Approximately 15-20% of the world’s population has some form of disability. Despite this high percentage, accessibility is currently not highly prioritized within software development processes. Worsening this situation is a lack of experiential educational material that can be used by instructors and workplace trainers to educate developers on this imperative topic. To address this limitation in accessibility education and training, we have created five educational labs that are collectively referred to as the Accessible Learning Labs (ALL). The primary goals of these labs include demonstrating the importance of prioritizing accessibility while developing software and providing participants with foundational technical concepts to create accessible software. These labs can be easily integrated into a wide variety of learning settings, including computing and non-computing focused curriculums, which allows learners from different backgrounds to benefit from the labs. Furthermore, lab activities and materials require only internet access and a web browser, making adoption easy. Complete lab materials are publicly available on the project website: https://all.rit.edu.Each lab has a set of components that are systematically designed to inform and motivate participants about the topic of accessibility. These components include: I) A brief overview of the accessibility topic and the learning objectives; II) Background reading discussing the problem; III) An immersive activity that demonstrates the problem to the user, as well as technical concepts to address this issue; IV) An ‘empathy creating’ video from peer users who have the disability; V) A quiz to test the user’s comprehension of the material. To evaluate the effectiveness of the labs, we investigated and compared feedback from students that utilized our interactive labs with students who followed a traditional learning process, which mainly involved reading articles on accessibility topics. Participants from both groups completed a pre-post survey regarding their perception of accessible software and general feedback. We then evaluated their feedback using a t-test and found that the students who used the interactive labs rated their learning material more useful than the students who followed a traditional learning process. Additionally, we performed sentiment analysis on students’ general feedback, which resulted in 94% confidence in positive sentiment from the students who used our interactive labs, versus 83% confidence in negative sentiment from the students who followed the traditional learning process. [According to recent articles, sentiment analysis studies the subjective information in an expression; that is, the opinions, appraisals, emotions, or attitudes towards a topic, person, or entity.] In conclusion, the labs have been found to be both more informative and motivational in contrast to traditional learning materials. Therefore, we intend to incorporate the experiential learning model in more classrooms to enhance students’ learning experience. We are conducting further research, and seeking evidence to determine the feasibility of adopting the labs in more computing courses throughout the world, as one of the purposes of this project is to spark a genuine interest in accessibility.
Su Thit Thazin, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY; Heather Moses, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY; Dy’nasti Chappell, Bethune-Cookman University, Daytona Beach, FL; Santosh Lamichhane, Bethune-Cookman University, Daytona Beach, FL; Dr. Hector Torres, Bethune-Cookman University, Daytona Beach, FL; Dr. Daniel Krutz, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY.