In the first Paths to Technology post on the Accessibility of MAP Assessments series, we learned that the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) has created an accessible version of their Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) growth assessments and students who are visually impaired and blind are successfully and independently taking these assessments. So, what exactly makes the MAP growth assessment accessible for students who are visually impaired and blind? Brian Tosky, Project Manager for NWEA, graciously answered the accessibility questions below. Brian has been a part of the MAP team working on the accessibility of the MAP growth assessments since 2014 and oversaw the MAP field testing.
Brian brings years of academic and educational technology experience to his position as a product manager at NWEA. He began his career as a college instructor, first as a graduate teaching assistant at Portland State University. After graduating from PSU, he taught at the College of Menominee Nation and later transitioned his teaching career to Portland Community College. Before joining NWEA, Brian worked for Learning.com, an educational technology company that specialize in helping schools create and implement digital content into their curriculum. Today, Brian works as a product manager on accessibility and accommodations and has the goal of making all NWEA products and services accessible for partners.
Paths to Technology interview with Brian Tosky
Does MAP have its own accessibility features?
When it comes to technology and accessibility, we want students to use the tools and devices they know how to use and feel comfortable with when taking a test. NWEA is focusing on interoperability, so that students don’t have to learn how to use new accommodations just to take a test.
The NWEA website verifies that the MAP growth assessments fully support JAWS and Zoomtext. Some districts/students use other third-party applications, such as Window Eyes, NVDA, and MAGic. Can you confirm that these applications are also supported? What about VoiceOver on a Mac?
MAP is 100% supported with JAWS using Firefox. We also know students have used Voiceover on an iPad to take a MAP test and had very little problems while testing. Our goal is to have the iPad with Voiceover as a fully supported option for students in the fall of 2017.
As for color and magnification accommodations, MAP works with all the native tools in Chromebooks, iPads, Mac and Windows. MAP also works with MAGic and ZoomText.
The chart below shows which accommodations, accessibility features and test aids work with MAP. See the attached Accessibility Table for an accessible version of this chart.
A number of Governor Morehead School for the Blind students took the MAP growth assessment on the iPad using VoiceOver; previously, you mentioned an issue and that NWEA is currently recommending that students do not use the iPad version of the MAP growth assessment. Can you elaborate on the issue?
Yes, we have noticed two issues with Voiceover on the iPad.
Getting students logged in can be complicated. As long as someone is willing to help a student login, they can easily use Voiceover and pair the iPad to a braille device.
At times, some alt-tags read twice. In MAP, we have alt-tagged all the images in the assessment and they have both a short and long description. For some reason, the alt-tags will read twice. The work around is to stop the second reading of the alt-tag and then allow the student to control more of the audio by either swiping or touching the screen.
While both issues are somewhat minor, we were hesitant to release MAP, saying Voiceover is 100% supported because we did not want students to struggle with logging in or having to listen to alt-tags read twice. What we learned from teachers, is these are not major issues and would not be a reason to have students not use Voiceover on the iPad to take a MAP growth assessment.
Which versions of Windows running a screen reader are compatible with the MAP growth assessment?
Windows 7 and above
Is there a recommended browser that works best with JAWS, NVDA, other screen readers?
Firefox is the browser we recommend and fully support with JAWS
One TVI, who used the mainstream MAP growth assessments suggested that the skinny, 12 point font was challenging for her low vision students. Has this been resolved or do you have accommodation suggestions for low vision users?
We know that our font size is small and we are looking at ways to improve font size and style for a future offering in our assessment. For students that need larger font, we offer several options for students to enlarge the text on the screen. One way is by using the CTRL+ method on the keyboard. Another option is for students to use a magnification tool. MAP works will all native magnification tools on Windows, iOS, OS and Chromebooks. MAP also works with MAGic and ZoomText.
Which braille code(s) does the MAP growth assessment support?
Our assessments work with the standard braille codes except Nemeth. We are working on ways to offer Nemeth but have not have a solution that we are 100% happy with.
Digital math has a unique set of challenges, especially today as some students are using Nemeth code while others are switching to UEB math code. Does MAP support both math codes equally? Can you share any insights or suggestions about the math assessments for students using a refreshable braille display?
No, not yet but hopefully soon. Part of the issue we are facing is that not all screen readers can output Nemeth so we are working with screen reader software providers to better understand how we can incorporate Nemeth into our assessments.
Can students use a screen reader for the Reading portion of the MAP growth assessments?
We leave that decision up to the teacher, school or district. We know every student has a unique circumstance and every student’s IEP is different, so we do not want to interfere with a student’s learning plan.
If TVIs have suggestions or if they find a bug, how can they share this feedback with you?
This is a great question and thank you for asking! NWEA has a tool called the Problem Item Report and any proctor that gives a MAP test has access to this tool. What it allows a proctor to do is pause the test, explain what the problem is (such as an image is miss an alt-tag) and click on the submit button. Once the item is submitted, we automatically pull the item from the assessment and it is immediately reviewed by someone on our Content team. We are encouraging all TVI’s to use this tool and we mention this tool whenever we are training new teachers that are new to MAP. At the end of the day, we want to give the best test experience possible to all students.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments about the exciting release of an accessible assessment!
Besides working with teachers and students, we have been able to partner with some wonderful organizations, that helped us build an accessible test. NWEA understands that we are not the accessibility experts. Instead, we wanted to work with the experts, to learn from them and they in turn helped us make a great product. Three organizations that we have partnered with and value their input are the National Center for Accessible Media, VFO (JAWS) and the American Printing House for the Blind.
For NWEA accessibility, this is just the beginning. We know we still have more students to reach but today, we are proud to provide an assessment that is meant for students with visual impairments.
For more information about accessibility and accommodations FAQs, go to NWEA’s website.
Teachers of the visually impaired: Do you have questions or suggestions about the accessibility of the MAP assessments? Feel free to write in the comment section below!
Editor’s Note: Throughout the Q&A discussions and flurry of emails, Brian’s passion and dedication was visibly evident as well the NWEA support behind him. Brian quickly responded to questions and openly discussed the unique issues that educators and students with visual impairments and blindness face with on-line assessments.
The next two posts about the accessibility of MAP growth assessments are from TVIs perspectives of how their students' experiences: Just How Accessible is the MAP Test for Screen Readers and Using the MAP Assessments with Students Who are Visually Impaired: A Residential School's Perspective. What have we learned about reading growth with students who are visually impaired? Research from MAP Growth Assessments: MAP Series #3