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: 2006-08-01

Time: 1:30 PM CDT


Hello Everyone,

After a series of online and offline correspondences it seems that next Tuesday works for most people. So I would like to call for the second Blackboard Accessibility Teleconference for next Tuesday August 1st at 1:30 PM CDT (Chicago time).

Terry Thompson offered to host the next teleconference but as of now the call-in number is not yet specified. It will be posted to the list very soon. But for now, please mark your calendar for next Tuesday August 1st at 1:30 PM Chicago time (11:30 AM Pacific time or 2:30 PM Eastern time).
The teleconference information will be also posted at our Blackboard Accessibility Interest Group site at:

Meantime, please send your feedback to the list and let us start recording accessibility issues with Blackboard.
Thanks to Shary McCurdy from University of Illinois  at Springfield who created a Blackboard account for me and populated the account with some real data. This will allow me to experience the accessibility of the Blackboard first hand.

So let us your comments coming...


Hi All,

Here's the access information for the second Blackboard Accessibility
Teleconference, next Tuesday August 1st at 11:30AM Pacific, 12:30PM
Mountain, 1:30PM Central, and 2:30PM Eastern...

Phone number: 1-800-503-2899
Access code: 2256060



Blackboard Teleconference Meeting Minutes, August 1, 2006

Hadi Bargi Rangin (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Terry Thompson (AccessIT, University of Washington)
Laurie Harrison (University of Toronto)
Barbara Knauff, Dartmouth
Robert Dumas, Blackboard
Will Murray, Blackboard

The question "Does anyone volunteer to be notetaker?" was met with
uncomfortable silence. Finally Terry stepped up. 

Participants compared which versions of Blackboard they're currently using.
Hadi, who at the previous meeting did not have Blackboard access, now has
access to a Blackboard 7.1 account. Terry is using 7.1. Laurie is using 7.0,
but an upgrade is in the works. Will confirmed that 7.1 is the latest public

Hadi reported that the discussion list now has over 30 subscribers. Will has
not been getting the emails - Hadi will add him to the list. 

Terry raised the question of whether wikis play a role in facilitating our
work, as had been recently proposed and discussed on the discussion list.
Hadi described the research that he and colleagues had done on the
accessibility of wikis, and while some products showed more promise than
others, all of the products tested had accessibility problems, specifically
in editing mode. Will said he would avoid using a wiki for our regular
communications, since it would require proactive monitoring, as opposed to
the discussion list which gets pushed to participants. He noted, however,
that a wiki might play a role in the future as list traffic grows and
conversations become more focused, e.g., a specific task force could conduct
their work using a wiki.  

Hadi asked the Blackboard representatives how Blackboard developers were
exposed to accessibility, e.g., whether there were internal guidelines. Will
said that developers use a style guide, and that Blackboard is working to
better address accessibility within that style guide. He also described
accessibility seminars that had been provided to developers in response to
their third party accessibility audit. Both Will and Robert spoke to
Blackboard's desire to be proactive, and to develop future products that
worked for all users up-front, rather than requiring a "band-aid approach". 

The bulk of the meeting time was spent in discussion regarding appropriate
categories for organizing our accessibility evaluations. Terry had
documented his perspective of Blackboard's overall structure in an email to
the list on July 27, and asked whether the top-level categories (those items
appearing by default in the Blackboard navigation frame) could be used as an
organizational structure, or whether greater specificity was needed,
particularly within "Tools". Hadi pointed out that on the WebCT evaluation
form, users select a primary category from a list, but can provide further
specificity in an open-ended "sub-category" field. Additional specificity
can be provided by the evaluator by describing the full breadcrumb path to
the resource and/or by attaching a snapshot image of a screen that's being

Barbara pointed out that the navigational menu items are highly customizable
both by the institution and by individuals. The only items that seem to have
a consistent interface across all flavors of Blackboard are "Announcements",
"Instructor Information", "Communication", and "Tools", with others falling
generally under "Content Areas" and being highly customizable. Laurie
proposed structuring not by navigation menu, but by functional unit, as
defined within the Blackboard Control Panel. Some discussion followed
regarding the variety of Blackboard experiences: a single version of
Blackboard can be delivered differently to users due to customization at the
institution level, licensing differences, or the installation of building
block (third party) plug-ins. Will confirmed that Blackboard differs from
WebCT in that it doesn't explicitly provide distinct student vs. instructor
views. Instead, both student and instructor largely share the same view, and
instructor-only features (such as "Modify" links) are embedded throughout
the interface. 

In order to ensure that we're comparing apples with apples, Will of
Blackboard will put together documentation regarding core features that are
consistent for all Blackboard users, and will investigate the possibility of
providing our group access to a test environment. He mentioned that
Blackboard does quality control testing using a "perfect course" that has
all possible features enabled, and he'll investigate whether we could access
that. However, he cautioned that a "perfect course" may not yield the best
results since some basic features may appear to be broken or inaccessible,
but only in the presence of other higher-level features that may or may not
be present for users in a real world installation. He will consider all of
these issues and get back to us prior to the next meeting. 

Once we hear back from Will, we can resume our discussion of how best to
structure and organize our accessibility evaluations. Once this structure
and organization is in place, we can divide up modules among anyone who is
interested and able to participate. Until then, Hadi has already expressed
an interest in evaluating features related to assessment, and Terry has
expressed an interest in evaluating the Discussion Board. 

Next meeting: Aug 15 at 11:30am Pacific, 12:30pm Mountain, 1:30pm Central,
2:30pm Eastern

Terry Thompson

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