Accessible Simulations

The alternative input icon indicates in addition to mouse and touch the simulation is keyboard accessible. Students can use a keyboard to navigate and interact with the sim. Simulations with the alternative input icon may contain simple descriptions.

The simple description icon indicates that a simulation contains static descriptions that do not change. Simple descriptions provide useful orientation information such as a scene summary, headings for regions and groups, and labels for interactive sim objects. Simple descriptions can be accessed using screen reader software.

The dynamic description icon indicates that a simulation and its interactions are fully described and change dynamically as the user interacts. A simulation with dynamic description would add dynamic state information and real-time interactive alerts to the set of simple static descriptions already designed. Together static and dynamic descriptions create a richly described interactive experience when using screen reader software.

The sonification icon indicates that a combination of sounds may be added to the simulation to enhance the learning experience. Sounds can be mapped to changing parameters to represent the scientific changes that are happening. Sounds can be more like real-life sounds, or sound effects (e.g. rubbing sound for rubbing a foot on a carpet). Independently or together, these sounds are designed to create a more immersive and meaningful experience.

The prototype icon indicates that the simulation’s listed accessibility features are in their design phase. Everyone is welcome to try the simulations and to provide helpful feedback, keeping in mind that prototypes are in progress, not yet final, and fully tested.

Balões e Eletricidade Estática

  • Features: Alternative Input, Dynamic Description
  • Published Version: Balões e Eletricidade Estática
  • Grab a balloon to explore concepts of static electricity such as charge transfer, attraction, repulsion, and induced charge.

Travoltagem

  • Features: Alternative Input, Dynamic Description, Sonification
  • Published Version: Travoltagem
  • Play with John’s foot and arm to explore when he gets a zap!

Resistência num condutor

  • Features: Alternative Input, Simple Description
  • Published Version: Resistência num condutor
  • Observe changes to the equation and wire as you play with the resistivity, length, and area sliders.

Coulomb's Law

  • Features: Alternative Input
  • Published Version: Coulomb's Law
  • Observe changes to electrostatic force as you play with the distance between charges and charge amounts at both macro and atomic scales.

Friction

  • Features: Alternative Input
  • Published Version: Friction
  • Grab the Chemistry to play and explore concepts related to friction. Note when using the VoiceOver screen reader with this simulation it is easy to activate VoiceOver's Quick Nav mode while moving the Chemistry book. For the best experience, however, we recommend keeping Quick Nav off.

Moléculas e Luz

  • Features: Alternative Input
  • Published Version: Moléculas e Luz
  • Adjust light source slider and begin your observations of how different molecules react to different light sources. Note that the interactive elements in this sim have simple description that can be accessed using a screen reader.

Lei de Ohm

  • Features: Alternative Input, Dynamic Description, Sonification
  • Published Version: Lei de Ohm
  • Play with voltage and resistance sliders and observe changes to the equation and circuit.

Dispersão de Rutherford

  • Features: Alternative Input, Simple Description
  • Prototype Version: RS 1.1.0-dev.4
  • Stream alpha particles to begin observations in Rutherford’s experiment. Note this sim does not yet have a Keyboard Shortcuts dialog.

Plinko Probability

  • Features: Alternative Input, Simple Description
  • Prototype Version: PP 1.2.0-dev.3
  • Drop balls to begin observations. Note this sim does not yet have a Keyboard Shortcuts dialog, and simple descriptions are in progress.

Reagentes, Produtos e Reagentes em Excesso

  • Features: Alternative Input, Simple Description
  • Prototype Version: RPAL 1.2.0-dev.3
  • Build sandwiches, then investigate molecules to explore reactants products and leftovers. Note this sim does not yet have a Keyboard Shortcuts dialog, and simple descriptions are in progress.

Moléculas e Luz

  • Features: Alternative Input, Dynamic Description, Sonification
  • Prototype Version: MAL 1.5.0-dev.5
  • Sonified Prototype: MAL 1.0.0-dev.62
  • Adjust light source slider and begin your observations of how different molecules react to different light sources. Note that the sonified prototype does not have the latest descriptions or keyboard focus highlighting.

Molarity

  • Features: Alternative Input, Simple Description
  • Prototype Version: Molarity 1.4.0-a11yComboBox.4
  • Note we are just getting started with this prototype. It has an accessible combobox for solutes.

