Ok, so I feel like a bad Mom and I’ll tell you why. Many kids by the time they are my daughter’s age have had some experience on a computer, learning how to use a mouse and can play some simple games on it. Not to say that my daughter cannot do this, actually she probably can on her own now. There are so many websites out there that offer interactive kids games for free, and they are educational as well as fun for them. My child has been sort of deprived of this fun however, because almost all of these kids’ sites are not accessible to me as her parent. They almost always use flash media, but they do not bother to even simply tag their buttons so that I can press them, or even show her where they are. In my mind, with young children these activities are done with a parent, but what do you do if you do not have appropriate access? I needed to be able to show her what to do, what button to push and what happens when you do certain things. Now that she is old enough to read, she and I can figure things out, but there are many sites targeted to very young children that we did not get to play on together.
The PbsKids main site has improved a lot since the last time I visited it a year or so ago. The entire main site used to be all flash media, with untagged buttons and navigating as a blind parent was impossible. This PbsKids Between the Lions game works fairly well, though they could label the actual buttons with the corresponding word. As it is, you can figure out which word you want and guess the button it matches based on where the word is in the sequence. Not terribly accessible, but it can work. Likewise, in this Between the Lions story area, they could very easily tag the buttons in the flash content, as it is very hard to tell what each button does if it is labeled with only a number.
On PlayHouse Disney’s main site, the video clip plays immediately and does not stop, so if you are using a speech program, it is impossible to hear the links available. I thought I clicked on the games link, but it is not clear where to go from here to play. By the way I had to use the mouse, it was not possible to activate with the keyboard. Again, the clips play and it’s very hard to tell where I am on the site. I basically got frustrated with Disney’s site and gave up!
Another popular kid’s site is Noggin.com. Again, there is audio that plays automatically, but at least the links are tagged correctly. I chose a Wonderpets game, but could not figure out what to do and they do not give you any instructions. From there, I went to Nick JR’s site, which has the same problems as the others. The Dora game I chose from here is not free, you have to purchase the software, which most likely will not be accessible either.
On the flip side, Doodledoo.com is a very accessible educational and fun site for kids and parents. I often use this site as a good example of what can be done with flash media, showing that it can indeed be made accessible. It is refreshing to see that at least one children’s site author is concerned about accessibility for all. I think it would be great to see some others jump on the accessibility train! This not only would be of great value to children with disabilities, but disabled parents as well. Why shouldn’t I be able to enjoy this past time with my child? My child is not disabled, but because the kid websites are not accessible, the two of us cannot fully participate in the learning and fun that is out there in cyber space.