Blackboard is the recognized leader in providing education solutions that allow learners of all abilities to access and consume content. Education technology has always been part of our story but as student expectations change, we are helping to promote increased attention on the benefits of an inclusive environment.
An inclusive learning environment anticipates that no two students are alike and proactively grounds itself in the fundamentals of universal access.
There are many factors influencing the shift in education towards a more inclusive environment, including but not limited to:
- Higher expectations for accessibility in education
- Greater awareness around advocacy and the rights of the learner
- Increase in digital content delivered in a non-traditional fashion
- Lower number of students disclosing disabilities
- Institutions proactively seeking solutions with technology
Today, institutions need to understand how they measure up in terms of accessibility issues. Instructors need more insight and understanding around the impact of accessibility has on all students. Most importantly, students themselves are being blocked or seriously delayed in their learning due to the time involved in gaining access to alternative formats while completing coursework.
We are committed to continuing to work with institutions to create inclusive educational experiences for everyone. Our approach for these issues is built upon 3 main pillars:
Blackboard is fully committed to delivering product experiences that conform to global accessibility standards. To accomplish this, we focus on building a deep understanding of the diverse needs of learners and embedding this knowledge in the development teams. All products are designed and built to adhere to the WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards.
Product teams review all products internally to meet a minimum set of requirements prior to release. All products also undergo a 3rd party accessibility evaluation on a regular basis to ensure that we’re meeting or exceeding industry accessibility standards.
In addition to our product focus, we believe that a mature digital accessibility program must establish a sustainable organizational culture and strong partnerships around accessibility. Our teams are structured around developing partnerships with advocacy organizations and customer groups to ensure our focus is always meeting the needs of diverse learners.
Traditionally the conversation around accessibility stopped at platforms without a solution for tackling the content that lived within those systems. Today with Blackboard Ally, we can offer a solution that automatically checks course content for accessibility issues and uses this information to focus on these key areas of support:
- Alternative Accessible Versions – Blackboard AllyTM automatically generates alternative accessible versions for course content and makes these available to all users within the course within minutes.
- Instructor feedback – Blackboard AllyTM provides the instructor with feedback about the accessibility of their course content and guidance on how to fix accessibility issues that arise.
- Institutional Reporting – Blackboard AllyTM provides an institution wide course content accessibility report that allows for deeper insight and understanding into how the institution is performing or evolving.
With Blackboard AllyTM, we have a team of people focused on improving access to content everywhere, not just here at Blackboard. The Ally team is dedicated to ensuring every student has access to content in formats that work best for them without having to wait days or even weeks for alternatives to be made available. The comprehensive toolset within Blackboard AllyTM is a key step in the journey towards a changing mindset around digital course content.
Beyond technology-enabled courses, learners are anticipating and expecting a more holistic learning experience that is focused on their success. The entire process from registration to graduation must be accessible to allow students with varying abilities to succeed. Blackboard has developed specialized consulting services to assist institutions in understanding limitations in coursework and across the student experience that affect students with disabilities.
- eLearning Accessibility Plan – Our eLearning Accessibility plan engagement provides a set of recommendations designed to remove barriers uncovered through a discovery and review of key elements within the eLearning-related student lifecycle—recruitment, admission, financial aid, registration, student support, graduation, and alumni.
- eLearning Accessibility Course Audit – Our course audit is designed to identify barriers within eLearning courses. This solution results in course and institutional level reporting of barriers along with recommended remediation approaches. Targeted course creation training is included to provide a barrier-free eLearning experience for individuals with disabilities.
Note: The eLearning Accessibility Plan will not address physical accessibility barriers on the institution’s campus nor are the recommendations a substitute for legal counsel.
We believe an emphasis on these 3 elements can raise the bar for institutions focusing on accessibility initiatives. We are proud to be part of these conversations impacting support for truly inclusive education.