Since April 2019, InterAccess have been and continue to work as an accessibility partner with Haughton Mifflin Harcourt, (HMH) in Dublin. They are an established global client, in the education and e-learning area. They are very eager to provide the best user experience to their students, including those who use assistive technology. They require a partner who can provide advice and support, to ensure that accessibility is implemented at the highest level across their learning paths and programs.
An effective partnership
It is fair to say that many of the products in the e-learning space, require careful consideration when designing for screen reader and keyboard users. Many of them require an input that allows the student to mark a block of text in a book, additional notes to the text, move incrementally backwards and forwards through large amounts of material and capture important informative messages that the student needs to be aware of by trapping screen reader focus within modals.
To overcome these challenges, it is fundamental to design with accessibility in mind from the word go, rather than trying to retrofit later, which costs time and money. Interaccess collaborated with the designers, developers and the product owners to ensure that difficulties were ironed out and everyone was on the same page to ensure this functionality was implemented.
When a product is developed, extensive keyboard and screen reader functional testing is carried out, across a range of screen readers and browsers, to ensure it can be used successfully by a screen reader user, and that colour contrast standards have been met, to allow a visually impaired person get the same user-friendly experience.
The suite of tools testing has been carried out on, include:
- (ED) Your friend and Learning. An online teaching and learning tool
- Responsive Content Engine (RCE) This product allows HMH to provide rich functionality of their interactive E-learning books. This includes bookmarking, audio content, Zoom and adding annotations to text.
From the client’s perspective, in this space, material and products often need to be updated on a regular basis, which requires regular releases to the production environment. Affective project planning needs to be undertaken to ensure this happens and timelines are met. From an accessibility point of view, pieces of work need to be clearly defined and estimated, to achieve this. Both teams work in tandem to achieve this.