Old Dominion University
Old Dominion Universiy
Accessibility of instructional materials and tools is vital for ensuring equity of access to students of all abilities. Accessibility in and of itself, however, does not entail usability, a challenge that is primarily concerned with the “how to’s” of providing a rich user experience in terms of ease of use and effectiveness in getting tasks done. Many peer-reviewed studies have shown that people with visual impairments typically require several minutes to complete basic online tasks on even some of the most accessible websites, compared to their sighted peers who can accomplish the same in a matter of few seconds through quick visual scans. Even in our own interview study with 40 visually-impaired students, we uncovered many of their everyday usability problems with technology, most notably that a majority of these students are unable to perform many of their daily course activities independently without external assistance from their fellow students, despite the associated technology being highly “accessible.” Furthermore, as the students had diverse eye conditions with visual acuities ranging from 20/70 to no light perception, they used different assistive technologies such as screen readers and screen magnifiers, and that, too, with different customizations; hence many of the students had unique requirements that often required in-person assistance from their instructors and peers. However, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, almost all interaction has been moved online, and therefore it has become challenging for not only these students seeking assistance but also for instructors trying to help these students remotely via conferencing software, which themselves have accessibility and usability issues. In this project briefing, we will share the findings from our study in detail. We will also discuss some of the critical research challenges involved in developing solutions to address these uncovered usability problems.