Blackboard Accessibility Interest Group

Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services (CITES) and Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES)

University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign

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Teleconference Details

Date: 2008-05-05

Time: 2:30 PM EDT; 1:30 PM CDT; 12:30 PM MDT; 11:30 AM PDT


  1. Review product priorities so we all understand where Blackboard is focusing its attention (Jessica finnefrock/Stephanie Cupp)
  2. Review existing NG design goals for accessibility and get the group's feedback (Jessica Finnefrock/Stephanie Cupp)
  3. Revisiting the collaboration framework and its effectiveness and productivity
    a quick review on operation and effectiveness of each sub-group by their respected leaders (Terry Thompson, Mark burris, Lisa Fiedor, Jon Gunderson)
  4. Outstanding action items:
    • What are the currently supported accessibility features in the design framework?
    • What is BB coding practices for supporting those accessibility features.
    • How and how much of these best practices are tested at the Q/A?
  5. Assigned Blackboard partners for each sub-group and their expected participations, priority, and contribution
  6. Roles of Blackboard partners within each sub-groups and within blackboard
  7. Quarterly follow-up on Effectiveness of the collaboration efforts with VP of Product Management


Special General Blackboard Accessibility Teleconference minutes, May 5th, 2008
Scribe: Kevin Price

Next Meeting

Action items

  1. Blackboard 9 timeline schedule for development will be given out to the committee (Stephanie Cupp)
  2. Blackboard will show release of Blackboard 9 once it is stable, July – August is expected time frame
  3. Any critical problems towards accessibility with previous versions of Blackboard/Vista needs to be sent by committee to Blackboard
  4. Blackboard will check to see how ARIA can be used with newest widgets (Stephanie Cupp)
  5. Blackboard will be active with BB subgroups on incorporating accessible design of Blackboard 9


  1. Hadi Rangin, UIUC, Chair
  2. Jessica Finnefrock, Blackboard
  3. Stephanie Cupp, Blackboard
  4. Dara Millen, Blackboard
  5. Beth Stinson, Blackboard
  6. Jon Gunderson, UIUC
  7. Mark Burris, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
  8. Saroj Primlani, NC State
  9. Lisa Fiedor, NC State
  10. Terry Thompson, University of Washington
  11. Roger Parker, CSU East Bay
  12. Rosa Padillo, CSU San Bernardino
  13. Kathy Fernandes, CSU Chico
  14. Cory Gin, CSU San Jose
  15. Kevin Price, UIC
  16. Cindy Poore-Paraseu, Bristol Community College
  17. Allen Maynard, Hadley School for the Blind
  18. Nicaise Dogbo, University of Nevada, Reno
  19. John Rizzo, Stony Brook University
  20. Leslie Kennedy, CSU Long Beach
  21. Corey Gin San Jose State University


Hadi: Since Blackboard and Vista merged there has been a slow down in accessibility collaboration and we want it to be more productive working relationship to improve accessibility and help in allocation of resources. Jessica Finnebrock the Vice President of Product Development at Blackboard is here to discuss this.

Jessica: Blackboard wants to improve accessibility into framework of its products. Previous versions of Blackboard and Vista products are now being merged into one common release with the best features coming together and Blackboard 9 is being released end of 2008 or early 2009. Plans are to make the product delightful for the user by building in accessibility from the beginning. Previously the accessibility features were incorporated patchwork but with this multi-million dollar release of the product want to share ideas with the Blackboard accessibility group and deepen this relationship. Blackboard is incredibly enthusiastic about the development towards accessibility.

Stephanie: Projects are to make everything design accessible and usable. Blackboard is going to 1. Increase general knowledge principles which will be passed on to new hires. 2. Will use accessibility standards developed such as the W3C WAI, Section 508 incorporated into the design of the product. 3. Examples will be defined up front to meet the accessibility/usability of the product. Usability will be tested to allow for 1 step student logins and prioritizing in the development tasks for student access.

