAM Center shared our plans to support Volker Sorge’s work on the Speech Rule Engine in order to pave the way for more accessible voicing of mathematics. We are happy to announce that since the completion of our collaborative work, further progress has been made on this impactful open source project. The following is a reminder of what the tool is and an update from Volker regarding his latest accomplishments and goals:

Speech Rule Engine is an open source tool for the aural rendering of digital mathematics. While it was originally created as part of the ChromeVox screen reader, it has come a long way over the last couple of years as a standalone tool and independent project. Although it is still only a one-man open source project, the support of a number of not-for-profit and commercial organizations, such as the American Mathematics Society, the DIAGRAM Center, the Mozilla Foundation, TextHelp, and the Big10 Universities, allowed for a number of significant improvements. Recent advances include the smarter recognition and navigation of complex equation systems, improved interpretations of subject specific notations such as physics, and support for a variety of prosody markup languages. The latest release also contains a Spanish localization of the MathSpeak rules and uses some of the fastest JavaScript libraries currently available.

A number of exciting enhancements are scheduled for this year. The upcoming release (currently in beta), will contain a full implementation of the eagerly anticipated ClearSpeak rule set, which provides more natural-sounding mathematics. There are also plans for localization into additional languages and the integration of more subject-specific knowledge. And, finally, subsequent releases will include support for Nemeth Braille, which, together with its web integration into MathJax, will make Speech Rule Engine an even more complete package for supporting accessible, digital mathematics.

If you are interested in testing and providing feedback about any of the upcoming Speech Rule Engine releases, please contact Volker Sorge at volker[dot]Sorge[at]gmail[dot]com. Alternatively, to stay abreast of upcoming releases, look for updates on the speech-rule-engine github repo.