Blackboard Accessibility Interest Group

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

University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign

All Teleconferences

Teleconference Details

Date: 2006-06-13

Time: 1:30 PM


To anyone interested in accessibility of Blackboard Course Management Tool

We would like to start the Blackboard Accessibility Interest Group that will be focusing and resolving accessibility issues with Blackboard in a kind of
collaborative way with other colleges and the Blackboard/WebCT company.

About 1.5 years ago we established a similar interest group with other universities and worked together with WebCT (before WebCT/Blackboard merge) and achieved
very positive results so that accessibility is now part of their design and QA process. We believe we can achieve similar result if we work together. To
start the Blackboard Accessibility Interest Group I would like to ask anyone who is interested in working together on this project to join us at our first
teleconference in this regard. Call-in information follows. Please drop me a note and let me know if you are planning to participate. I need to know how
many people are joining us on this teleconference to order enough call-in telephone ports. Please send your note to
and not to the list.

Info about the first Blackboard Accessibility teleconference:

Date: Tuesday June 13 2006
Time: 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM CDT (Chicago Local Time)
Phone: 217 244-7532

Thanks and sorry for cross-postings.


Hadi Bargi Rangin
Web Design and Accessibility Specialist
Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services
University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign
1207 S. Oak Street, Champaign, IL  61820
Voice: (217) 244-0518
Fax: (217) 333-0248


Hello everyone,

Here's the minutes of the first Blackboard Accessibility teleconference. Thanks to my dear colleague Christy for taking note for our first teleconference.
But before we get to the minutes, I would like to bring a few things to your attention.

1. You are receiving this e-mail via the Blackboard Accessibility Interest Group (<> I have added your name and e-mail addresses to this list because either you indicated that you would like to join
the list or we had correspondences regarding accessibility of Blackboard in the past. If you would like to sign-off from this list, please either let me
know or send the signoff command to
The command for signing off is:

Signoff blackboard-access-l

2. As you will read in the minutes below, Blackboard accessibility team and management are willing to listen to our accessibility feedback and incorporate
them in their development as much as they can.  The first step is to bring the verbal accessibility complaints into written issues so we all are on the
same page. This would mean that we need to post accessibility problems to the list and discuss it if necessary. then we record the reported problem in
our Issue tracking area at our website. The recorded issues will be a base for developers to start with.
We have developed a kind of online evaluation forms which can be used to evaluate a page for certain accessibility features based on the HTML Accessibility
Best practices. This will help us to look for certain accessibility features and generate more consistent accessibility reports. Once a page is evaluated,
it is very easy to identify accessibility issues related to that page and populate the issue tracking area. You can find the online accessibility evaluation
form at:

The above evaluation forms is at this time very WebCT centric. If you could send me the list of Blackboard modules it would be great. I will update the
page based on information you send to me and this will allow us to have more relevant and consistent names of modules.
Please go ahead and start sending accessibility issues to the list for discussion.

Blackboard (Bb) Collaboration Teleconference, June 13, 2006
Summary notes

In attendance:

Suzanne David, California State University at Northridge (Suzanne)
Robert Dumas, WebCT/Blackboard (Robert)
Sharon McCurdy, University of Illinois, Springfield (Sharon)
Hadi Bargi Rangin, University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign (Hadi)
Terry Thompson, University of Washington (Terry)
Will Murray, Representative from Blackboard (Will)
Vichall (?), Representative from Blackboard (Vichall)
Patel (?), City University of New York (Patel)
Christy Blew, University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign


Hadi - Introductions. Description of how WebCT collaboration has worked.

Robert - The greatest thing about collaboration is going from working with
accessibility guidelines to having people to speak directly to. More than
looking at and applying guidelines. Looking at design and being able to
collaborate with those who use daily, helps to implement solutions. The
WebCT group started as list of problems and evolved into a full
collaboration. Hope to do same with blackboard. Not just one way
communication but working together to implement solutions. Joined by
colleagues Will and Vichall.