Terry (Design Group Leader): Our group gave feedback to the Grade Center towards the needs of keyboard and screen reader access and we didn’t think we were heard because specific things given weren’t implemented into Grade Center towards accessibility.

Jessica: I want to talk about the broader context of Grade book. The Feedback from the subgroup that was received was used and new features that were planned on in the new version were cut off to improve accessibility. The feedback helped in limitations of code design and has helped shaped the approach towards Blackboard 9. The balance was between BB8 and working towards BB 9. The client strategy is to combine the Vista and Blackboard groups into a common code base. There will be no deep dive into Vista but using client feedback into Blackboard 9 common code base.

Jon Gunderson: Concerned with the process with the limited resources towards coding practices. Nobody from BB is attending subgroup to communicate what general markup is being used. No direct feedback towards the markup is be given toward release 9.

Saroj: No feedback on work towards accessibility. We can’t work in a vacuum. Many people are doing multiple jobs on the Blackboard Accessibility committee. It would good to have positive proactive feedback on what is implemented.

Stephanie: Focusing on a positive project approach towards the new format. Looking to building accessibility into the product requirements.

Hadi: We need to optimize the collaboration framework to make sure the group gets involved early enough, preferably at the design stage and provides feedback to BB before it is too late.

Stephanie: Building accessibility into Grade book was too late. Working to get you involved in the building of BB9 but there is currently no stable build of the product but the timeline for BB9 will be given to the committee to be involved. It will be July – August before showing development in BB9.

Jon G.: Make sure that the keyboard model is used because it is very difficult in Gradebook.

Jessica: Will keep you involved in BB9 in timelines of the BB9 products. Will look to close the loop on feedback.

Jon G.: Concerned that you are not using ARIA markup for new Blackboard widgets.

Stephanie: Decided not to use because ARIA is not being used in all adaptive technology and didn’t want to develop towards only JAWS.

Jon G.: Companies can make ARIA accessible. How do you get Web 2.0 widgets to be accessible unless you using ARIA?

Stephanie: Will check to see how ARIA can be used

Jessica: Looking for the partnership to be optimistic and enthusiastic to be positive and upfront that collaboration is valued.

Hadi: Been working 3 ½ years with WebCT/Blackboard and not getting satisfactory and tangible results. Members are loosing their enthusiasm to work with BB.

Jessica: Hoping everyone will take a fresh breath and start fresh toward accessibility through a fresh set of eyes. The commitment towards accessibility is appreciated.

Mark: Testing towards anything in existing products or all efforts on BB9?

Jessica: Only maintenance release code will be updated on common code base.

Mark: For older version there are still many people using them and that it is violation of state law because older versions are not accessible.

Jessica: Not violation of laws with older versions. Focus on new code release and turning back. Only looking for accessibility concerns that are critical for past versions. Only limited resources for past code.

Mark: Isn’t realistic that most places are not moving on with limited resources

Saroj: We have to work with students and do what it takes to get them access.

Jon G.: Understand we will have an impact of BB9 and after products. We need framework established to make accessibility with positive features including having accessible widgets, keyboard access with CSS.

Jessica: Stephanie will walk you through BB9 and give a schedule through May so subgroups can be involved with process.

Jon G.: Libraries need built with accessibility access standards based from beginning.

Jessica: Looking for end to end solution for accessibility include QA, UI, engineering. Stephanie will do a presentation to the group on how accessibility is being built in and how the foundation is being laid.

Terry: I cast a vote for prioritizing tasks and strategies toward accessibility.

Saroj: Would like to have direct feedback through the beta and alpha cycles what definitive changes have been completed from feedback.

Jessica: Can’t promise all feedback will be incorporated into BB9. Will be working on a defined schedule. Will work to make sure that helps the community will be prioritized into the product. Looking to provide a delightful user experience that will be incorporated into this version and all further versions of the product.

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