The March meeting of the SLATE Group was held this past week (March 20, 2013) at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove IL. The topic, Issues and Concerns of Accessibility to Technology in Teaching and Learning, was described by Ken Sadowski (Founder of the SLATE Group) as a constantly moving curve of importance that seems to once again be on the rise. I was invited to join this meeting to speak about Blackboard’s commitment to accessibility and the improvements made with in Blackboard Learn over the last twelve months.

As a Blackboard designer, I know how important accessibility is to the experience of using any product; we incorporate it in everything we design. The recent issuance of a conformance statement for Blackboard Learn SP11 against the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA by a third-party, is an exciting accomplishment and something I was very pleased to talk about with the SLATE Group. But the real take away from the meeting for me was the true passion and commitment shown by members of the SLATE group to ensure equal access to technology in education for users with any type of disability – declared or not.

The two hours of the formal meeting were spent discussing a variety of issues and concerns facing Higher Education. Three topics characterized the meeting for me:

  1. The various types of disabilities that students (and staff) may have and how this can impact their use of technology and their overall educational experiences.
  2. Strategies that would allow Disability Services staff to partner with IT and Academic Technology staff to help provide accessible experiences for students, especially for those that do not wish to declare their disability openly.
  3. Best practices for training teachers on how to build accessible content and collecting resources that can be shared across the community – not just within a single school.

One of the disability services team members from Waubonsee commented that her biggest desire in educating faculty about building accessible courses and using accessible technology was to ‘become obsolete’. To have helped drive access to technology and education to a place where the need for accommodation for individual students is unnecessary. Now that’s a goal worth striving for!

To learn more about Blackboard’s commitment to accessibility and get updates on the latest improvements within Blackboard Learn go to our website: http://www.blackboard.com/accessibility. Find a Blackboard User Group and get involved in the conversation!

 

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