[Athen] My latest letter to Pearson

Deborah Armstrong armstrongdeborah at fhda.edu
Fri Nov 8 13:44:48 PST 2019

I submitted the following under my case number so they already have the textbook and class IDS:

I am finishing up my seventh week using MySpanishLab with a screen reader and have found workarounds for some of the problems I previously reported. I will list them below, but first, my biggest issue currently is that I still haven't been able to complete any of the drag-and-drop exercises. Week 7 has five I have encountered so far.

In previous communications I was told not to press control and tab together; the instructions for all these exercises are consistent and they tell me to use tab to navigate to an item and control to drag it.

Please explain how I'm supposed to use control to drag without using a mouse! If I navigate to item A with the tab and press control nothing is going to happen. If I hold control while I try to use tab to navigate to where I want to drop it, I'm effectively pressing control-tab which changes the browser focus to a different browser tab.
Tab navigates from one link to the next. Even if it does navigate me to an object I need to drag, I find no way to actually transport that object to the drop location using the keyboard.

Screen readers allow the user to navigate through a page using a variety of keystrokes, but the only way to move through a page using just keyboard commands is the tab and shift-tab key, unless the web designer added special keystrokes for doing so, such as in Office 365 online. Facebook and twitter also have extra keystrokes for navigating. But these instructions only mention using control, which I could hold down all day without anything on the page changing.

We either need to admit these exercises are inaccessible, or I need a clearer set of instructions such as

1) Press ___ to navigate to a chosen object.

2) Press ____ to initiate a drag operation.

3) Press ____ to navigate to where the object is to be dropped.

4) Press ____ to drop the object.

It would be helpful instead of simply hearing that Pearson's tester did not have problems with these pages to actually communicate with someone familiar with screen readers who can explain how to perform the drag and drop on the lab exercises. As I've explained before, it's not a problem with the tutorials, where one presses alt-5 to initiate a drag operation and alt-enter to drop the object. That was documented accurately though clumsily. (I did try alt-5 and alt-enter of course on the lab exercises which apparently were created by a different web designer as they didn't work either!)
Now for the workarounds. Though the exercises still sometimes have maps or drawings that are not described completely enough for a sight-impaired user to complete the exercise, I've found in the accessible textbook that some graphics have longer descriptions. I missed this at first, because to be more effective in the classroom I'd saved the required pages to my PC and was reading them offline. I discovered that if I am reading a page online and click on a link labeled simply "D", a longer description appears - because a secondary page loads. This doesn't happen if one is viewing the page offline. This needs to be documented "In order to view this description you must be online" or some such. You can imagine that not every classroom might have a fast internet connection so a student is likely to save pages to their laptop to read offline. A page saved offline will not have access to the long description and clear documentation would have saved me hours of frustration!

I have also located the textbook audio, practice audio and textbook video under three tabs under downloadable materials under optional review activities. I understand these are directly linked to in the inaccessible (image-based) textbook but not in the accessible (text-based) version of the textbook. So I can access this content, I just needed a few weeks to discover it was also available under "optional review activities".

Again, this should be documented so the sight-impaired user can quickly and easily locate this important content.

It seems like many problems I experienced doing the labs and reading the textbook could have been fixed by a competent technical writer simply spending a few hours documenting how to use the accessible materials. It's even possible the drag and drop is keyboard accessible and only good documentation is needed to clarify how to use it!

As a textbook publisher, Pearson should be able to round up a writer to improve this situation!


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