Advancing Learning through Accessibility

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We’re on a mission to advance learning for all. Read unique perspectives from Blackboard leaders on how this guides everything we do—from driving innovation in EdTech to improving accessibility and increasing student engagement.

Over the past several years, we have been on a journey to help institutions—and the broader education community—create a culture of accessibility and inclusion. We’ve been inspired by the innovative ways that this community has come together to tackle some of the toughest accessibility challenges through innovation, inclusive pedagogies, and accessible course design, to ultimately improve the educational experience for all learners. While institutions across the globe are at various places on the path to accessible and inclusive learning environments, as former educators, accessibility experts, and techies, we are personally invested in helping to accelerate their course.  

Accessible content should extend to all corners of the learning ecosystem. We believe that this begins with an established and pervasive culture of inclusion. To support this effort, we’ve 1) doubled down on expanding the Blackboard Ally suite of accessibility tools to extend beyond the LMS to websites, external resources, and third-party content from publishers and 2) ramped up our contributions to the research community by publishing new insights measuring the impact of inclusive education on learner success through our Inclusive Learning Research Series

Here are some of the primary ways we are helping institutions create more inclusive educational experiences for all learners at every stage of the education journey:   

By focusing on inclusive education across the globe 

Geography shouldn’t be a determining factor when it comes to who has access to inclusive education. We’ve increased our global footprint and ensured that Blackboard Ally for LMS is available to instructors and students around the globe by making the tool available in 21 languages. Our most recent update includes making the Ally user interface available in Arabic, and soon we will be making Ally’s alternative formats available for Arabic. This establishes a solid foundation for expanding our support for other right-to-left languages. 

As learning environments become increasingly more digital, we believe a more personalized approach paired with more accessible content beyond the LMS improves all learners’ educational experience. With this in mind, we launched Blackboard Ally for Web, and more recently, Blackboard Ally as a Service, a standalone API that will enable institutions as well as other third-party content providers to assess and improve the accessibility of content housed outside of their LMS and public-facing websites. The goal is to help institutions and content providers further empower all students by providing them with digital educational content that is consistently accessible at every touchpoint.   

By helping institutions make datadriven decisions 

It’s critical that institutions know where they stand when it comes to the accessibility of their learning environment. We empower administrators to continuously improve the quality of the educational experience for all learners by offering robust reporting and analytics via Blackboard Ally. Ally generates accessibility scores at both the course-and institutional-level with insights needed to triage support. Administrators can use these actionable insights to create a data-informed strategy for improving the accessibility of their institutions at scale. In an effort to expand these insights, we will be releasing Department Level Reporting in the Institutional Report, allowing administrators to more efficiently organize analysis at the department- or college-level, as well as delegate access to reporting data to academic leaders in those areas.  

By encouraging inclusive course design 

Just as instructors are always there to support their students, it is important to support faculty on the journey to a more inclusive course. Blackboard Ally helps institutions scale professional development by raising instructor awareness of accessibility issues in their courses and providing feedback and guidance to correct them. The Course Accessibility Report provides instructors with more detailed insight into their course content and prevalent issues and gives them a roadmap for improving course content. 

With the recent widespread transition to remote instruction, it’s evident now more than ever that all types of learners—regardless of need and ability—benefit from a connected learning environment that prioritizes inclusion. By innovating and broadening the reach and scope of our accessibility tools, we are confident that together, we can create a more accessible and inclusive and equitable global learning community.