Is making online exams accessible important?
Several schools and universities provide online education. In the competitive world online education is most reliable, economical and viable. Making virtual classrooms, education material and assignments accessible is vital for student’s success.
Finally the student’s success is measured on the performance in exams. Making those online exams accessible is critical. So, what are different considerations for making online exams accessible?
How to make online exams accessible?
In case of exams and assignments making the question and answers accessible is not necessarily sufficient. There are many more additional things to consider.
1. Exam time limit
The time duration is a critical part for exams. For online or offline exams depending on the exam the time is predefined. Allowing participants additional time is not permitted for exams. This situation also falls under essential exception for WCAG 2.2.1 Timing adjustable
2. Making questions accessible
Of course, accessibility of questions and the related choices have significant impact on reading, understanding and answering the questions. Users may be attempting the online exams completely with a keyboard. Some may be using their screen reading software along with the keyboard.
The main ingredient for online exam user interphase is form controls. Here are the tips and tricks for making accessible forms.
3. Keyboard accessibility
Making online exam accessible with a keyboard and swipe interphase is a critical aspect. The tab and shift + tab key allows the users navigate between interactive questions. The radio button controls can be navigated using the arrow keys. The selection and submission must be accessible with enter/ return or space keys. While the user navigates between the questions, they also should be able to clearly see the focus indicator to identify where they are on the page.
4. Use of colors
Instructions for the participant must not depend on colors alone. For example, questions that are mandatory are marked in red color.
Contrast between the question / option text with its background must have a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5 : 1. For a complete color contrast requirement as per WCAG standards read our 1.4.3 contrast (minimum) and 1.4.11 Non-text contrast.
5. Accessibility of images
Images throughout the exam require alternate text. For those images where alternate text may make the question invalid, WCAG allows exception in such cases.
For example, if the exam contains the following question
Look at the following images and identify the next image in the sequence?
Image 1: Circle with a radius of 5 cm
Image 2: Circle with a radius of 10 cm
Image 3: Circle with a radius of 15 cm
Your options are
Option 1: Circle with a radius of 25 cm
Option 2: Circle with a radius of 35 cm
Option 3: Circle with a radius of 20 cm
Looking at the alternate text of the image anyone can identify the correct answer and hence the question becomes invalid.
6. Recognizing the responses
For certain type of online exams, responses are displayed immediately once the response is submitted or a section is submitted or in certain cases the entire exam is submitted. Depending on the responses the screen reader users and keyboard only users should be able to identify the response.
7. Content and UI
While framing the questions make them simple and unambiguous. All that you want to know from the exam is to understand the knowledge of the participants on the topic.
Alternately, in the online exam interphase, breakdown the questions either into sections or pages or any meaningful partitions. This makes the participants less confusing in case of exams having many questions.
This might not be an exhaustive list. At Maxability, we are committed to digital accessibility in any situation or format. Let us know any specific problems in making online exams accessible. We shall consider updating this article.