Hadi - It is important that we start by working together as group. Sometimes
concerns get lost in tech support shuffle. As collaboration, can test
applications, talk to developers. Goal to make accessibility part of design
and QA model. If can provide at development stage, can be more beneficial.


Terry - University of Washington. Rep for DO-IT (Disabilities,
Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) and Access IT. These are
federally funded projects that focus on IT accessibility and are nationwide
resource. Also at Western Washington University which is a Bb campus. Looked
at Bb informally, but had interest in doing more comprehensive review and
all it can do to evaluate accessibility. Watched WebCT group and glad with
the outcomes from that. Like the tracking and recording of information and
excited to see how Bb group can evolve like that.

Patel - CUNY, a Bb only university 19 campuses in NY with 210,000 students
including faculty and staff. Personal experience with Bb is that used it in
its early versions. Work with students and user groups for training.
Designing large scale Bb study with all campuses.

Suzanne - Work in website accessibility, just moving into Bb area and
accessibility for distant learning students. University has used Bb for
about 7 years, but not looked at accessibility. CSU has 23 campuses. About
30,000 at Northridge campus.

Sharon - University of Illinois at Springfield. Know Bb interface pretty
well. Used since 1999. UIS has 10, soon 14, online degree programs. High
accessibility issues with Bb.


Hadi - UIUC decommissioned Bb, now have WebCT. We have no access to at this
time to Bb. Interest though request from colleagues to have something like
the WebCT collaboration for Bb. Because of limited access, I may not be able
to contribute as much as I have with WebCT.

Question presented: How accessibility is addressed at Bb

Will - Only been at Bb for about 6 months, coming from WebCT. Accessibility
has been concern of Bb and some individuals have taken initiative to this
looking at it. Hoping to use tools such as SilkTest. Over last couple months
been pushing to do more about access. TecAccess audit showed that we had
some areas where did not perform as good. 6 areas identified. Decided to
take part as the guidelines not as important as working with end users. Work
to make accessibility a much higher priority.

Vichall - Am very new, just joined Bb couple months ago. Have had group
meetings and reviewed the draft from TecAccess. Working toward getting
information and developing priority of issues.

Question presented: Where did you get these issues from?

Will - TecAccess (,
a group that conducts
audits of web based products in regards to accessibility. Other Bb members
who could not join today but have high stakes in this area and to be
actively involved.

Will - SilkTest
is a tool from
Borland. Product to test web based applications. What can we upgrade with
out breaking system? Allows you use web browser to move throughout an
application without the need for a person to be physically there doing the
testing. Moving into more behavioral testing and source testing. Have two
shops in India doing tests manually for functionality. Automated tools used
for more "under the hood" testing. Automated fashion allows for more
effective testing.  Recognize this is a first step.

Question presented: What would you define as the first 3 accessibility
problems with Bb?

Will - action bar - user tools. Using proper tags. Properly nested tags.
Headers in tables. Much information in tables. Want to make sure they are in
best possible state.

Question presented: How you prioritize problems?

Terry - tough without a comprehensive review. Curios to know what the 6
areas are. Some things we have faced, such as faculty members uploading
graphics - there is space to add alt text, but not longdesc. How to upload
captioned multimedia. Not sure how to do this, not sure if it can be done,
or just don't know how.

Question presented: How about heading navigation?

Patel - Bb does not support heading navigation at this time. Hard to
navigate with links. Design is frame based, and heading may be missing. This
makes for a large deficit.  Especially for screen readers. Accessibility of
chat area. Better structure for discussion area - technically accessible but

Will - Part of the 6 items. Include headings, implementing skip navigation,
testing for header tags.

Susan - We have issue in regards that courses are populated by instructors.
Bb doesn't have mechanism to warn these people that this material not

Hadi - when app is inaccessible, it does not really mater if content
accessible. Hard to make accessibility of material work.

Will - This is a concern. People are contributing to program that are not
part of software. Building blocks - 3rd party - how can enforce? Possible
warning that content not accessible.

