Learning Ally (formerly Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic)

Learning Through Listening: A Case Study for Section 508 and the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

RFB&D's (now Learning Ally) Learning Through Listening support website is a resource for mainstream and special education teachers who require innovative methods and activities to teach students with visual impairments, dyslexia, and other physical disabilities.

Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D), a national non-profit organization founded in the 1940s, currently serves nearly 180,000 kindergarten through graduate level+ students with its one-of-a-kind collection of digitally recorded CD-based textbooks and novels. The organization wanted to develop a web-based resource to help teachers — who are generally limited in time and tend to look to the web for classroom materials — to find audiobooks, lesson plans, activities, and other resources to facilitate the teaching of listening skills in the classroom and to communicate to them how these resources translate into success.

Won in a competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) process, RFB&D selected NetReach to ensure that the project would be approached using best practices; including: understanding teacher needs, dissemination strategies in the education world, and how to successfully implement an information/resource-based website that is functional, meets Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act and the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), is intuitive to use, and helps educators find appropriate and useful resources.

NetReach's cmScribe Content Management System (CMS) was used for development, delivery, and maintenance of the site. cmScribe programming uses a modular approach, which allows for the addition of new functionality and features to be easily integrated into any cmScribe project. For RFB&D, a custom curriculum builder was added allowing for lesson plans and their related downloadable materials (black line masters, Word and PDF documents, and audio assets) to be grouped by subject and grade level. Focus groups with teachers had confirmed that searching for resources by subject and/or grade would be most relevant.

cmScribe has been instrumental in the following ways:

  • W3C Compliance: Using Watchfire® Bobby™ for testing, cmScribe programmatically complies with all Priority 1 checkpoints such that it will pass the Bobby test without errors. Warnings are minimized where programmatically possible (some warnings are due to human error). Priority 2 errors are eliminated and warnings are minimized.
    cmScribe includes features to eliminate human error and ensure:
    • The use of alternative text when adding images to pages through the cmScribe image uploader (Priority 1, 1.1).
    • Requiring the use of alternative text for all image-type buttons in forms (Priority 1, 1.1).
    • The addition of form controls such as “for” tags to associate form controls with their labels (Priority 2, 12.4).
  • Video Upload: While cmScribe provides a media upload capability through its WYSIWYG editor, RFB&D required all video be offered in Quicktime and Windows Media Player file types and each file type have two size formats in order to accommodate users with different bandwidth abilities. A separate Video panel (in cmScribe, specific functions are programmed to include a panel that can then be positioned on a web page) was added to the toolset. As videos themselves do not conform to Section 508 guidelines:
    • The user is required to enter the file size (i.e., 5MB) for each file format and the video play time (i.e., 5:00).
    • Uploader includes a place to upload a static image that will display as a placeholder above the video links.
    • The panel will allow the option to associate a transcript with every video file by providing a WYSIWYG editor that, on save, will link the descriptive text to open in a new window. This is a requirement for users visiting the site via a text reader or other assistive technologies.
  • Database-to-database communication: The Learning Through Listening site provides registration for a free membership that allows for more access to additional resources on the site using cmScribe's user profile functionality. An Application Programming Interface (API) was furnished that allowed cmScribe's user profile database to check the RFB&D Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system in real time for an existing school membership. This allows current users of RFB&D products to be recognized and eliminate double membership hassles.
  • Custom curriculum builder (mentioned in the introductory paragraph above) allows for:
    • Consistent formatting and presentation of all lesson plans.
    • Upload of related files.
    • Printer-friendly pages.
    • Email a friend capability.
    • Commenting on lesson plans.
    • Display of NEW items based upon a user-adjustable length of time.
    • Searches/display by subject and grade.
    • Subscription to NEW lesson plans via a Rich Site Summary (RSS) feed.

For more information about RFB&D's Learning Through Listening site or other NetReach projects, please contact us at 215-283-2300.