TWTC, Memorial University, 2016
Consider a simple exploration of Balloons & Static Electricity.
How might a student, who cannot see the visuals or who does not use a mouse, engage with the sim & learn along side their peers?
An accessible PhET Sim:
Question: How can we make the non-visual experience as engaging & easy to use?
Blind users have parallel navigational styles. They listen, then interact (Kurniawan et al, 2003; Fakrudeen et al, 2013). They can listen:
"do a tab through"(black circles).
How screen reader users listen, before interacting.
Rubbing has two integrated effects for sighted learners.
How to make both the state and the effects immediately apparent to blind learners?
Descriptions are history & context sensitive, allowing for successive descriptions of similar RUB events to be shorter, and/or different from the first.
P1: "I generally use the arrow keys to navigate line by line."
P8 (paraphrased for brevity) "I'm new to this site, so I am first going to go through everything with the down arrow [...] I'm repeating stuff to make sure I didn't miss anything. [...] Now, I'm going to do a Tab through."
P5: [After first rub on sweater] "Hmmm...I got a lot more charges than I had before."
P3: [with 2 negatively charged balloons on the sweater] "I want to see what happens if I put one balloon on top of the other." [second balloon repels and moves to the bottom of the sweater.] "What will happen if I do the same thing on the Wall?"
[After using the sim for a few minutes] "I'm going to see if I can deplete the charges on the sweater!"
[After dragging the balloon to the sweater, & hearing the alerts] "Am I using the same sim as a visual person?"
Screen reader support for the PhET Sim, Balloons and Static Electricity & have indications that it is an engaging & inclusive experience. (need to test more)
In future work, we will describe two-balloon scenarios, apply this strategy to other sims, & begin to combine natural language with sound (Kramer et al, 2010) to create a more immersive environment for all students.