At BioInteractive, our mission is to provide quality educational resources and experiences for our users. As such, we are constantly pursuing ways to optimize the user experience. Providing resources that are accessible to all users is a key part of this process. In particular, we are designing, revising, and updating resources with accessibility features and functionality to improve and optimize engagement, interactivity, and interface with assistive technologies.
While some of our resources are not yet fully accessible, we are committed to providing resources that are free of barriers and biases. This article will regularly profile and highlight new features, resource updates, and remediated favorites.
Accessibility refers to design for optimizing the user experience for a variety of conditions, which could include weather and time of day, temporary or situational limitations (can’t see/speak/hear/touch), social contexts (alone, with coworkers, in a crowd, with friends/family), or physical contexts (at home, at a library, in a car, in a city, on a bus, in a rural/wilderness area). Most people will encounter several limiting situations throughout their lifetime that require some kind of accommodation. Mismatched human experiences or interactions are what result in an inability to access information; we aim to match abilities with features through design in order to maximize access.
The accessibility guidelines we use are in compliance with the final rule for Section 508 of the National Rehabilitation Act, which includes standards for all documents and media types. Many of our resources have been developed or remediated according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG applies to any information on a web page or web application, dynamic content, multimedia, and mobile devices in addition to non-web information and communications.
Some of the features we incorporate include:
- Alt text for images and graphs: Text descriptions that explain images if the user cannot see them or is using a screen reader.
- Tagging for screen readers/friendly for assistive technologies: Allows users to access content with screen readers and other assistive technologies.
- Closed Captioning: Allows videos to be understood with or without sound. We also provide downloadable transcripts for many videos.
- Audio Description: Supplemental video descriptions for the visually impaired. Describes visual details that cannot be understood from the main audio track, such as visual actions, on-screen text or title bars, and scene changes.
- Fillable and interactive form fields: Some of our accessible student handouts, interactive media, and interrupted video include fillable fields for student responses.
- Reading order: Ensures that content is presented in an order that makes sense to users.
- Semantic HTML: Clarifies content on a page for better communication with assistive technologies.
- Color contrast: Allows users to easily distinguish between different colors or foreground and background components of images. Can be important for users with low vision, colorblindness, or noncolor printers.
- Keyboard controls for web pages and interactives: Allows users to navigate through content using tab, arrows, and keyboard shortcuts. No mouse? No problem!
- Dynamic/responsive technology: Allows users to zoom in and out or switch from landscape to portrait views. Accommodates a variety of different electronic devices and screen sizes (mobile, tablet, laptop, desktop).
- Consistent style/language/format: Creates a cohesive experience for users across different resources.
Finding Accessible Resources
You can see if a BioInteractive classroom resource has been developed or remediated according to WCAG by looking under the “Details” section of the resource’s web page. If the resource is accessible, it will have a subsection called “Accessibility Level” that describes the accessibility standards it meets.
Some resources that are currently accessible are featured below.
The Genetics of Tusklessness in Elephants, Scientists at Work video:
Lionfish Invasion: Density-Dependent Population Dynamics Click & Learn Interactive Media:
Biology of SARS-CoV-2 Click & Learn Interactive Media:
Get in Touch
Feedback from educators and students will be key to our remediation and design decisions. We want to hear from you about your experiences with our resources. Please email [email protected] with questions, comments, feedback, or kudos related to accessibility. You can also select the “Accessibility” category on our Contact Us form to submit feedback related to accessibility. We are excited to share our process for optimizing accessibility and user experience with you and encourage your feedback along our journey.