Read Across America Day is a nationwide reading celebration that takes place every on March 2 - Dr. Seuss's birthday. Classrooms celebrate Dr. Seuss and his fun-loving books. In honor of these celebrations, let's look at the accessibility of these interactive Dr. Suess ePub books.
Since we all love Dr. Seuss books, I purchased the Dr. Seuss Beginner Books Bundle - 9 books by OceanHouse Media for $14.99. ($24.91 if purchased separately; $2.99 for just the Hop on Pop book.) Other bundles are available.
Hop On Pop Book
All nine of the books purchased in this bundle have the same features - just different stories. Hop on Pop was randomly picked to be discussed in this post.
These zany books use simple rhyming words, creating silly sentences that make students laugh!
The Next Page button is located in the top right corner and the Previous Page button is in the top left corner.
In the Read to me mode, the page is read aloud and the student decides when to turn to the next page. After the last word on the page is the Read Again button. Students can randomly tap around the screen to make things happen visually and to hear sounds - vision is not required. When tapped some items are announced (named) and the word appears visually on the screen. Tap on the printed story to hear that word again.
Each page has an associated activity. Tap on the images to find the hidden star. Once discovered, the star will move to the bottom right corner. Tap on the Star button to access the activity. The activities are emerging reader games. Example: Tap on the word that starts with the letter "B" or drag the words that rhyme with "All" to the box.
Tap on the book button at the top, middle of the screen to access the Table of Contents, Settings and Home options.
Home takes you back to the cover of the book. Tap the Book button on the Home page and there are three options: other bundles available for purchase, Parents Only (requires one finger swipe left to access) and Settings.
- Parents Page contains basic information about the book, as well as reading stats (minutes read, pages read, book read) and the option to reset the stats.
Settings Page: Set the reading mode and the reset options; additionally, the following settings options can be toggled on/off.
- Learning activities
- Music & sound
- News & alerts
- Picture words
Low Vision Accessibility
The books in the beginner bundle typically are uncluttered, have clear, brightly colored (high contrast) images. While most images are big, there are some pages with small - even tiny - figures in the image. Figures in the image slowly move and are often accompanied with fun sounds, designed to capture the student's interest. This movement may be used for visual tracking activities. When focusing on student's visual fields, these moving images may be helpful to identify scotomos and field loss. Note: Some images have more moving pieces and may be too visually stimulating for some young students with visual impairments. You can determine how long to stay on a page or how quickly to turn to the next page!
Using the Read to Me mode without VoiceOver
The book is read aloud (self-voicing; VoiceOver is not needed). The print is located at the top of the page (typically in two columns) with images below. Tap randomly around the screen to hear the printed words and to engage with the images. Some images move when tapped; all images make a sound or the image is named out loud. The Next Page button is in a predictable place (always top right). Tapping randomly around the page will find the hidden star; when found, the star makes a unique sound, which alerts the student that the star has been found and is now located in the bottom right corner. The hidden star can be activated and is in a predictable place (bottom right).
Using the Read to Me mode with VoiceOver
Currently, the buttons are not labeled (all three say "button") and VoiceOver does not announce or interact with the images. When the Star button is in the bottom right corner, it is not accessible with VoiceOver (not announced and cannot be activated when VoiceOver is on). VoiceOver must be off in order to activate the Star button.
Some - but not all - of the activities are accessible. The instructions for each activity are self-voicing; however, the activity itself is not. Students who rely on a auditory must use VoiceOver. The activities that have images are not accessible as the image is not described. With that being said, it is exciting that some of the activities are fully accessible with VoiceOver!
This video, Hop on Pop 1, demonstrates with and without VoiceOver and an example of an activity that is NOT accessible.
This video demonstrates the Read to Me mode without VoiceOver.
Mainstream online assessments and digital educational resources often use tech skills such as drag-and-drop and draw-a-line to match items together. While it is certainly possible to create accessible drag-and-drop activiites and draw-a-line activities, developers rarely do. Students who rely on screen readers need opportunities to learn the tech skills to complete these activities. Hop on Pop does have fully accessible activities that use draw-a-line tech skills! This is an exciting find!!!
The next video demonstrates drawing-a-line; "Can you draw a line to match the words that are opposites?". There are three words in the left column and three words in the right column. With VoiceOver, double tap on the desired word in the first column, then drag your finger to the words in the second column. As your finger drags over the word list, VoiceOver announces each word. When on the desired 'opposite' word, life your finger. The line is automatically drawn! Once a word is used, VoiceOver no longer announces the word. Unfortunately, the line itself is not accessible, so the student cannot go back and check his work. However, if the student chooses the wrong word, the game will tell him that he made the wrong choice.
The final Hop on Pop video demonstrates the accessible activity, "Which word begins with the letter h?" The letter 'h' appears to be an image, but it is labeled as 'h' so VoiceOver announces it correctly.
Refreshable Braille Display
Using the Read It Myself Mode
The text in the book does appear on the braille display! Often with interactive digital books, the text is embedded into the image and is not read by VoiceOver and is not accessible with a braille display. Ideally, the VoiceOver focus would be on the entire text of the page (not just word by word) so that the full page - or in this case, the left column of text - would be read at one time and the full page text would all appear on the braille display. This would eliminate the issue of having to navigate to each and every word and would also eliminate the issue of the text jumping between the words in the first column and the second column.
Hop on Pop video #5 demonstrates reading the app with Read It Myself and using a braille display.
- Label the buttons.
- Make the Star button accessible (label it and make it a true button that can be activated with VoiceOver).
- Activities that rely on images need image descriptions.
- All of the text on a 'page' or the 'paragraph' (right column) should be identified together; VoiceOver should see this as one block of text and not individual words. This is the anticipated reaction when using VoiceOver and would eliminate the braille display issues.
- If the activity in the Hop on Pop video #1 ("Can you spell the word?") used the same drag over accessibility features as the activity in video #3, the activity would be accessible with VoiceOver. Double tap and hold on the letter 'p' worked as expected; however, when dragging the chosen 'p' over the blank box and the other letters, VoiceOver did not announce what was being dragged over. In video #3, VoiceOver was dragging the line and did announce the words that were being dragged over.
Note: It is not necessary for the book illustrations to be accessible with VoiceOver. Students can turn off VoiceOver and interact with the book with the self-voicing feature. Triple-click the Home button to turn VoiceOver back on in order to complete the activities.
Hop on Pop and the other Dr. Seuss books in the beginner bundle are wonderful apps that introduce young children to the joys of reading! These interactive books are fun to listen to and explore for students with visual impairments (using the book's self-voicing feature). I am ecstatic that some of these activities are fully accessible - especially the draw-the-line activity - and am hopeful that OceanHouse Media will consider making these activities fully accessible. Most educational apps for emerging readers are not accessible at all. With a little more work, these books could be fully accessible with VoiceOver and a braille display! In the meantime, teachers of the visually impaired/parents can introduce their emerging readers to the activities that are accessible.