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Thursday, February 9 2023 Schedule

Noon Eastern Thursday Session

Opening Session - The Big Picture of STEM Accessibility

The ATHEN Executive Council will present the opening session titled, "the Big Picture of STEM Accessibility". This Opening Session is designed to provide attendees a cohesive understanding of the complexity of making STEM content accessible, and set forth a common vernacular that conference sessions will build upon. We will share the current foundational definitions, challenges, tools, technologies of the field as we understand them. Great for those newer to the field, as well as those seasoned veterans who may be less familiar with certain STEM accessibility subtopics. 

1 PM Eastern Thursday Sessions

Proposal Title: Optimizing Tables & Charts in Excel 365


George Joeckel, WebAIM | Utah State University

Presentation Summary

Participants will receive an overview of principles and processes for optimizing accessibility in Excel workbooks. Topics include: providing alternative text for graphic elements that present content; meeting WCAG requirements for contrast for text and some non-text elements; creating tables with the proper structure; and four keys for optimizing chart accessibility. Participants will also receive an overview of an evaluation checklist. The checklist provides principles for optimizing accessibility in workbooks, lists issues that are identified through the built-in checker and a manual review, and methods for addressing these issues.

Key Points:

  • Content authors can optimize the accessibility of workbooks through simple principles and processes.
  • Content authors can optimize the accessibility of charts by following four high-level keys.
  • Content authors can identify and address accessibility issues in workbooks with an evaluation checklist.

You can reach George Joeckel at LinkedIn

Proposal Title: Tactile Tactics with TactileView: Basic features and best practices creating STEM tactile graphics 


Darren Gabbert, University of Missouri - Columbia 

Presentation Summary

This presentation will be a guided tour of ViewPlus’s TactileView software for creating tactile graphics of STEM content. Focus will be placed on two critical factors associated with tactile representation of complex graphics, minimization of production time and maximization of learning value. These factors will be addressed using TactileView features to generate:

  1. Textual descriptions: Textual descriptions as titles, legend keys, and alternative text will be discussed in terms of when and how much to depend on text descriptions alongside tactile graphics. 
  2. Image depictions: Image depiction of complex graphs will be demonstrated by dividing images into meaningful segments, layers, and focal points. 
  3. Graph representations: Graph representations will be exemplified that take advantage of TactileView features for defining axis proportions, label margins, and function comparison. 

As the title suggests, basic features and methods are discussed that accomplish tactile representations that are meaningful, consistent, and efficiently made. 

Key Points

  • Knowing when and how much to depend on titles, legend keys, and alternative text.
  • Able to divide images into meaningful segments, layers, and focal points.
  • Understand TactileView’s axis, label, and function features for efficiently representing graphs. 

You can reach Darren Gabbert at LinkedIn

2 PM Eastern Thursday Sessions

Proposal Title: Juggling the Accessibility of Financial Data


Elizabeth Pyatt, Penn State University

Presentation Summary

A STEM course not always considered are in terms of accessibility solutions are accounting and business courses. With their heavy use of financial tables and unique analytic tools, these courses provide challenges including complex tables, Excel sheets that are difficult to navigate and multiple representations of mathematical data, including both “equations” and “accounting math.” This session will describe some ALT format conventions used for multiple students with visual disabilities enrolled in business courses from basic accounting to advanced financial analysis.

Representing financial data in ways accessible to a screen reader was one of the first challenges our team encountered. A typical corporate annual report features tables with merged or empty header columns, multiple indentations, different conventions for negative numbers, hidden equal signs, and multiple notes. We developed a series of conventions that could be used on a screen reader to translate these visual signals into a system usable on a screen reader. These were extended beyond financial reports into items such as journal entries and T-tables.

Another critical challenge of financial courses is the intense use of Excel data sheets. Most screen readers are able to navigate simple Excel sheets easily, but business courses feature complex files with multiple tabs, multiple pieces of data in one sheet, charts and plugins. To account for different parameters, our team developed methods to help students navigate the different spreadsheets used for assignments and research. We end with some notes about advanced tools such as R.

