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

Deborah Armstrong armstrongdeborah at fhda.edu
Wed Jun 30 12:39:33 PDT 2021

Wow, one of my co-workers told me about yet another one, called Cahoot. She says her committees use it and was asking me if it was accessible since they may be inviting a physically limited person on their committee. It was just serendipity your post arrived the same time she asked me about it!

From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu> On Behalf Of foreigntype at gmail.com
Sent: Wednesday, June 30, 2021 12:13 PM
To: Access Technology Higher Education Network <athen-list at u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: [Athen] Online discussion tools -- which is most accessible


FWIW, It's impossible for a dictation software user to interact on these platforms either, especially in a synchronous environment. The "chat" windows are not compatible with the dictation software so one must use a separate dictation window (speaking out loud while others are speaking aloud online? What could go wrong?) and do a copy/cut/paste from the dictation box to the chat window. By the time all that's done, the conversation's moved on. I haven't played around with the screen readers in online chat windows, but the multi-tasking involved must be even more challenging while trying to follow the train of the meetings, conversation(s) etc. What I have done (as a dictation software user) is request to "raise" my hand to speak aloud instead of trying to interact on an inaccessible chat box.

I hope our "hive" comes up with some viable solutions for this. You and I are certainly not alone in the challenges these platforms throw up (not literally!) in front of us.

Wink Harner
Accessibility Consultant/Alternative Text Production
The Foreign Type
Portland OR
foreigntype at gmail.com<mailto:foreigntype at gmail.com>
This email was dictated using Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Please forgive quirks, misrecognitions, or errata .

On Wed, Jun 30, 2021 at 11:01 AM Deborah Armstrong <armstrongdeborah at fhda.edu<mailto:armstrongdeborah at fhda.edu>> wrote:
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://urldefense.com/v3/__https:/ctl.wustl.edu/resources/tools-for-online-discussion/__;!!A-B3JKCz!Qyb3hrJHZqOfPTn6dXah1aivMoO01wmr0ir08L6Id8nBxBvwJYYLhqaqVIo9OyXvM2BfdA$>

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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