Hadi - as end user tester, things not always going to be easy. Have
opportunity to make difference. Have online tool to list issues
individually. First need to do is transfer issues into single issues and
record them. Add potential solutions for problems so can be discussed in
teleconference. Comm. Back and forth to come to solution that is acceptable
and functional to Bb.

Question presented: How does site work?

Site has an admin section to post information. At this time Hadi is only
with access, but can provide username and password for those who would like
to work at admin level.

Question presented: Otherwise information to be sent to admin?

Hadi - I feel that since I have a lack of experience with Bb, it would be
good for another or individuals to post issues on own.

Suggested action: Identify who is willing to work on transforming the
collected information for accessibility of Bb into individual small issues.

Robert - little different from WebCT because group had been started before
inclusion of reps. The WebCT group put together issue list that was very
helpful. Only way works if all work together to make accessibility better of
product. With WebCT, list was already there and reps came in afterwards,
this opportunity is different because reps are here from beginning. It helps
a lot for users to come up with issues and report how they have tried to get
answers to issue and present options and solutions. We not going to have all
answers, we rely on users for solutions. As well, issues could come through

Hadi - yes, issues can be sent through mailing list and then can be
discussed among users. Sometimes issues that some may have and not others.
Some issues may not be directly with application and through discussion find
that is not direct Bb issue, but working together can find information
quicker. As issue comes into the listersv, it can be posted into site.
Capture software to show accessibility problem. For some issues can
demonstrate problem through video. Maybe illustrate problem better.

Robert - collaboration can add weight to presenting the problems and getting
them addressed.

Will - all voices important whether it is only 5 or 50. Each voice helps us
out greatly. Confident that going forth more will be able to join us from
both sides of table.

Hadi - it is a win-win sit. Your product comes more marketable and
accessibility is better.

Question presented: How much are members willing to contribute actively?

Patel - willing to participate as much as needed. Primary focus is to work
on these types of issues for university.

Sherri - not quite the office to give the type of feedback that Bb may want,
but going to ask disability services to join us. To find out problems with
Bb. What are our users having trouble with - issues, prioritize? Issues with
framework of Bb and then other issues such as captioning/multimedia. As we
add more media to look at making these features access from start. SLATE

Suzanne - probably am pretty limited as far as current problems with Bb
accessibility, using Bb for our distant education program and we have not
had any student report an issue as of yet. University as a whole uses WebCT,
so students on campus with disabilities are using WebCT.

Sherri - SLATE. Not sure how big or if is nationwide, but will send
information. Mostly user group. Get feedback on design issues, members of Bb
have attended. Put up issues. Bb very good at making changes when they can.
Do a lot of listening to users and user groups.

Question presented: How should we proceed?

Terry - As first step, send issues to listserv to see who has same or
similar problems. Can develop lists from this. Willing to take issues and
post them on site.

Categorize issues as well.

Hadi - in WebCT started with student view and looked at issues with this
part. Have evaluation tools that have been used. Have five categories and
based on these asked a series of questions that helps non technical person
to test for accessibility problems.  For example, form controls - label
element? Do you think that it is possible to group or somehow categorize
accessibility problems of Bb in a similar fashion where don't end up with
lots of issues and find not easy to categorize them.

Will - maybe you can post WebCT site link to see how it is done up.

Robert - maybe share WebCT white paper so can see how issues were put
together. Maybe after first round of issues developed can create one for Bb.

Follow Up:

Question presented: When next teleconference? Propose through listserv?

Terry - out of town until July 17. Would prefer putting off until then if

Robert - out for WebCT conference. Maybe put off until after conference.
Maybe send out follow up email with follow up date.

Hadi - propose July 25? We will try to focus on bringing accessibility from
a verbal to a written format. I will send out messages and we all can start
to post issues.

Hadi Bargi Rangin
Web Design and Accessibility Specialist
Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services
University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign
1207 S. Oak Street, Champaign, IL  61820
Voice: (217) 244-0518
Fax: (217) 333-0248

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