Capacitor Lab: Basics

  • Features: Alternative Input, Simple Description
  • Prototype Version: CLB 1.0.0-dev.14
  • An early exploration (2015) into how to make a sim accessible has taken place for Capacitor Lab Basics. The sim is keyboard navigable with some auditory descriptions when using 'Forms' mode with a screen reader. We are working on updating the content and the interactions, so that the simulation can be accessed by a screen reader in any mode. This prototype has been tested with NVDA and Firefox.

Forças e Movimento: Noções Básicas

  • Features: Alternative Input, Simple Description
  • Prototype Version: FAMB 2.0.0-accessible-instance.2
  • An early exploration (2015) into how to make a sim accessible has taken place for Forces and Motion Basics. It has working keyboard navigation and auditory descriptions for the 'Net Force' screen when the screen reader is in 'Forms' mode. We are working on updating the content so that it can be read by the screen reader in any mode. Notes for the main interaction: Press 'Enter' or 'Spacebar' to enter a group of pullers. Once in the group, use 'Arrow' keys to choose which puller you wish to select. Press 'Enter' or 'Spacebar' to select puller and move to knot selection. Use 'Arrow' keys to choose between different knots. Press 'Escape' to leave a group of pullers or knots, 'Tab' to leave group and go to next element. This prototype has been tested with NVDA and Firefox.

Students can already use multiple input methods to interact with the simulation, for example, by using a mouse, trackpad, or touch. The addition of Keyboard Navigation expands options for input methods, allowing input through key presses on the keyboard, and also through assistive devices such as switches, joysticks, alternative keyboards, electronic pointing devices, sip-and-puff systems, and more.

Our design strategy for keyboard navigation and keyboard access is to:

  • use a bold visual focus highlight (common to all sims) that indicates where a student is in their exploration
  • follow known accessible design patterns (see ARIA Authoring Practices) to ensure interactions are as familiar as possible for students who use alternative input
  • provide in-sim guidance for essential interactions in the form of a brief Keyboard Shortcuts dialog

We are designing descriptions that are read aloud by screen reader software. These descriptions provide an additional output mechanism for the simulations. Simple and dynamic descriptions, together, give students access to a non-visual layer that provides a robust text-based mode of the scene layout, navigation, interactions, and dynamic state information as the simulation changes, and dynamic feedback of what is happening (i.e., alerts) during interaction. Sims with descriptions will have already been made keyboard accessible, as well.

Future research will focus on making the descriptions available to more students. At present the descriptions are accessible using screen reader software in the following screen reader-browser combinations:

  • NVDA and Firefox on Windows
  • JAWS and Chrome on Windows
  • VoiceOver and Safari on Mac OS

Using screen reader software students can navigate and read through the simulation at any time using the Arrow keys (i.e., screen reader cursor keys). Students can skim and scan using their screen reader commands (e.g., navigate by regions, by headings, and by interactive elements).

In addition, regardless of which screen reader software is being used, students can use the Tab key and Shift plus the Tab key to navigate forwards and backwards through possible sim interactions.

Two-phase approach to description design

The design of the dynamic descriptions that provide the fully described version of the sim are complex and take the longest to design and test. In efforts to create broader access sooner we have two phases for description design:

  1. In phase 1 we design the simulation’s simple descriptions which provide orientation of the simulation’s layout and names for the interactive elements.
  2. In phase 2 we design the simulation’s dynamic descriptions which include all dynamic state information and the dynamic interactive alerts that describe what is happening.

In our research, we refer to simple descriptions as static descriptions, i.e., descriptions that essentially do not change. Dynamic descriptions and interactive alerts are the descriptions that are designed in phase 2 and create a fully described interactively experience. For a discussion of our research on description, please see our paper on description strategies (Smith, Lewis & Moore, 2017). Based on what we have learned in design research, we are making every effort to release keyboard navigable simulations with their simple static descriptions to provide minimal non-visual access. The fully described dynamic experience requires a longer research, design and development cycle.

Sonification is the use of non-speech sounds (such as musical tones) to convey information. For students accessing the descriptions within the simulations, the use of sonification will complement the text-based descriptions and provide a pathway for conveying information that is continuous in nature – which can be difficult to convey with words. For students visually exploring the simulation, sonification provides a new mode of conveying complex relationships. Sims with sonification are tested using browsers that support web audio. These include:

  • Chrome
  • Firefox
  • Safari