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Thoughts e-Learning activities and Section 508

From: Brian Walk <N10BKW1@wpo.cso.niu.edu>
Date: Tue, 06 Aug 2002 15:14:46 -0500
Message-Id: <sd4fe7f1.021@wpo.cso.niu.edu>
To: "<"<w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Hello all. 
I am an interface designer working with the eLearning Services group at
Northern Illinois University. As such, I have been charged with
understanding as much as I can about Section 508 and making sure we
apply it to all of our products as necessary (some of our clients do not
legally require it, however, I am trying to establish it as part of our
"best practices."
A little background. I am a graphic designer by trade, but I have
become more of a Web designer over the past few years, and am
comfortable with a moderate level of programming (we have other real
programmers on staff). And, contrary to some of the dialogues I have
witnessed here which might cause some of you to pre-judge me, I have
fully embraced the concepts of accessability and usability in Web design
as being as if not more important than a trendy, cutting edge,
complicated or unintuitive design that tends to serve it's creator(s)
more than it's intended audience.
That out of the way, I need to make some recommendations on a project
we are working on. Our instructional designers are developing a
15-module course designed to teach people with little or no employment
experience learn skill sets (computer, social, and otherwise) to help
them someday get and hold on to better paying jobs. Some of the
activities in the course are comprised of form-type pages in which the
user selects appropriate check boxes and submits their responses. Others
are more visual activities. One, for example, is a drag and drop
exercise in which the user is presented with two statements, and must
match a "true" icon and a "false" icon appropriately. Now, obviously,
drag and drop exercises fail on at least two accounts, by (a) requiring
the user and see the options available, and (b) can manipulate the
correct icon to the correct position on the screen via a mouse ( I don't
know of any keyboard equivalents for moving elements across a screen, if
even to locate and select them). There may be more failures intrinsic to
this type of activity that go beyond what I have mentioned here, but I
cannot think of any that are more pressing issues!
My role in this project is not only to provide them with a usable and
accessible interface in which to house all of these activities, but also
supporting graphics, and, as I mentioned previously, make
recommendations to keep us within the regulations of Section 508. My
first suggestion for this type of exercise would be to provide and
optional form-based version of the exercise, in which, using the example
above, both statements might include a radio button or check box for
each possible answer (all HTML-based and screen reader friendly, of
course!), and require the user to set the correct answers for each in
order to complete the exercise. This seems like a quick-fix, no-brainer,
but I wonder if any of you might have any thoughts contrary or
suggestions of something better. 
I would love to send you all a link to show you all the exercise in
question, but at the moment, it isn't allowed. If you would like to
help, but need more information, I will be happy to answer any specific
questions you may have.
By the way, the drag and drop exercises were produced using
Coursebuilder from Macromedia. Macromedia, if you are listening, feel
free to chime in!
Thanks in advance to all
Brian Walk
Lead Interface/Graphic Designer
eLearning Services
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115

Received on Tuesday, 6 August 2002 16:15:00 UTC

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