Blackboard Accessibility Interest Group Documentation

Accessibility Resources

How to create more accessible and usable content

Web content or Web applications are most accessible if they are designed with accessibility considerations. In order to design and create more usable and accessible Web content or applications, we need to know what are the accessibility issues for users from different disability groups and what are the potential universal solutions for them.

Sloan Consortium, A Consortium of Institutions and Organizations Committed to Quality Online Education is offering a workshop series titled "Web Accessibility for Online Learning: A How-To Guide for Creating Accessible Content". This 10-days online workshop will enable you to:

  1. Develop an understanding of Universal Design Principles for Online Learning.
  2. Understand how people with disabilities access the web and other formats.
  3. Develop an understanding of potential accessibility/usability issues that need to be considered in course design.
  4. Create more accessible/usable HTML-based course content.
  5. Create more accessible/usable Microsoft Word documents.

This workshop is taught by me (Hadi Rangin), Prof. Norm Coombs from EASI, and Marc Thompson from the University of Illinois. I strongly recommend this workshop to any content creators.
The workshop is based on "Web Accessibility for Online Learning: How-To Guide for Creating Accessible Online Learning Content", a project that Ken Petri and I produced for CANnect organization in 2009.

Sloan-C offers stipends to anyone who successfully completes this workshop. We offered this workshop twice in January and April 2010; the next round of this workshop will be on September 2010. For more information please visit Sloan Consortium website.

Blackboard accessibility resources

The Blackboard Accessibility Interest Group has been working with Blackboard and previously with WebCT since 2004 on improving the accessibility of their products. While for the first 3 years the effort was mainly focused on fixing selected accessibility issues on existing and already in-use products, since 2008 the focus shifted to address accessibility at the newly added features or redesigning existing modules. This shift of focus has been done for the following reasons:

  1. The average time lag between a new product is officially released until it is deployed by higher education is 12-18 month. This would mean that by the time an accessibility issues is fixed in an existing product, the institutions moved to the next release which could be very different from the old ones possibly with different issues.
  2. We strongly believe that the best time to address accessibility issues is when you are designing an application. Any accessibility fixes after it is released would be either wishy-washy or not complete.

So considering the limited resources we have we decided to focus only on future products. Since 2008 Blackboard has been taking accessibility more seriously and has dedicated knowledgeable team to ensure that new features and newly redesigned components are designed with accessibility in mind. BB-Design group, which is a sub-group of Blackboard Accessibility Interest Group meets regularly (currently on weekly basis) to discuss accessibility of future components or modules scheduled for redesign. The group performs also accessibility testing while those components are being developed.
If you are interested to join this group and contribute to the accessibility of Blackboard, visit Blackboard Design home page.

Universal Design and Accessibility for Online Courses

This is a course that has been designed by Blackboard with the help of Blackboard Documentation, a sub-group of Blackboard Accessibility Interest Group.

This course is a self-paced and self-directed course that you can install on your local blackboard server and/or study it online at Blackboard Course Sites.


Screen Reader Tutorials

Blackboard has also developed a tutorial on how to use Blackboard interface with screen reader programs. These tutorials help screen reader users to know in advance what accessibility features are present so they can utilize them.