Software Compatibility: A Case Study on Assistive Technology, Accessible Course Software, and a Student with Low Vision

DO-IT Factsheet #202
http://www.washington.edu/doit/Stem/articles?202

Background

My name is Erica. I am a college sophomore with low vision taking a multimedia and design course. I use screen magnification software to access electronic information on the computer.

Access Issue

The screen magnification software that was installed on the departmental computer lab's computer was not compatible with the course software. Because no one had explored the compatibility of the screen reading software with the course software, I fell too far behind in my coursework to catch up by the time the access problem was resolved. I was unable to complete the course.

[A man is shown looking at a computer screen with very large print.] Select the image to the right to view a captioned video clip, in Real Player format, about computer access for individuals with low vision.

Solution

I contacted the software technology support division, and they determined that one particular screen reader was compatible with the course software. I then requested that disabled student services purchase this screen reading software so that I could fully access the software used in the course. The office of information technology installed the software in the appropriate classroom. I then registered for and successfully completed the course the following semester.

Conclusions

This case study illustrates the following:

  1. It is important for instructors to determine the accessibility of course software and other electronic resources before a course begins.
  2. Students with disabilities need to be aware of their needs and work with instructors and disabled student services to plan for accommodations in courses before they begin.
  3. Access to assistive technology does not guarantee access to software applications; the inaccessible design of software can create a barrier for some people with disabilities.