Moodle 2.x Accessibility a few thoughts and a report by NC State University

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North Carolina State University recently published this webpage which highlights their exploration of Moodle 2.x’s accessibility vs accessibility in 1.9.x releases.  The thorough paper provides a lot of use case scenarios and outcomes when testing Moodle with various assistive technologies and standard tools (screen readers, mouse only, keyboard only, etc.). From the report overview,

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The evaluation includes both functional and technical evaluations. A technical evaluation examines the code used in an application and the interactions between the application and the end user to ensure it is implemented according to standards like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. It determines if the application is behaving in ways that allow assistive technologies to effectively interact with the system. An example of this type of evaluation is, “Does a particular button in the user interface present itself in a way so that it can be understood by, and interacted using both visual and non-visual means?” The limitation of a technical evaluation is that it does not take a holistic view of asking if the individual pieces of an application work together correctly and if the end user can actually perform the necessary functions with it.

Alternatively, functional evaluations ask if the end user can accomplish the necessary tasks to effectively use an application, regardless of how a particular feature is coded. An example of this type of evaluation is, “Can the user post a discussion to the forum?” This question is then tested using various modes of interacting with the application, such as using a mouse, a keyboard, or an assistive technology. If the user can accomplish the task through all of those methods, the application is considered functionally accessible for that task.

Functional and technical evaluations are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they help inform each other and both aspects are necessary in developing an accessible application. The individual components of an application have to be implemented to meet a technical standard in order for the functional tasks to even be possible for users of assistive technologies. As the functional tasks are performed and evaluated, a skilled evaluator will be able to readily identify the technical issues behind problems that are discovered. The results that follow detail the problems that were uncovered by trying to accomplish certain functional tasks and also technical problems revealed in individual components of the system.

There is a wealth of information to review, the short of it is that there are some aspects of Moodle that improved accessibility (such as the new navigation block) but other aspects which are a detriment to universal access (docked blocks and the file picker).  If accessibility is a priority for your institution and you’re considering Moodle, this is a great guide to explore [http://accessibility.oit.ncsu.edu/reports/moodle-2-1/].

If you’re interested in reading more about accessibility or seeing a great example of an accessible site check out these links below: