Leading e-exam portal ‘inaccessible for blind and partially sighted students’, says charity

The Thomas Pocklington Trust has found that Inspera portals are ‘inaccessible with software used by blind and partially sighted students’

blue pen on paper
Getty/Oleksii Didok

A leading e-exam platform is inaccessible for blind and partially sighted students, according to the Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT).

The trust tested three modes of the Inspera e-assessments, a platform which is used by universities and awarding bodies.

The results suggested that the portal version of the Inspera platform is inaccessible with software that blind and partially sighted students use to complete their work.

The issue came to light after TPT supported a visually impaired student who was unable to complete remote exams during the COVID-19 pandemic after being asked to use the software.

This led to a university approaching the charity to see whether it could test the Inspera platform, which it had been using for its virtual exams and assessments.

TPT tested the Online, Moderated and Open modes of the platform alongside common software used by blind and partially sighted students – JAWS screen reading, ZoomText magnification, and Fusion screen reading and magnification – and found that the functionality on the portal version of the platform was inaccessible.

An accessibility statement on the Inspera website states that “We support screen readers and also have a built-in text-to-speech tool” which is “available in open and lock down versions of tests.”

The statement later acknowledges that “Some things will take time and need additional technical improvements.”

The website lists the University of Bath School of Management, the University of Oxford and Cambridge Assessment International Education amongst those who use its services, and also states that it works in partnership with the British Council.

Inspera chief product officer, Susanne Klungtveit, told OT that the company is “aware that the text contained within the launcher of Inspera Exam Portal unfortunately is not accessible with screen readers, however, the test content itself is.”

She added: “Inspera Exam Portal is an optional add-on product for our customers and our basic option called Inspera Secure Exam Browser is accessible, with the exemptions as listed in our accessibility statement.

“We plan to update the underlying tech to support accessibility in the Inspera Exam Portal in 2022 and greatly apologise for not being able to fix this sooner.”

Tara Chattaway, head of education at TPT, said: “We do not have data on how many universities are using the Inspera platform but on its website, Inspera claims to be the leading European e-assessment provider – so these findings are of real concern to us.

“We call on all universities to ensure that remote learning platforms are accessible.”

The trust has made various recommendations within its report, which universities can implement to support students.

The guidance covers points including accessibility testing, academic support, regulatory bodies, proctored exams, addressing inaccessibility, and supporting students through remote exams. It can be viewed online here.

Chattaway added: “From our accessibility testing of Inspera, our overall recommendation to universities is that – while it is not perfect – the web-based ‘Online’ version of the software is more accessible and the portal should be avoided from an accessibility point of view.”