Accessible Interactive Simulations for Science Learning

Scheduled at 9:15am in Plaza Court 2 on Friday, November 19.



  • Emily Moore, Director of Research and Accessibility, PhET Interactive Simulations, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Brett Fiedler, , University of Colorado Boulder

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


Interactive science simulations are commonly used in college courses. Here we introduce PhET Interactive Simulations, free online simulations that support learning through science inquiry. We will then share our research into creating simulations accessible through visual, auditory, and haptic displays, and resources for supporting effective use.


The PhET Interactive Simulations project ( at the University of Colorado Boulder, a resource that includes more than 130 free science and mathematics simulations, has been designing and implementing multiple new accessibility features into simulations to support access for students with disabilities - including students with visual impairments. These accessibility features include alternative input, auditory description accessible using many common screen readers, voicing, sonification (non-speech sound), and haptics. In this presentation, we will share our work developing accessible interactive physics simulations. We will introduce PhET simulations and common ways they are used in classrooms, describe our design process which includes iterative user studies with students who use screen readers, demonstrate some of our accessible simulations - including John Travoltage, and share resources that can support teachers in effective use of the simulations.


  1. Identifying challenges and current progress in accessible interactive learning resources.
  2. Using the accessible PhET Interactive Simulations.
  3. Supporting teachers in effective use of accessible interactive science simulations.

Disability Areas

Cognitive/Learning, Mobility, Vision

Topic Areas

Accessible Educational Materials, Research, Uncategorized, Web/Media Access

Speaker Bio(s)

Emily Moore

Dr. Moore is the Director of Research and Accessibility for the PhET Interactive Simulations project at the University of Colorado Boulder. Dr. Moore conducts research on simulation design, student simulation use, and student learning with simulations. She also leads research and development efforts to increase the accessibility of PhET simulations. Her work in accessibility includes advancing the design and implementation of multimodal simulations, with modalities including alternative input, auditory description, and sonification to support access to PhET simulations for students with visual or mobility impairments. This has resulted in the publication of PhET’s first simulations accessible to blind students. Dr. Moore has authored 30 journal articles, book chapters, and conference proceedings in the areas of science education, educational technology, and accessibility. She has also directed teacher professional development videos, and co-designed numerous classroom activities with K-12 teachers and higher education faculty – available for use through the PhET website.

Brett Fiedler

Dr. Fiedler has extensive experience in informal science learning environments, and working with teachers and youth in environments with hands-on inquiry learning. He investigates the use of auditory display and tactile devices to support learning for students with and without disabilities, through inclusive design approaches including co-design in partnering schools with students with disabilities.