Key Points:

  • Ways to make financial report and journal entry tables accessible to users of a screen reader.
  • While Excel may be “accessible,” some files are not. We show methods to create/repair Excel files.
  • Using appropriate methods to represent math including hidden calculations.

You can reach Elizabeth Pyatt at LinkedIn

Proposal Title: User Friendly, Time Efficient, and Affordable Tools and Concepts to Create Accessible Digital Math


Danae Harris, University of North Texas

Presentation Summary

This presentation will focus on user friendly, time efficient, and affordable digital math creation. I will discuss the tools we use to create our content and the best Assistive Technology applications that interact with it. I will discuss what we’ve learned while working with faculty and making their course content accessible, and the tested and tried ways that saved time, were relatively simple, and did not cost much. It’s easy to teach math the same way that it’s been taught the past 10 or so years, but to create a course with accessibility in mind from the very beginning is the key! I think it’s important that faculty "recreate vs. remediate" their math content. I will discuss best practices when recording lecture videos, writing and creating instructions for assignments, creating quizzes using the Respondus Lockdown Browser, etc.

Key Points:

  • Tools that are easy to use and integrate well with frequently used applications and Canvas LMS.
  • Tested methods of accessing the math content with screen readers, braille keyboard, etc.
  • Things to keep in mind when creating your math content. 

View Danae Harris Contact Info

3 PM Eastern Thursday Sessions

Proposal Title: Inside Out and Backwards! Play to the strengths of Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and more in STEM Education


Sharon Austin, University of Tampa

Presentation Summary

Troubles with perception of Math through the eye can interfere with perception of Math in the brain in STEM education. These troubles can lead to poor performance in Math. Yet, many students with such disabilities have exceptional gifts elsewhere! For example, many with dyslexia struggle with sequential information, but excel with shapes and forms, visualizing solutions in geometry with ease where others struggle. There is even some research that suggests vision might actually interfere with a student's ability to reach full potential in Math! How can we as educators enhance chances for success as professionals in the STEM fields? Join us as we examine ways to help these students succeed in Math!

Key Points

  • Many brilliant scientists and mathematicians had dyslexia
  • Certain Math skills are built into our brain; ancients navigated the oceans with a kind of Trigonometry
  • Performance in lower-level Math is not necessarily a predictor of performance for higher-level Math

View contact info for Sharon Austin

Proposal Title: Mobile accessibility: Building accessible mobile STEM content


Gian Wild, AccessibilityOz

Presentation Summary

Unfortunately, when developing WCAG2, the Working Group did not envision the current world where mobile is almost ubiquitous, especially when it comes to learning. For example, WCAG2 requires that all content be accessible to the keyboard interface, but it does not require that all content be accessible to a mouse or to a touchscreen user. So what does this mean when writing complex scientific or math calculations on a mobile device? WCAG2.1 does include some mobile accessibility requirements but doesn’t go far enough. Gian Wild chaired the Mobile Site Sub-Committee to develop a set of Mobile Site Testing Guidelines that are available under Creative Commons. These guidelines are meant to be used in conjunction with WCAG2 (and WCAG2.1) to ensure that sites are accessible to people with disabilities using mobile and tablet devices.

Accessibility is important to all – not everyone using your mobile app, device or wearable will be fully functioning, either because they have a disability, or they are simply engaged elsewhere. Gian talks about the things that are essential to avoid when designing STEM content for mobile, such as movement, fixed sizes, inadequate color contrast and inadequate touch target size. She talks about specific mobile accessibility features: pinch zoom, native screen readers, haptic keyboard, etc., and system accessibility settings: font size, screen rotation, high contrast, etc. that will ensure your STEM content is accessible to all.

Key Points

  • Mobile accessibility is very different to desktop accessibility and meeting WCAG2.1 is not sufficient
  • You have to test on actual mobile and tablet devices
  • You need to test with the mobile accessibility features within each device

You can reach Gian Wild at LinkedIn