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Re: Re: Accessibility problems with Blackboard?

From: Paul Bohman <Paulb@cpd2.usu.edu>
Date: Fri, 22 Mar 2002 19:25:45 GMT
To: mscott2@msfw.com
CC: j.byrne@gcal.ac.uk, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <1016825145.498Paulb@cpd2.usu.edu>
Greg Ritter of Blackboard just gave a presentation on the 
current and future accessibility status of Blackboard 
yesterday at the CSUN Conference in Los Angeles. You can 
read a synopsis at 
http://www.csun.edu/cod/conf2002/proceedings/233.htm.

WebAIM has provided Blackboard with some consulting, 
training, and evaluation services, as has EASI, and 
Blackboard is involved with the SALT project, which helps 
to set standards for accessibility of educational content.  

This doesn't mean that the accessibility of the product has 
been perfect, as explained in the conference presentation, 
but it does mean that they are making an effort and are on 
the right track. 

Your feedback of specific points is useful as constructive 
criticism to their developers. It's always good to have 
external evaluators of products such as this. It raises the 
bar in terms of customer satisfaction. I would encourage 
you to pass on the results of your more formal study to the 
Blackboard developers (see the conference link above for 
contact info). 

Blackboard has prepared accessibility information on their 
product at http://access.blackboard.com. One of the most 
useful features of this site is the Blackboard screen 
reader tutorial. During testing, it was found that user 
orientation was one of the biggest accessibility problems, 
so the document was created to help screen readers orient 
themselves within the program. It's true that it would be 
better if the orientation problems didn't occur in the 
first place, but for current users of the product, this may 
be useful still.

Greg explained some of the improvements that are in the 
forthcoming Blackboard 6.0. They have simplified the 
interface and have created an entirely new chat/whiteboard 
program from scratch. I haven't yet been able to use it, 
but the intent was to design it with accessibility in mind. 
Hopefully it will fulfill that design goal.

Although it often takes longer to convince corporate 
entities of the need for accessibility, many of them are 
making strides in the right direction. There's nothing 
wrong with pointing out their shortcomings. There is 
nothing wrong with praising them for their successes either.

Paul Bohman


> In a project with a local community college, I have been 
working to provide 
> Blackboard-based on-line courses to students with 
disabilites. In a 
> nutshell, the accessibility of the Blackboard 5.5 system 
has been extremely 
> disappointing 
> Mike
> 
Received on Friday, 22 March 2002 14:40:14 GMT

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