Providing a Level Playing Field for All: Part 2 of 3


The new standards in accessibility call on everyone from website coders, to content creators, to administrators to make their courses useable for as many students as possible. These design guidelines were thought out very carefully, and, interestingly enough, they standardize, organize, and actually improve the technology experience for many people who didn’t realize there was a better way.

A physical example of this concept is adding entry ramps to older buildings. Most importantly, adding ramps allows wheelchair-users to simply come inside a place independently. However, it also indirectly benefits anyone who might have an injured leg, or needs to bring a baby stroller inside, or has to move something large. Having options for access is good.

More Options, Better Technology

Imagine that you, as a teacher, have a student who is colorblind. Would they necessarily inform their teacher of this? Color blindness is surprisingly common. It occurs in about 1 out of 12 males of Northern European ancestry. ( A hurdle that color blind students face is the color-coding of important information in educational materials.

Because Marketplace Simulations is designed to help students learn to make decisions by the numbers, it utilizes many charts and graphs. While this could be a source of unnecessary confusion for a colorblind student, in Marketplace we’ve added other visual cues to ensure the data is clear without depending on color-coding. For the colors that are in use, we’ve taken every opportunity to choose ones that are more discernible to colorblind users. Moreover, this redesign of our graphs makes them print better, even in black and white, indirectly benefiting all students. Additionally, with the new ability to hover over a specific line in a graph and see it pop forward, it’s now easier for everyone to focus on the data they want to study.

But what about students who might not be able to see at all? Have you wondered how they can equally benefit from computers, the internet, and online courses just as well as students who happen to be able to see?

Visually impaired students use what are called screen readers. Screen reader software reads on-screen content aloud for users who can’t see it. As they click through content with their keyboard, they choose what to navigate to and have read aloud. However, many types of content, like images, require alternate descriptions be added for the screen reader software to announce.

Because simulation games are visually rich, we’ve added many of these alternate descriptions to things like images, videos, buttons, data tables, and graphs. This allows all students access to information in something like a map, for example. It additionally benefits anyone stuck on a slow internet connection and provides additional explanation to users who might have some trouble understanding.

The story videos featured throughout our serious games add important context and educational clues to students who may struggle with reading learning content. To make these videos accessible, we have added closed captioning for the hearing impaired and audio descriptions of the action for the visually impaired. Like many accessibility features, these options can help a wide range of students, such as someone learning English, or even someone who needs to play the game in a quiet environment.