Accessibility Improvements for Professors

Accessibility Improvements for Professors


Recently, we’ve been working to enhance instructors’ ability to teach using the built-in accessibility features on their laptops with Top Hat’s platform—in a way that won’t interrupt workflow.

Our team is based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, so we observe Ontario’s rules for accessibility compliance—the AODA. These rules align closely with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which U.S. federal regulations are based on.

Previously, our accessibility work has been focused on the student side. Most students access Top Hat through the app on their phone. The iPhone, in particular, has effective screen reading and accessibility features that connect well with all apps, including Top Hat.

Now, as an instructor, you can use a screen reader and keyboard controls on your browser to conduct a lecture, from beginning to end—and all the core tasks will be available to you, including:

  • Taking attendance
  • Uploading a Powerpoint deck and advancing through it
  • Creating common question decks: Numeric, multiple choice and sorting

We made sure every button, drop-down and icon is labeled with a full description, and correctly structured within the webpage so you can tab through them.

Screenshot of TopHat showing how the labels are applied

Sorting questions was a particularly tricky problem to solve for screen readers. We’ve come up with an elegant solution—instead of drag and drop, we implemented a means to swap answers. (e.g. select option A, and then swap it with option C, and then update the order.)

Best of all, the Top Hat platform automatically detects when you use accessibility technology. We’ll show a button that says “Start Presentation With Accessibility”, placed right at the top of the menu, so you can select it immediately.

Showing how the accessibility button pops up automatically

One of the great things about Top Hat is the way it opens up class participation for students who might not be comfortable speaking up in front of peers, or have other difficulties communicating. We’re working hard to bring the same openness and freedom to instructors. If this work is important to you, please give us your feedback on this recent update, and let us know what you think we should concentrate on next.

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