Inclusivity for Everyone: New Accessibility for Annotation

By frannyfrench | 26 May, 2020

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The Hypothesis LMS app is now fully accessible according to the W3C’s WCAG 2.0 AA standard. Making annotation easy for everyone has long been a priority for us, so we’ve been working closely with the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) to map and improve the accessibility at Hypothesis. The IDRC just conducted a new external accessibility assessment of our capabilities when integrated with learning management systems, and we’re now publishing their independent review that shows our support for all applicable WCAG AA criteria. Get our latest voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT), and read more about how we approach inclusivity.

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We believe it’s critically important to have inclusive design baked into web content and functionality — making the web interactive for the full range of human diversity. While most schools are required to offer fully accessible platforms, ensuring accessibility in any learning management system, or LMS, is more than a compliance to-do list: Our goal always is to include the activities and contributions of users across a broad spectrum of abilities. Going beyond accessibility to practice fully inclusive design not only helps people with physical, cognitive, and other disabilities, it also takes into account factors like gender, culture, and age. For more on what inclusivity covers, watch this excellent video from the W3C. Our new Hypothesis keyboard shortcuts for creating annotations and highlights are a great example of functionality that makes our product accessible to people with disabilities while streamlining the UX for all users.

While our LMS app is more fully accessible, the content it’s overlaying may not be — i.e., a text that an instructor has assigned. Inclusivity, like annotation, is a collaborative effort, so we recommend that educators consider the accessibility of the materials they make available for annotation, especially if they’re asking everyone to participate. Check out our guide to improving the accessibility of PDFs.

We understand that accessibility work on a product is never done, and we will continue to find and address areas where we can improve. We have incorporated inclusive design into all of our product development practices and will keep collaborating with schools and annotators to test and improve how Hypothesis works with assistive technology. This way, rather than relying solely on checkbox compliance, we are proactively collaborating with our users on the goal of ensuring a great experience for everyone.

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