Hi, my name is JoAnna Hunt and I work in Blackboard’s User Experience department. User Experience is just what it sounds like, making sure the experience of using our product is easy and fun for all users; and that includes those with disabilities. The best part of my job is working with clients to understand exactly how they are using Bb Learn and what they are trying to accomplish, and then figuring out how to translate that into the best experience for everyone. Over the past two years I have had a special focus on Accessibility. It's given me the opportunity to work with and learn from accessibility experts and support staff at client institutions and other partner organizations; attend conferences focused on accessibility; talk to every day users in focus groups and design sessions; and participate in industry discussions around emerging standards – such as the IMS Access For All Standards. But most importantly, I have been able to use this knowledge, experience and feedback to help move product accessibility initiatives forward and improve the overall Blackboard Learn experience for everyone.

This past November my colleague and I had the opportunity to attend the 2009 Accessing Higher Ground conference hosted by the University of Colorado. We attended the conference to learn more about what’s going on in accessibility and to present the recent work Blackboard has collaborated on with the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) and Deque Systems. As expected, we learned a great deal about building accessible software and the impacts of assistive technology. But, we also came away with a much deeper understanding of not only the needs of users with disabilities but the needs of those who support them. This understanding was the inspiration for our new series of blog posts about accessibility and I'm really excited to get started.

I will be sharing more with you about features in Bb Learn that go beyond the everyday technical interactions with assistive technology (such as JAWS) and simply help improve the overall experience for users. Topics will range from navigation tips for students using screen readers and keyboard commands to methods for support staff to build and deliver alternative content to students with cognitive disabilities. Our goal is to provide a list of tools that can aid both users with disabilities and the on-campus staff that supports them. I hope you'll follow our progress and offer comments and suggestions about things you found helpful; things you have ideas about; or work that you are doing that us User Experience folks should be aware of.

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