Accessible Interactive Simulations to Create a More Inclusive STEM Experience
Concurrent Session 10
Faculty struggle to provide students with disabilities access to interactive and engaging STEM learning experiences. We will discuss and experience the results of a new R&D effort to make the popular PhET Interactive Simulations from University of Colorado Boulder accessible to all students, including students with visual and mobility impairments.
Providing students with disabilities with equal access to learning is a significant challenge in many STEM classes. PhET Interactive Simulations are used by teachers all over the world to support student engagement in science inquiry - in online, blended, and classroom environments. Historically, highly interactive learning tools, like these interactive simulations, have lacked accessibility for students with disabilities. With $4M in funding from the National Science Foundation, the PhET Interactive Simulations project at University of Colorado Boulder has been laying the technical and pedagogical foundations for how to effectively make highly interactive environments accessible for students with a wide range of physical and cognitive disabilities.
With new accessibility features, PhET simulations can now be used to create a more inclusive learning experience by supporting students with visual or mobility impairments in engaging in science inquiry. In this session, we introduce the Accessible PhET simulations, their new capabilities, and ways you can utilize these resources to support students with significant visual impairments or blindness, or mobility impairments.
Accessible PhET simulations provide new opportunities for students to access typically inaccessible interactive learning resources. The accessible simulations come with verbal description, sound, and/or alternative input capabilities that allow students with significant visual impairment or blindness, and students with significant mobility impairments, to access the exploratory learning experiences typically not available to them. The results are learner-centered simulation environments that provide opportunities to meet the diverse needs of students with visual or mobility impairments.
The research work is detailed at our accessibility page, http://phet.colorado.edu/en/accessibility, and includes iterative interview testing with students to examine and refine useability and interpretation.