HAWKES LEARNING Accessibility
Our goal is to achieve Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA conformance for all of our materials. We are reaching beyond technical compliance to improve usability as well as accessibility—thereby creating the best possible experience for every student.
Hawkes is dedicated to providing all students an engaging learning environment on the web. We understand that students have different needs, so we strive to make our product as flexible as possible. Our mission is to deliver an easy‑to‑use interface that allows students of all abilities to focus on learning the course material, not how to use the system.
What Is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility is the practice of ensuring that websites can be used by anyone, regardless of their capabilities. An accessible website is thoughtfully designed so that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with all the content and functionality of the site. People without disabilities also benefit from web accessibility since accessibility features such as captions and meaningful headers enrich the experience for all users.
People with different types of disabilities access the Internet in various ways, and they face different obstacles that impact their access to web content. Some use assistive technologies such as screen readers, and some use only a keyboard to navigate the web rather than a mouse. Web designers and developers must be aware of these differences in order to create accessible websites that work well for everyone.
Two categories of visual disabilities are low vision and blindness. Many people with these disabilities use assistive technologies such as screen readers or refreshable Braille devices. Users of these assistive technologies generally do not use a mouse, so keyboard access to web content is essential.
The final category of visual disability that should be considered when designing web content is color‑blindness. Users with color‑blindness may view websites in black and white or use customized color schemes that override the native colors of a website.
More Info: WebAIM – Visual Disabilities
Auditory disabilities include varying degrees of hearing loss, ranging from mild to profound. People with mild or moderate hearing loss are commonly described as hard‑of‑hearing, while those with severe or profound hearing loss are described as deaf.
Accessible websites must supplement all audio content with text. Captions and transcripts should be provided for any videos that contain audio, and transcripts are needed for any audio‑only content.
More Info: WebAIM – Auditory Disabilities
Motor disabilities are characterized by mobility and dexterity impairments. People with these disabilities may not be able to use a mouse or keyboard.
There are many assistive technologies available to help people with motor impairments access the web, most of which either work through the keyboard or emulate keyboard functionality.
More Info: WebAIM – Motor Disabilities
Someone with a cognitive disability may have deficits in memory, attention, problem solving, verbal comprehension, or visual comprehension.
Well-designed websites should be easy to navigate and understand; these qualities benefit all users and significantly improve accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities.
More Info: WebAIM – Cognitive Disabilities
The truth is, when a usability issue exists in a site, it affects everyone, but it tends to affect people with disabilities much more dramatically.
Why Web Accessibility Matters
Learning math, English, or any other subject is challenging enough! Students should not have to face additional difficulties caused by inaccessible websites. Even websites that are technically compliant with accessibility standards may still be functionally inaccessible if they are built on poorly structured code.
Users of screen readers often feel the brunt of these accessibility problems. A screen reader is an assistive technology that converts web content to speech. In addition to reading text, screen readers convey information about the structure of a website, by identifying things such as headings and how many rows and columns are in a data table. Two websites may look the same but be coded very differently. If the code is not well structured, the content may not be clear to users of screen readers.
The following examples demonstrate the impact that simple improvements in the underlying code can have on accessibility. These two math expressions look the same when they are displayed on a screen, but they are structured differently. Use the Show/Hide Alt Text button to toggle back and forth between the math expressions and their alternative text, which is representative of how some screen readers will read these equations.
Poorly Structured Code
Properly Structured Code
Notice how differently these two equations are read, despite the fact that they look the same. The differences in the alternative text are due to different coding techniques being used to keep the equal signs vertically aligned when the multiline equations are rendered on a screen. The poorly structured code uses a three-column table with the equal signs in the middle column. The alt text then describes which column of the table each part of the equation is in. By using a different coding technique to keep the equal signs aligned, each line of the equation does not have to be split into three columns. Thus, information about columns is no longer included in the alt text for the properly structured code, and the description of the equation is much shorter and easier to understand for people who use screen readers.
How Do We Achieve Compliance?
Standardization and Best Practices
Hawkes integrates best practices for accessibility with the proper semantic use of HTML, MathML, CSS, and SVG. We have developed several best practices documents for HTML, MathML, and SVG; these are living documents that continue to evolve as the markup languages do.
To make sure our end product will be successful, we test frequently. Throughout the development process, we utilize various web accessibility testing tools, examples of which can be found in the Resources section. The techniques found in our best practices documentation are tested using the screen reader JAWS and NVDA (with the MathPlayer 4 plugin).
During our testing, we occasionally uncover bugs that impact the accessibility of our web content but are outside of our control. When this happens, we report the bugs to the makers of the relevant technology. Feedback has been given to Freedom Scientific (makers of JAWS) regarding issues in the audio rendering of MathML.
Hawkes employees are proud to provide exemplary service to our customers in the shared pursuit of student success. Our team is always available to support and serve instructors, disability coordinators, and students. Live chat is available 24‑7 at chat.hawkeslearning.com. To contact us by phone, call (843) 571‑2825 Monday–Friday, 8:00AM–9:00PM ET.
Students who experience any accessibility issues are encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org.