The following tips and advice are provided as support to improve accessibility of course content published within the institutional online learning system:
Any files you upload to U of T’s Learning Portal (Blackboard) will retain your original coding and formatting. It is Blackboard’s responsibility to make sure that their navigation, communication tools and other utilities are accessible for people with disabilities, but the system does not check the content uploaded by instructors.
Course materials, including MSWord documents, multimedia presentations and links, etc. should allow all students, including those with disabilities, to access your course information.
Here is a list of quick tips to improve accessibility:
Images and Multimedia
- MSWord files containing images can be easy for sighted users to understand, but pose problems for users who make use of screen readers. Use of titles and written descriptions help provide access to those who are “listening” to pages.
- If you add images using the Blackboard HTML editor function to be sure to add the ALT text for the image.
- PDF files need extra care when authoring to ensure ALT text and text flow allow reading by users of adaptive technology. PDF files that are scanned images of pages are not readable by adaptive software. For more information see PDF Accessibility.
- Multimedia content (such as video files) can be accessed by students with hearing disabilities once they have been captioned. For audio and video as an alternative you may also provide the transcript in a separate text file next to the link to the media file.
- Avoid using very small font sizes
- Be sure that students who are colour-blind can use your site. Do not rely on colour to indicate meaning. For example, to not specify that assignments currently due by listing them in red.
- To accommodate students with learning disabilities, it is helpful to “chunk” your information using blocks of texts and headings, and to keep links organized.
Content and Organization
- When including hyperlinks use text that makes sense when read out of context. For example, avoid “click here.”
- Improve the organization of your page by including headings, lists and consistent structure.
- Use large, high contrast text to help students with low vision.
- If you include an image, add an alternative text label for that image.
Storyline and Captivate Learning Objects
We have developed a set of materials to support those involved in the development of online interactive learning objects using Articulate Storyline (Adobe Captivate to come). These self-directed learning resources provide guidance for designing for compliance of interactive learning objects with WCAG 2.0 AA Web Accessibility standards.
Though the core functions of Blackboard are technically compliant with US legislation, the communication utilities such as the discussion board and the chat feature can be troublesome for users with disabilities. Blackboard offers a Screen Reader Tutorial that gives specific instruction on use of these tools.
The discussion board is also difficult to access using a screen reader such as JAWS or text-to-speech software such as Kurzweil. For screenreader users, the complex format, including an expandable and collapsible menu for each “thread,” can become confusing, particularly when one thread has numerous replies that all use the same subject line. In addition to this, users may have difficulty using the menu which can be expanded or collapsed. Be aware that students may need extra coaching or support to become oriented in the online environment.
The customization options available in Blackboard allow you to control various elements of the course shell appearance, such as the navigation bar on the left and the colour choices. It is important to remember that some students may have difficulty working with certain appearance settings.
- Students with low vision might have trouble with low contrast colours. It is a good idea to make sure the text colour and background colour are distinct so information can be easily read.
- You have the option of changing the sidebar links from text to images (buttons). Images with text on them might pose problems for students who use screen magnifiers, as the text may become blurry and pixilated when magnified.
The assessment feature in Blackboard makes quizzing and grading easy, but students with disabilities might face certain challenges with these assessments.
- The quizzes, which may be timed, are more difficult to manage using screen readers or other adaptive technologies
- Students with learning disabilities might require more time to finish certain assessments, or may have difficulty with forced completion
As an appropriate accommodation for their disability, some students registered with the Accessibility Services may be allowed extra time to complete quizzes and tests, or other changes to the parameters.
ACCESSIBILITY TIP SHEET
Feel free to download this one page tip sheet on basic accessible design features and support sites.
For general information on the Accessibility of Blackboard products please visit the Blackboard Accessibility web site.
Other resources if you are interested in learning more about accessibility:
World Wide Web Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative
Web Accessibility In Mind
EASI – Equal Access to Software and Information
For more information on Ontario Legislation see the University of Toronto AODA web site.