[Athen] More on MySpanishLab and screen reader access

Deborah Armstrong armstrongdeborah at fhda.edu
Mon Sep 30 10:21:39 PDT 2019

I've now spent two weeks with MySpanishLab and there is good news and bad.

The lab has lots of content linked from a toolbar that no combination of browser and screen reader is able to see. The content is apparently tutorials with multimedia to help you practice vocabulary and pronunciation.

About two-thirds of the exercises are wonderfully accessible to Braille if you don't mind going constantly in and out of forms/focus mode. They are either not marked or incorrectly marked with language tags, so that English instructions often read as Spanish and Spanish instructions as English. This could be a screen reader bug but it happens with both NVDA and JAWS. Safari isn't recommended, and my iPHONE cannot access the courses anyway (always says "your session has expired) so I haven't been able to test with that. Pearson support says I should select "request desktop site" which I have and the iPHONE still doesn't work at all with MySpanishLab embedded in to Canvas.

The exercises use standard form fields including edit boxes to provide your answers and their layout is very consistent so it's easy to locate the instructions and each numbered question. It's also easy to change an answer or try repeatedly until you get 100%.

The inaccessible exercises have two problems. They either require you to drag and drop lines of text to reorder them, or they ask the student to answer questions about an image. The images always have descriptions, but the describer put in many details that are not relevant to answering the questions and left out details that are. For example one exercise asks you to identify objects in a classroom, such as desks, chairs, the blackboard, an eraser and a backpack. But the location of these items and even their presence isn't even mentioned in the image description; instead the professor and the students in the classroom are described. The describer clearly didn't know Spanish so was unable to realize what was important about this exercise.

One exercise that could have been very fun was a Bingo game, where you placed the correct number in the appropriate spot on the board. However, though it would have been easy to click and type in the right spaces, it was difficult to navigate there fast enough with tab to insert the right number in the correct square. The audio could be slowed down, but not enough for me!

The textbook continues to be accessible, but the multimedia elements included with the inaccessible image-based textbook aren't part of the accessible version; that's text-only. It does have excellent image descriptions that make it possible to do the practice exercises in the textbook even when they fully rely on an image.

I did figure out how to go to a specific page; the page numbers in the book are correct, but the go to page dialog doesn't account for preliminary pages so it is off by several numbers. Text size and font can be changed and layout is very consistent but I've found no way to bookmark pages or write notes in the electronic book. The go to page dialog box is something I missed at first due to a screen reader bug.

There are loads of Pearson help videos on Youtube but none for using the accessible textbook, just the image-based one.
The class calendar doesn't appear to be accessible unless there's a trick I'm missing. I select a date, but nothing appears to change on the screen.

One thing that is very nice about the exercises is that all the Spanish characters are shown in a little table so if you need to insert an é or an ñ symbol, you simply click on it or find it and press Enter. It's very accessible but installing the United States International keyboard does let you type faster. However this means the exercises can be completed on any computer in a lab without need for an extra software keyboard.

The mix of very accessible with inaccessible is frustrating because the exercises are engaging and help you learn quickly.

I have been documenting everything and sending emails to first our local rep who has been forwarding it to Pearson's accessibility support. I finally wrote them directly today and got a "case number" but neither of us has heard back. The last time I contacted them about whether this stuff was even accessible I got a template answer from tech support.

I'm feeling very stubborn about this though; I'm not going to let them get away with it!


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