[Athen] Online discussion tools -- which is most accessible

Deborah Armstrong armstrongdeborah at fhda.edu
Wed Jun 30 11:00:27 PDT 2021

As a screen reader user, I'm noticing more and more of these online discussion tools are being used for real-time communication when workers remotely collaborate. I'm on several committees that like, during their meetings to use Discord, FlipGrid, Padlet, yammer, Slack ... here's an overview: Online Discussion Tools - Center for Teaching and Learning (wustl.edu)<https://ctl.wustl.edu/resources/tools-for-online-discussion/>

And though it's a great way for everyone to post ideas together, it's a nightmare for me. I can either listen to the discussion or listen to my synthesizer attempting to catch up with what everyone is typing. I do have a Braille display, but it only shows 20 characters, so it's not a lot of help. Some displays show 40 or 80, but it's still like reading the screen through a soda straw. The issue is similar for people who depend on magnification.

In meetings, committees also use zoom chat a lot for real-time collaboration.

Though so far I've been able to read everything posted in either of these spaces, I find the multitasking stressful. I don't want to tell people it's inaccessible exactly, because that's untrue. I can read everything and I don't want my committees to feel they have to completely change what they do to accommodate me.

but I do wish there was one discussion platform that would easily read what's relevant to the current discussion vs what's not. And of course that's impossible.

What's more possible is finding a platform that at least would let me rapidly read the first sentence of each post in reverse chronological order, most recent to least recent. Then a way to single keystroke jump to the edit field where my response is expected. So if someone says "How would you expand on Katie's idea" or "Post your three favorite ideas from the Padlet discussion in to the chat" or "I want everyone to contribute to the question I just posed" I could more efficiently keep up.

And if I, an experience screen reader user am struggling, what about these discussion tools in classrooms? How can we keep print-impaired folks from feeling left out when the collaboration is synchronous?

I can see using some combination of screen reader quick key navigation and with JAWS its ability to summarize a document; I'll play around with that a bit. But usually I don't have time to set up summary rules for JAWS or figure out which quick keys will rapidly move me to where I need to be on these pages. Often the link to these things is posted in a zoom chat, and it takes me forever to even find it among all the chatter and get a press of Enter to actually activate that link.

Maybe someone could set up a screen reader practice board on these platforms, post a public link and let it be a place for screen reader users to actually post tips (as they explore and play around with it) on how to use that platform. It would also be great to hear how people who use other tools, K300, Natural Reader, etc. have successfully worked with these boards.

Any tips or thoughts would be appreciated.

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