The InSpace Accessibility Journey
It’s no secret that the InSpace platform has profoundly transformed teaching and learning for many educators and students in higher education and K12 contexts. But what you might not realize is that InSpace was built around a core value of delighting all users who learn with our platform, including those who teach and learn with disabilities.
Earlier this month, InSpace proudly passed official accessibility standards after completing an in-depth audit with leading accessibility consultant and universal design expert David Berman. These standards — which fall under the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA and 2.1 AA, as well as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the European Union’s EN 301 549 — together ensure that our platform and all of our carefully designed features are fully accessible for all users including those with cognitive or learning disabilities, low vision, or hearing impairment.
Let’s take a closer look at what that means for folks in the virtual spaces we create. How does audio proximity support learners with disabilities? Those with low vision are supported by proximity audio much as they are in the non-virtual world, namely by the ways audio experiences help to create an understanding of positionality. For example, a participant with low vision can rely on proximity audio to inform them that a speaker who’s audio is gradually fading is in fact moving away on the screen. Broadcast mode, which ensures that audio travels throughout the space regardless of participants’ distance on the screen, further supports those with low vision to be oriented and engaged because they can always stay connected to full audio regardless of position whenever needed.
How does InSpace support learners who are hearing impaired? There are several ways. In addition to offering closed captioning and a StreamText integration, InSpace features an enlarged video option which enables any participant to increase the size of the video of another participant of their choosing. This allows any participant who wishes to use this feature to view the hands of the speaker in the case of sign language, or to read lips as an additional communicative support. A further aid for hearing impaired users is a unique InSpace feature called “tethering mode” which allows two users to connect to one another throughout a virtual session, sharing audio and location on the screen. Tethering mode provides a “buddy system” of support which helps not only disabled participants but anyone who needs assistance as they make their way through the virtual experience. Fun fact: this feature idea came from a conversation with folks in the accessibility office at Stanford!
These are just a few of the exciting ways that InSpace has designed our platform to delight and support all users, including those with disabilities. There are additional accessibility features on our design horizon, and we are so excited to share them with our learners and teachers when they are released! If you’d like to be a part of our ongoing conversation about accessibility, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to have your perspective!