Accessibility isn’t a new topic for most software companies or academic institutions, and it certainly isn’t new for Blackboard. The software and education industries have been talking about it for some time, but in many segments of the population it is still an emerging topic. Most organizations have only a small number of people who pay particular attention to the accessibility of the products they build and use. And the general population is sometimes unaware of the challenges facing users with disabilities and the technology we use every day. At Blackboard, we’ve joined the community to help change that. From being the first LMS to achieve certification from the National Federation of the Blind to providing grants for research in accessibility for students, we are part of the change, and we’re seeing the conversation grow rapidly.
Lately we’ve seen a significant increase in the number and types of conversations and activity happening around accessibility.
- Clients are asking for more detailed information about the accessibility of all Blackboard products and services.
- Assistive technology vendors are reaching out to us looking to help ensure their tools work well with Blackboard products and to jointly offer some information about how our tools work together.
- Colleagues and partners who are developing tools to extend Blackboard products are seeking to learn more about designing and testing for accessibility and activities that they need to be doing to help ensure positive experiences for users with disabilities.
- External training organizations are looking for information about Learning Management System accessibility and specifically about how to provide accessible education experiences for students and teachers alike.
So why now, what’s changing? My theory is that accessibility is moving into the forefront of the conversation, especially in education. As we continue to help bring awareness to the challenges faced by users with disabilities, not just with LMS tools but also with the content that is created and delivered within them, we’re seeing more people beginning to understand and ask questions. More people are getting engaged in ensuring delightful experiences with educational technology for users of all abilities and they want to know more about what that really means. I for one am very excited to see the increase in buzz around accessibility and the continued attention that we can help bring to this important topic.
If you want to know more about how Blackboard is designing accessible experiences and what you can do to ensure content within your courses is meeting expectations check out the two-part Accessible Blackboard Webinar starting this March.
Check the Blackboard Website regularly for resources and updated information about the accessibility of each release including details about what’s changed and what’s still challenging for users with disabilities.