[Athen] Accessibility for Online Course Student Using JAWS

Ron Stewart ron.stewart at dolphinusa.com
Tue Feb 26 06:42:33 PST 2008

I'll bite on this one. It makes on difference if the student is degree
seeking or not they are still a student.

YES there are major issues with working with Visual Studio and Visual C++
with any screen reader. From my last look there were typically work arounds
for the basics but the user needed to be a very competent screen reader
user. There are also a lot of issues with the drag and drop development
controls which I believe there are no work arounds for.

It sounds like it may be necessary to separate the lack of technical
proficiency issues from the accessibility issues. Being unable to install a
program does not sound like a access issue. Is the Textbook CD and
accessible piece of content? If not then that is also an issue but not one
I would have agreed to provide a tutor for.

The fast majority of students I have worked with are not, regardless of the
flavor of screen reader used, able to be fully proficient with many of these
products, especially when they are being exposed to is as student. As you
may have found out VPAT's are pretty much worthless for actually determining

As far as the WebCT interface it has pretty much the same issues as any
other CMS but for the most part the portal is fine with the exception of the
Chat and the other interactive tools. I have recommended that a student be
allowed to work outside of the WebCT portal since that is just a delivery
system not an actual part of the course content.

Sounds like a lot of specificity on the part of the student is missing, and
from this it is hard to determine what are issues of access and which are
issues of ignorance.

Ron Stewart

From: athen-bounces at athenpro.org [mailto:athen-bounces at athenpro.org] On
Behalf Of Larry Kiser
Sent: Tuesday, February 26, 2008 9:00 AM
To: Access Technologists in Higher Education Network
Subject: [Athen] Accessibility for Online Course Student Using JAWS

Dear Colleagues:

A non-degree seeking student who is blind and uses JAWS at home elected to
register for an online C++ course. As the term began the student waited for
the instructor to send a personal email rather than entering the WebCT
course site. After I explained to the student the necessity of doing so I
spent considerable time writing up command protocols for the student so the
student could navigate the site. I was surprised that the student was
unaware of many available JAWS commands but the student appeared to be able
to access the course material with the protocols. The student then
encountered problems downloading and installing Visual Studio and using the
CD that came with the textbook. At the student's insistence the instructor
located a tutor, who is paid by the Division of Blind Services to go to the
student's home for tutoring sessions. Last week I got a call from the
student who reported that he was unable to access certain windows in Visual
Studio with JAWS. The tutor was supposed to meet with me in order that we
could open the applications with JAWS and determine if there was a work
around. That has not yet occurred. The student also claims some of the
course elements in WebCT are graphics and inaccessible.

I am clear that if inaccessible graphics have been incorporated into the
course material I need to collaborate with the instructor to make an
accessible alternative. However, I am not clear what the college's
responsibility is regarding problems with JAWS interacting with Microsoft's
Visual Studio. Have any of you encountered similar situations and how did
you resolve it? I did download the VAT for that application from Microsoft
and noted that Microsoft claims it is 508 compliant with some exceptions.
At this point I do not know if the exceptions are the problem the student is
encountering. The student has expressed the feeling in an email that an
alternative course format should be made available in lieu of WebCT. Would
that be considered a fundamental alteration of the course?

Larry Kiser, Counselor

Disabilities Resource Center

Santa Fe Community College

Gainesville, FL

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