[Athen] Online homework systems

Karen Sorensen karen.sorensen at pcc.edu
Wed Jun 1 12:19:08 PDT 2016

Hi Randa,
Not a dumb question at all! Very astute in my opinion. You will not get
straightforward answers from publishers who want to sell you their product.
Publishers online homework systems are notoriously inaccessible. And
chemistry and math are some of the more challenging subjects to make
We did a quick screen reader test with OWLv2 and found that the Try another
version button wasn't accessible. It also was difficult for our screen
reader user/tester to get from the question link to the content part of the
page, but that's more of a usability issue.
We tried testing WebAssign but never could get the screen reader set up in
the way they claimed would make it read the equations and notations
correctly. And what it could read, couldn't be read one character at a
time, making it very difficult for a student who is blind to study the
I'm not familiar enough with the other products specifically, but I am
familiar with other products from the same companies and would guess that
they aren't any further along accessibility wise.
I would also urge you to ask about the accessibility of the textbook
content as that is what the homework system will use. The images should
have sufficient alt text and equations and scientific notation should be in
Our Chemistry instructor who teaches online likes Cengage Owlv2, so she is
working with the Cengage folks to make the areas we found to be
inaccessible, accessible or to develop accessible alternatives. The course
is supposed to be ready for fall. I'll try to write you and let you know
how successful they were or you can write me in August.
Hope that helps!
Karen M. Sorensen
Accessibility Advocate for Online Courses
Portland Community College
Twitter: @ksorensun
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