[Athen] TurnitIn And Screen Readers (long)

Deborah Armstrong armstrongdeborah at fhda.edu
Mon Jun 14 15:59:08 PDT 2021

Over the years, I've had some complaints that TurnItIn is not accessible for screen reader users.

I finally took a classthat required it.

The big problem with TurnIt in is if you use access technology of any sort, you really should read the help before trying to figure out how to submit your paper. If you wait until the last minute, the panic factor will make it much harder than it actually is.

My instructor told us to create an account and play around with it. But I found this wasn't possible until I had an enrollment key and a course ID. He did not give those out until the actual paper's due date (today!!!) because he wanted only a single submission from each student. This did not give anyone much time to play around with a new account. I found no way to create a dummy account as a student to experiment with.

You need to create a user profile, and for that you need your Course ID and enrollment key. Our instructor offered this in a single sentence, with a semicolon after the course ID and the enrollment key ending in a period because that was the end of his sentence. In fact, the enrollment key did require the period and the course ID did not want the semicolon. Instructors often give sloppy instructions which can be especially confusing to someone using AT.

The user profile requires your first and last name, your email, your password and for you to select your secret answer from a drop-down list of questions. Email and password must be entered twice. There's also a captia and if you are slow at entering information the captia expires and half the information in the form, including your email and password is automatically cleared out. There are a few check boxes for agreements and a "create profile"button. It took me several tries because the captia kept expiring before I could read the entire screen.

After you create an account you are enrolled in your one class. You can enroll in others, or drop the current one, and that process is accessible but not intuitive. You have a button labeled "drop"which in the offscreen model appears right below the course title, so it can be confusing because you don't want to drop the class by mistake.

You must select the course, otherwise you remain on a home page and there's no place to submit anything from the home page.

Once you select the class and carefully do not press the Drop button, the course page appears. There is a heading labeled "submit"and a tiny arrow beside it which is invisible to the screen reader user and which doesn't get focus meaning a low-vision user might not see it and a dragon user may have difficulty activating it with the keyboard. It cannot be accessed with the tab key.

JAWS, NVDA and voiceover however indicate the heading "submit"is collapsed, and when pressing enter on it, a menu appears. The default is cut and paste, or text entry. But also in the menu are "Single file submission"and "multiple file submission".

If you left it at the default, the only way to submit a paper would be to paste it in to the edit box and hit the upload button. For most instructors, who wish papers submitted as Word or PDF, this default method is unacceptable.

Instead, you have to expand the menu, either by clicking the arrow or using a screen reader that recognizes the collapsed nature of the heading and lets you press Enter to activate it. Then you select either single or multiple file submission, and press enter again to make that menu choice stick. Now the heading reads "Submit, single file submission."

A box appears reading "choose file". If you do not refresh the screen reader's offscreen model, it may not see this new box.

Non-disabled users are told to drag and drop their file. VoiceOver users on the mac can also do this but Windows users must first locate the file in File explorer, press Control C to copy, return to TurnitIn, locate the choose file button and press Ctrl-V to paste. Older versions of Windows do not let you paste files in to website file dialog boxes, but Windows 10 does this reliably. If a user is trying to do this on a tablet or phone, there's a turnitIn app. I haven't tested its accessibility.

Once the filename is displayed on the TurnitIn screen, you can press Confirm. It shows the file's name size and format - Word or PDF.

There is no text showing that your submission has actually happened. But there's a button labeled download. It's another collapsed menu, but once you press space or enter on it, there are choices to download a PDF receipt proving you made the submission or the actual file you submitted.

Once I took some time to figure this out, it wasn't hard. But I feel sorry for the beginning screen reader user who is stuck using this interface, just because some professor insists they do.


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