Accessibility Session – Blackboard World Day 2

Accessible Blackboard: It’s Not All Talk!
Presenters: JoAnna Hunt & Hadi Rangin

Blackboard has worked with clients to build a product that is accessible to all users from the get go. Although it is important for course developers to be aware of accessibility in terms of how they put together their content, it is also important for the shell (in this case Blackboard) to be accessible by all users including those who use assistive technologies.

Four major categories were covered: consistent navigation, reduced clutter, flexible presentation options, and help when and where you need it in the application.

Consistent Navigation

Navigation and orientation are the biggest challenges for keyboard users and screen reader users. (Did you know that in the past Blackboard used something like 14 frames!) By having a simple page structure that is consistent through a course improve students’ interaction and increase their efficiency. Blackboard implemented a consistent structure to help this; there is only one heading 1 which identifies main content, heading 2 are for menus and the main navigation, heading 3 are user for major page sections and unordered lists preceded by a heading 2 group related items together. Additionally, breadcrumbs are used heavily throughout courses which helps provide users with a context for where they are within a course.

My Places was introduced in the first version of NG. It gives one click access to common links from anywhere withing the system, in courses, content, community areas, anywhere in the system!

Keyboard interaction is critical to users who heavily interact with forms, website and pages with their keyboard. Backboard used these familiar keyboard interactions so that users do not have to learn something new in order to use Blackboard Learn.

Reduced Clutter

Simple is always better for all users.

It is valuable to be able to remove or close elements that a user does not need and give them the ability to expand and collapse as needed. I definitely need to become more aware of the various elements that collapse and expand and how to turn elements on and off for streamline a course.

Flexible Presentation

All users, faculty and students need to be able to customize and optimize the Blackboard interface to their needs. Blackboard will respond to the settings that a user has already set on their computer; for example, if a user has selected the setting for their Windows or Mac to use a high contrast setting then Blackboard will respond to that and display in high contrast. Additionally, Blackboard allows all users to customize their color scheme.

Page layouts, faculty may change the layout for each page or folder in their course to help remove distractions and focus students on specific areas of the course. This is an area for us to keep in mind during training.

Targeted content – adaptive release – to provide supplemental materials or alternatives only to users who need them. This is one method that faculty can use to keep students within the context of their course yet target specific content to the students that need it.

Help When You Need It

In every release, Blackboard is continually looking for ways to make the help more accessible and useful. One of the interesting things to know is that a user can turn some of the help on and off if it is becoming “noisy” to them. As trainers, we definitely need to stay up to date with the latest in the help features made available directly in the system and showing users how to access the help. If there are ways to customize it, turn the help on or off, showing our users how to take advantage of those customizations.

Action for me: Check out exactly what the latest is in SP6 as far as the availability of help and accessibility features of Blackboard.


About Meegan
Meegan has over fifteen years experience working in higher education. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Statistics from Western Michigan University and a Master of Education with an emphasis on Instructional Technology from American InterContinental University Online. She is currently the Instructional Technologist/Designer at Grand Rapids Community College where her main focus is helping faculty to develop and deliver quality online and hybrid courses.

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