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PRACTICES FOR ACCESSIBLE BLACKBOARD COURSES



Introduction

Blackboard already adheres to a number of standards and certifications regarding accessibility. Particularly the WCAG 2.0 Standards issued by the W3C and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of the US Federal Government. An explanation of this commitment can be found at the ‘Accessibility at Blackboard’ page. Blackboard’s accessibility for the blind and visually impaired has been tested primarily with the use of the screen reader program JAWS which is currently the most widely used screen reader application. This also means that most resources for accessibility in this area are based on interactions with JAWS and the Blackboard platform.

This article will cover how to publish accessible content to Blackboard and highlight some of the tools available to create an accessible course experience. If you haven’t already, it is recommended to first review the article Accessibility Guide for Online Course Content as a foundation.

Blackboard Article on Accessibility Features


Blackboard Navigation Shortcuts

One of the crucial features for navigation accessibility of Blackboard are navigation shortcuts.

Global Navigation Menu

This menu provides links to areas concerning institution level navigation, such as personal settings, courses, and so on. Additional Information on the global navigation menu.
Shortcut Command: SHIFT + ALT + M

Quick Links

This provides an outline of links for headings or sections within blackboard. Target and select course menu to access where the majority of the links to our course content and tools reside.
Shortcut Command: SHIFT + ALT + L

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Example of the Blackboard Quick Links Menu

Figure 1: Example of the Blackboard Quick Links Menu

Mozilla Firefox is the recommended browser for optimum compatibility with both Blackboard and JAWS. Mozilla Firefox Browser also comes with a set of navigation key shortcuts.


Adaptive Release

Content and activities in blackboard can be set to have specific release rules for a particular learner or group of users to accommodate their learning needs. For example, this means you can set particular due date for assignments or testing parameters.

Learn more about adaptive release at the Blackboard article, ‘Basic and Advanced Adaptive Release’.
Learn more about setting due dates in tests and quizzes for individual students.


Creating Accessible Content with the Blackboard Content Editor

The Content Editor for Blackboard is a tool that assists with automatically marking-up content with HTML code. Mark-up code wraps content with semantic meaning, which assistive software can use to communicate the kind of role that content is serving.
For example, a paragraph is marked-up (or wrapped) with <p> element tags:
<p>paragraph 1 content</p>
<p>paragraph 2 content</p>

The following sections will guide you in making sure your content is appropriately marked-up and consequently, more accessible.


TEXT

Accessibility Guide for Text

When you are writing content in with the content editor, blocks of text are marked-up as paragraphs by default, with Arial at 12pt size. This default font family and size are recommended for visually accessible body text. This can be managed with the ‘Format’, ‘Font-Family’, and ‘Font-Size’ drop down selections from the content editor menu. See Figure 2.
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The ‘Format’, ‘Font-Family’ and ‘Font-Size’ drop down menus in the editor toolbar.

Figure 2. The ‘Format’, ‘Font-Family’ and ‘Font-Size’ drop down menus in the editor toolbar.

To add spacing between lines of text:
  1. Highlight the targeted text.
  2. Selecting the ‘CSS’ tool from the editor menu.
  3. Adjust the ‘Line Height’ value.
    • Using ‘ems’ as the size unit is recommended. An ‘em’ is equivalent to 1 line height based on the font-size value of the text.

Blackboard article ‘Work With Text’ for more information.


HEADINGS

Accessibility Guide for Headings

To designate sections of content use headings. This can be done by selecting either ‘Heading’, ‘Sub Heading 1’, or ‘Sub Heading 2’ from the editor menu’. See Figure 3.
BbHeadings.png
Selecting a Heading format from the editor toolbar

Figure 3. Selecting a Heading format from the editor toolbar.


LISTS

Accessibility Guide for Lists

Unordered or ordered listed content must also be marked appropriately. Paragraph content with a bullet character, numeral, letter, and so on at the start of the paragraph are not adequate substitutes. Screen readers will communicate content as part of a list structure when tagged appropriately.

To create or designate an ordered or unordered list, do the following:
  1. Place cursor where you want to start your list, or highlight the intended listed content.
  2. From the top row of the content editor toolbar, select either the ‘Bullet List’ or ‘Number List’. Each has a selection of styles to choose from.

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Selecting the ‘Bullet List’ and ‘Number List’ tools from the editor toolbar

Figure 4. Selecting the ‘Bullet List’ and ‘Number List’ tools from the editor toolbar.


ANCHORS AND LINKS

Accessibility Guide for Links

The editor has an anchor tool, which can be used to mark an area of content that can later be targeted with a hyperlink. For example, you can place an anchor next to a heading or an image and create a link to this location in a different part of your content. Employing anchors will also aid in the ease of navigation of your content.

To create and link to anchors, do the following:
  1. Place cursor where you want to place the anchor.
  2. From the bottom row of the content editor toolbar, select the ‘Anchor’ tool.
  3. In the ‘Insert/Edit Anchor’ window designate an ‘Anchor Name’.
  4. Highlight the text you want to link to the anchor.
  5. Select the ‘Insert/Edit Link’ button from the second row of the content editor toolbar.
  6. In the ‘Insert/Edit Link’ window, select from the ‘Anchors’ drop-down selection the anchor name you want to link to.
BbAddLinkAnchor.png
Selecting the Anchor and Link tools from the editor toolbar

Figure 5. Selecting the Anchor and Link tools from the editor toolbar.


BLOCKQUOTES

Accessibility Guide for Blockquotes

To designate text as a blockquote, do the following:
  1. Place cursor where you want to start your list, or highlight the intended block of text.
  2. Select from the third row of the content editor toolbar.
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Selecting the ‘Blockquote’ tool from the editor toolbar

Figure 6. Selecting the ‘Blockquote’ tool from the editor toolbar.


IMAGES

Accessibility Guide for Images

To insert images into your content and provide alt-text, do the following:
  1. Place cursor where you want to insert your image.
  2. Add your image using the ‘Browse My Computer’ or ‘Browse Course’ tools to designate the image source location.
  3. Provide alt-text for the image using the ‘Image Description’ field.

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Selecting the ‘Image’ tool from the editor toolbar

Figure 7. Selecting the ‘Image’ tool from the editor toolbar.

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Adding Alt-text to an image

Figure 8. Adding Alt-text to an image.


TABLES

Accessibility Guide for Tables

To add a table with a Summary and Caption, do the following:
  1. Select the ‘Insert / Edit Table’ tool from the third row of the editor toolbar.
  2. In the ‘Insert / Edit Table’ window, in the ‘General’ tab, checkmark ‘Table Caption’.
    • Selecting this option will generate a blank row at the top of the table where you can fill in the table caption.
  3. Under the ‘Advanced’ tab fill in the ‘Summary’ field.
    • The table Summary serves a similar function as alt-text does for images.

To designate a table row or cell as a header, do the following:
  1. Highlight the table row or cell you want to designate as a header.
  2. Right-click the highlighted cell or row.
  3. Select the items ‘Cell’ > ‘Table Cell Properties’ or ‘Row’ > ‘Table Row Properties’.
  4. In the Table Cell or Row Properties window, select ‘Header’ from the ‘Row Type’ drop-down selection menu.

BbAddTable.png
Figure 9. Selecting the ‘Insert / Edit Table’ tool, and other table editing tools from the editor toolbar.

For more information on creating and editing tables, review the Blackboard article ‘Add tables in the editor’.