Accessibility and Blackboard

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Overview

This page provides an overview of accessibility resources and references in relation to teaching and learning in Blackboard Learn, the University of Windsor's Learning Management System (LMS).

What is Accessibility?

Accessibility refers to "the degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to be used by all intended audiences" (Council of Ontario Universities, 2013). When courses are designed and delivered with a focus on accessibility, more students from diverse identities and abilities are able to engage and to participate meaningfully with the course content. The approach of designing and deliver courses that are inclusive and proactive to meeting the needs of all is rooted in the frameworks of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Universal Instructional Design (UID). For further reading about incorporating UDL and UID, review the UDL/UID Resources.

Web Accessibility

Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) guidelines, all internet websites and web content must conform with the World Wide Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A and Level AA requirements. WCAG 2.0 is an accessibility guidelines for organizations to comply with in order to ensure every element on their website and web content are as accessible as possible to everyone. You can learn more about the recommendations for implementing accessibility principles by reviewing the WCAG 2 Checklist.

Blackboard Learn's Accessibility

As a LMS, Blackboard is WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliant. Blackboard offers their WCAG 2.0 Level AA Compliance document for review.Blackboard also shares their Voluntary Product Accessibility Template VPAT 2.0 document which is available for download. While Blackboard is accessible as a LMS, it is important to recognize that instructors and their assistants, staff and students can upload content to their courses and organizations that might not meet best practices for accessibility.

Best Practices for Web Accessibility

Below, you will find five tips for best practices focused on ensuring accessibility in digital content on Blackboard or beyond.

Best Practices for Web Accessibility
Practice Description Tips
Use Meaningful Text Meaningful text is helpful for users to differentiate and comprehend information when navigateing pages, subtitles, and links. Headings should outline the content in the section or page clearly.

Hyperlinks (links) lead a user to another area of the site, files or external websites/files. When incorporating links to other content areas in the site/files or external sources/files, the link text should be descriptive of the destination. When adding a link in the content editor on Blackboard, users are prompted to add a title to link to further clarify the link. For more information on adding a title to a link in Blackboard, visit the Creating Descriptive Hyperlinks article.

  • Avoid using “click here” or other vague text for hyperlinks.
  • Add the type and size of files as a part of the hyperlink text to help the reader know where they are going and what to expect.
    • For example, use "EDUC 1200 - Week 1 Lecture Slides [PowerPoint, 25 MB]" rather than "Lecture 1".
  • Avoid using general names of files and items in Blackboard and provide a descriptive title for students that is meaningful
    • For example, use "Sept 21 - Week 2 - Introduction to Behaviourism Lecture Slides" rather than "Class 1 slides".
Have Transcripts & Captions for Multimedia Captioning is the process of using time-synchronized text to convey all spoken content from television, visual screens, or any other visual display. Additionally, captioning incorporates non-speech descriptions that articulate sounds like indistinct or background speech, music, and even dialogues.

Transcripts are a text version of all of the words spoken in a video. Captioned videos can be used to create verbatim transcripts. Transcripts can be a useful to both for instructors and for students. Transcripts can aid in notetaking as well as reviewing content covered in a video. For more information about captioning and transcripts, visit the Captioning Videos article.

  • Ensure all pre-recorded content is shared using an accessible video streaming platform that includes at minimum automatic captioning.
    • YouTube and Microsoft Stream are examples of two available and accessible video streaming platforms for UWindsor faculty, staff, and students.
  • Review automatic captions to check that the text matches the audio to ensure that all students have access to the correct information.
  • Consider creating transcripts of videos to share with students to augment video lectures and to aid in notetaking for students.
Use Colour Carefully Contrast between foreground and background colours is important to ensure accessibility in viewing content (text, buttons, background or other elements). If contrast is not optimal, users may not be able to read content.

Colour use should be taken in consideration when using colours on a web page. Some individuals have difficulty reading bright colours. Colour can be helpful to convey meaning, but it should be avoided as the only manner of conveying meaning. This is relevant for users that may have difficulty in perceiving differences between colours including users with colour blindness. For more information on colour blindness and ensuring colour use is inclusive of all users, please visit WebAim's Colour Blindness article.

