A charity supporting people with impaired vision claims that a leading e-assessments portal is inaccessible for blind and partially sighted students.
The Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT) tested the online, moderated and open modes of the Inspera e-assessments, used by many higher education institutions and awarding bodies, and found the platform’s portal versions are inaccessible with the software blind and partially sighted students require to complete the work.
“We do not have data on how many universities are using the Inspera platform, but on its website Inspera claims to be the leading European e-assessment provider, so these findings are of real concern to us,” said Tara Chattaway, head of education at TPT.
The COVID-related switch to online assessments has hit blind and partially sighted students particularly hard, with many unable to complete their exams because the software they rely on proved to be incompatible with exam platforms.
TPT’s tech team tested the online, moderated and open modes of the Inspera e-assessments for compatibility with three key types of software used by many blind and partially sighted students – JAWS screen reading, ZoomText magnification, and Fusion screen reading and magnification software.
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In their final report, the team concluded:
‘The portal software is completely inaccessible for screen reader users and only partially accessible for magnification software users when deployed in an open environment. We therefore conclude the use of the portal, either in ‘open’ or ‘moderate’ mode, is not suitable for students using these assistive technologies.
‘We strongly recommend that exams requiring moderation are deployed in the online environment, in parallel with alternative arrangements such as invigilation in-person or through an accessible video conferencing platform.
‘We recommend that any students using assistive software be granted the opportunity to become accustomed to the Inspera exam environment in advance of sitting any exam. We also recommend that any supplementary reading material be provided separately, so the student may alt-tab between the two windows and keep their place within the texts.’
“We call on all universities to ensure that remote learning platforms are accessible,” added Chattaway.
“TPT has created guidance on this and we urge universities to read this. It covers essential points, including accessibility testing, academic support, regulatory bodies, proctored exams, addressing inaccessibility and supporting students through remote exams.”