Blackboard Learn 9.1, the University's primary learning management system, is built to meet national web accessibility standards.* This means the platform is designed for full participation, regardless of a user's age, ability, or situation. Below are some of the features that let Blackboard reach those standards.
HTML and CSS Coding
Behind the scenes in Blackboard are logically structured HTML pages with consistent header tags and clear navigational options, such as Quick Links, that allow users to understand where specific content is located in the course and jump directly to it. Blackboard's HTML and CSS code structure is easily deciphered by screen readers and navigable with a keyboard.
Control of Visual Content
Although visual content can be rich in Blackboard, users have the option to minimize the course menu and other areas where "visual noise" may be a problem. Some controls, such as items in the course planner, are automatically minimized until users mouse over or click the item, reducing the amount of content seen at one time.
Users with high contrast settings activated on their local computers can display Blackboard pages in high contrast, as well, by opening their Global Navigation menu and choosing High Contrast Settings. In the same Global Navigation area, users can choose to enlarge text and modify My Dashboard color schemes and module displays.
While the Blackboard platform is designed to be as accessible as possible to all users, some accessibility issues must be addressed by the instructor or the person loading content. For example, when sharing an image file, users will be prompted to add a title or alternative text. This provides context and gives meaning to an image that users may not be able to see, but it's up to the instructor or person loading content to add the appropriate alt text when prompted.
Similarly, when adding video content, the instructor or person uploading the video is responsible for making it accessible with captioning. Some external videos are pre-captioned, while others can have captioning added through another service. Videos created by the user in YouTube, for example, can be captioned within YouTube. Faculty or departments may consider using a captioning service, such as 3Play Media, to have captioning done off campus.
PDFs, Word, and Other Text Documents
Scanning an article often makes it unreadable by assistive technologies, such as screen readers, as the scanner renders text as an image. Products such as Adobe's Acrobat Pro can detect text, allow editing, and re-format as an accessible document. Microsoft Word and other word processors also have ways to check for accessibility and walk users through improving the document. Again, making sure a document is accessible is the responsibility of the person creating or sharing the content.
Alternative Testing Options
Instructors can create test exception settings that meet individuals' documented needs, such as giving more test time, offering alternative testing locations, or other providing other necessary accommodations.
Student Progress Tracking
With the Retention Center, instructors can set up rules to monitor student performance indicators, such as the student's last login, incomplete assignments, and overall participation. This lets instructors quickly determine who is struggling in the class and reach out to improve performance before it becomes a deeper problem.
Students can also monitor their own performance and take proactive steps to stay on top of coursework. For instance, Blackboard's calendar lets users set up deadline reminders that send alerts for upcoming due dates. The Global Navigation menu also allows users to manage notifications for each course, such as electing to receive mobile notifications for course announcements and upcoming test dates.
Flexible Communication Options
Wherever there is a text editor in Blackboard, such as in Discussion Board threads or Blog posts, users have the option to record a video response with their web cam and microphone and either attach or link the recording. This option makes communicating possible even when typing is difficult, and it also provides an opportunity to bring in various forms of communication, such as speech or sign language.
Additional Resources and Support
If you're ever uncertain if your course or instructional content meets accessibility standards, contact a member of the ITS Instructional Design & Learning Technologies group or SIUE's Disability Support Services office.
For more information on Blackboard accessibility features for students, visit the student resource page on Blackboard's website. For more information on Blackboard accessibility features for instructors, visit the instructor resource page on Blackboard's website.
* From Blackboard's website: "Blackboard measures and evaluates accessibility levels using two sets of standards: Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act issued from the United States federal government and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) issued by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)."