  • Use an contrast checker like WebAIM: Contrast Checker to check colours being used in foreground and background.
  • Use an accessibility browser extension like WebAIM: WebAccessibilityEvaluation (WAVE) Tool) to check for contrast accessibility across a Blackboard page.
  • Try to use high contrast choices (dark text on light background or bright text on dark background).
  • Use elements like asterisks(*) or elements to indicate important information in addition to colour.
Use Alternative Text for Images and Media Alternative Text (alt text) is used to describe images or media so users who use screen reader are able to access information in the image. Any image which shares infomation with the user should have an alternative text associated with it.

In Blackboard, alternative text can be added to images that are uploaded to provide users with a text description of the image. For more information, visit Blackboard's Image Setting Article. For more information on adding alt text in Office products, review the Microsoft Accessibility Courses described in detail below.

  • Describe the image as specifically as possible while keeping the description concise. For example, use the alt text of "a boy sitting at table eating" rather than "a boy".
  • Include alt text for complex images like graphs, charts, diagrams, and maps. Descriptions for these complex images should include a short identification and further explaination of important information. For more information about creating descriptions of complex images, visit the Web Accessibility Initiave - Complex Images Article.
Make Instructions Clear and Concise Instructions should be provided in a simple and direct format which describes clearly any input or requirements of the user.

Content should use clear language which utilizes list formatting when possible, short paragraphs, and multimedia (images, audio, video or symbols) that help clarify meaning when possible.

  • Use the full form of any acronymns on first use to avoid any confusion around what it refers to.
    • For example, the first time that this article referred to the term "Learning Management System" the associated acronynm "LMS" followed in brackets.
  • Use bullet points, numbered lists, or other organizational elements to help organize information in a clear and concise manner for easier navigation for users.
Adapted from W3C Web Accessibility Initiative - Tips for Getting Started with Web Accessibility and WebAIM - Accessibility Tips

Resources for Creating Accessible Documents and Webcontent

Below, you will find a list of resources to help support building a practical understanding of best practices for creating accessible documents and web content. If you are interested in learning more about ensuring your video content is accessible, please review the Captioning Vidoes Wiki article for an overview of best practices for captioning with current UWindsor resources.

UWindsor Resources

Office of Human Rights, Equity and Accessibility

The University of Windsor's Office of Human Rights, Equity and Accessibility (OHREA) supports campus with creating an accessible environment for working and learning.

  • Creating Accessible Documents Reference cards: OHREA has created a series of quick reference cards that are great to have on hand when creating digital resources on a social media site, or with print materials or when using applications such as Microsoft Word, Email/Outlook, Microsoft PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat, or Microsoft Excel.

External Resources

Accessible Campus

Accessible Campus is the Council of Ontario Universities accessibility resource website. Accessible Campus offers an overview of accessibility, relevenat references, and tools and resources for administrators and educators working in Ontario higher education settings.

Microsoft Accessibility Courses

Microsoft Office has developed a series of short self-paced courses focused on developing an understanding of the accessible features and practices within with the Office 365 suite of products. Each course has a set of lessons and practices tasks that focus on best accessible practices.

  • Outlook: Over three lessons, this course provides an overview of how to create more accessible email messages in Outlook, improving image accessibility in emails, and adding accessible lists and tables.
  • Word: Over seven lessons, this course provides an overview of how to check document accessibility in Word, and improve document accessibility using alt text, headings, accessible links, tables and file names.
  • Powerpoint Over five lessons, this course provides an overview of creating accessible slides in Powerpoint, incorporating accessible colours, saving slides in alternative formats and designing slides for individuals with dyslexia.
  • Excel Over three lessons, this course provides an overview of using accessible templates in Excel, and considerations for creating accessible tables and charts.

WebAIM

WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind) is a wonderful online resource for learning about and maintaining web material.

Further Reading

Related Articles

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We are constantly trying to improve the information in this Wiki.
If you notice any errors or omissions with this material, please advise the LMS Team or submit a Service Request at http://www.uwindsor.ca/bbhelp.