Making LabVenture Accessible

Tidings | Apr 20, 2020

Last year, we launched an all-new LabVenture experience, including updated content and state-of-the-art technology. After a little more than a year and 14,000 students served, our education team is excited to roll out key upgrades to improve the program’s accessibility.

This image is a close up of a student using a tablet designed for students with disabilities to interact with LabVenture features.
A student uses a tablet designed to help people with disabilities interact with LabVenture features.

The scale and complexity of the LabVenture experience required deep thinking about the needs of students with visual, hearing, or motor impairments. With the assistance of our original design partner, Upswell, we’re implementing new features for these users, including a virtual universal keypad, a screen reader, and audio delivery improvements.

"The accessibility implementation supports the premise of equity at the heart of LabVenture," said Upswell Partner Armando Manalo. "Our goal is to facilitate scientific collaboration among all users, including those with visual and hearing impairments."

One example of these accessibility improvements is the sonification of data — using custom soundscapes to indicate change over time, just as we would use a traditional graph to do so visually. After several rounds of prototype testing and staff training, the team will launch the new accessibility features starting in January.

“We’re committed to making the best science, climate, and data learning available to Maine middle schoolers,” said Leigh Peake, Chief Education Officer. “Universal access has long been a standard the LabVenture program strives for. This is an exciting first step toward fulfilling that promise for students with disabilities.”

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