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Re: WebCT Version 2

From: Laurie Harrison <laurie.harrison@utoronto.ca>
Date: Thu, 09 Dec 1999 10:38:48 -0800
Message-ID: <384FF738.CC4B70D5@utoronto.ca>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Hi All:

A little info on the WebCT Version 2 accessibility front - The ATRC at
UofToronto has been using WebCT for some time, and have had ongoing
dialogue with WebCT. We have expressed our concerns and encouraged
improvements to the interface, as it is a very popular product in
Canada, and increasingly in the US.  Version 2 reflects some
improvement, but there is much work still to be done. To this end, WebCT
is targeting Version 3, which is to be released in June 2000 for
additional changes to resolve access issues.  In the meantime, educators
should use WebCT Version 2 with caution regarding access.

Earlier incarnations of WebCT provided no opportunity to include ALT
text in pages generated by the courseware, and the bulletin board/mail
systems were a complex three frame structure that was fairly awkward for
anyone to use, even more difficult for a screen reader. Many of the
other student tools have also had a framed presentation and the chat is

The new Version 2 allows the designer of the course to add ALT text to
images generated by the courseware. The new site map feature will help
users with navigation. Also the new mail/communication tools provide
pop-up windows as an alternative to frames. We have advised WebCT about
problems with change of focus, as doing so without advising the user
generates a whole new set of problems. Strategies to improve the access
to student tools / navigation are in the works - hopefully we'll see
more in Version 3 in June.

With regard to the Help files, WebCT consulted with the ATRC (note our
name appears at the bottom of the Help file section on accessible
design.) A brief explanation of adaptive technology is followed by a
list of simple techniques, based on WAI guidelines as they may be
applied in this context.  We have been advised that the help files
cannot be updated until the next version is released, however, if anyone
has feedback on them for the next iteration, we would appreciate it.
They are online at:

We recognize that there is still a long way to go before WebCT is
completely accessible, as is the case with all of the major courseware
packages of this type currently on the market. However, we are pleased
that WebCT acknowledges the accessibility issues, and is actively
pursuing development of a more accessible interface.

Laurie Harrison

Laurie Harrison
Resource Coordinator
Centre for Academic and Adaptive Technology, Information Commons
University of Toronto

(416) 946-3778
Received on Thursday, 9 December 1999 10:39:22 UTC

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