Making your content accessible in Blackboard

What is accessibility?

Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the web. More specifically, web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the web. Tutors need to consider the presentation of online learning materials since some learning materials may actually restrict access. Well designed content should be accessible to everyone no matter how an individual may access it.

Students access course work in different ways and under a variety of constraints. Users with disabilities frequently rely on hardware and software to access web content. These tools, known as assistive technologies sit ‘on top of’ the web browser and help the user to read the content of a web page, they range from screen readers to touch screens and head pointers. Blind users of the web frequently use software called a screen reader to read the contents of a web page out loud. Two common screen readers are JAWS from Freedom Scientific and Window-Eyes from GW Micro. Screen readers enable users to hear, rather than read, the contents of a web page; however, a screen reader can read only text, and the alt text of images.

Blackboard and accessibility

Blackboard is a web-based application that requires a web browser to access it. The Blackboard Learning System addresses accessibility, meeting US section 508 web standards. Further information on Blackboard and accessibility can be found at the following link:

Content Usage Guide

The following table demonstrates a best practice for developing web content in Blackboard.

Use What do I need to do? Why?
Text Avoid large blocks of italic text. This can appear 'wobbly' to some individuals and therefore difficult to read.
Use relative font sizes in your HTML. Users will be able to alter font size on their browser set-up.
Avoid moving, blinking and auto-refreshing text Low-vision users find these hard to deal with. Flickering screens can promote epileptic attacks. Students with dyslexia, low vision and screen reader users may find these difficult to read.
Avoid using large blocks of CAPITALISATION. Some users find this difficult to read.
Images If an image is essential, insert meaningful textual description. It's important to use both images and text, but its better not to use images of text. Use text with a style applied to it than an image containing text. Screen readers will pick up the ALT text of the image, this text should convey what is important or the purpose of the image.
Take care with animated images. Users of screen magnification software may find difficulty in reading images if the information is moving around.
Underlining Don't underline large blocks of text. Underlining represents hyper-linked text. Large blocks of underlining can be confusing for users of screen reader software.
Headings Use headings appropriately. Appropriately written headings will make navigation easier. It's good to use HTML header tags, for example H1, H2, H3, and to construct the document like an outline - the more structured the page is, the easier it is to read. It is important that these tags are used in the correct order (i.e. H1 before H2).
Links Avoid using more than 10 links on an individual page. For the blind user, the process of scanning links is linear and therefore slow. The use of too many links on a page can be very frustrating for the user.
Don't use 'click here' for a link. This can be confusing for screen readers. Instead use a description like: 'go to Blackboard'.

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Using accessible materials

The following table demonstrates a best practice for uploading web content into Blackboard.

Type of upload Accessibility Issues Solutions
Images Screen readers cannot read images. Provide a textual representation of the image for people accessing the page in a non-graphic way (e.g. text only, or speech). This can be done by adding an alternative text attribute or ALT text. This text should convey what is important or the purpose of the image.
Graphs/ Charts Some screen readers are unable to read them. Provide a textual representation of the graph or chart so that it is meaningful and logical to students.
Tables Screen readers are only able to read simple tables. Do not use tables unnecessarily. Keep all tables simple and make line-by-line reading meaningful. Screen readers will read from the top left cell of the table to the bottom right cell.
PDF documents (Adobe Acrobat) Some screen readers are not able to read PDF files or a user might not have plug-in. Always ensure that HTML texts are also available and provide a link to download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader.
MS Word/Excel documents User may not have Microsoft Office software installed. Always ensure that HTML texts are also available and provide a link to download the free Microsoft Office Viewers.
PowerPoint Presentations PowerPoint files will be inaccessible to users of screen readers. Provide alternative transcripts where possible.
Multimedia Screen readers will not be able to read multimedia files. Provide alternative transcripts where possible.

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