Blackboard 9.1 and Accessibility

While I’m on the subject of Blackboard 9.1 I promised I’d continue to blog about the issues around upgrading. One of the most significant issues that faces any on-line provision is whether it’s accessible, and I thought I’d have a look at what version 9.1 has to offer here.

Blackboard’s upgrade manual has this to say:-

“Most of what makes Blackboard Learn so easy to use for all users, including those with assistive technologies, in under the covers with a combination of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and semantic markup (That is, well formed HTML). Additional accessibility features include..

  • Keyboard Accessible re-ordering. (So you can drag and drop content without using a mouse).
  • Personal Styles accepted (So you can change font styles and other elements in their browser, regardless of a style sheet)

So I thought I’d try and test this. Well, you can certainly change personal styles (here’s a picture of the mess I made!)

Accessible version of Blackboard 9.1
Blackboard 9 with Browser Accessibility tools applied

But the point is, that all of this rather lurid colour scheme was done through the browser’s accessibility settings not through Blackboard itself. (There is an option to use Blackboard’s styles, but that didn’t appear to have any effect when I tried it. Do you have to add your own CSS to the local installation?)  I suppose it doesn’t override them, which is a good thing, but I certainly couldn’t get the keyboard accessible re-ordering to work. That may be due to my admittedly lamentable ignorance of using assistive technologies, but it didn’t seem all that intuitive to me. Nor could I work out how to get the context sensitive help to appear.

Having said that I was able to log in, and navigate to a course without using the mouse, so there is some progress there. But that was about all I could do. (For instance, I got hopelessly lost trying to upload stuff to a site)  I think the real challenge for us is to get somebody with more experience of using assistive technologies to give it a better road test than I am able to.

  • Embedded and optional help…”