How Blackboard is Approaching Accessibility in Higher Education

February 24, 2017 BY SOFIA ENAMORADO
Updated: February 10, 2021


Individuals around the country are recognizing their civil rights to equal access to education. Lawsuits against universities across the country have made schools question what equal access would look like in practice.

Yet, trends show a lower number of students are disclosing their disabilities to higher education institutions.

As a result, higher education institutions are becoming more proactive in their accessibility efforts. A greater number of institutions are creating and implementing accessibility programs, with an approach to be inclusive, not reactive to student’s requests.

As this mindset shifts towards proactivity in higher education, industry vendors are changing their mindsets alongside them.

How Blackboard Has Responded to Shifting Mindsets

Blackboard is one such industry vendor that has made accessibility a priority. At the heart of their accessibility efforts is a mindset of inclusion. Their goal is to focus on accessibility not only for students with disabilities, but instead for all students.

Blackboard has realized that students learn in many ways, and all students can benefit from having their content altered into different formats.

For example, a recent study showed captioning helps students with comprehension of educational material. This same study showed 71% of students without hearing difficulties use captions at least some of the time.

Yet, it’s not a norm to include captions on recorded lectures, and most of the time they will only get captioned if a student makes a request.

So, Blackboard’s mission has become to make accessible content a part of the everyday workflow so that everyone can benefit.

For Blackboard, accessibility initiatives are like the electric toothbrush. Originally intended for individuals with motor impairment, today the electric toothbrush has benefited households across the world.

Blackboard’s electric toothbrush? A software that automates content conversion, thereby eliminating the challenges teachers, students, and institutions face in requesting and converting content into alternative formats.

This remediation software is called Ally. Ally is an integration to Blackboard’s systems that will convert all content in your LMS based on WCAG 2.0 AA standards. In addition, Blackboard is pioneering a feedback loop for professors and educational institutions to more readily see the accessibility barriers they can eradicate and recognize the areas they can improve upon.

How Higher Education Institutions Can Respond

Higher education institutions have to become more proactive with their accessibility initiatives. They have to be willing to get uncomfortable and challenge existing workflows.

The goal should be that accessibility feels ever present on campus, and that every initiative taken is seen as a benefit to the general student body and not just a segment of the student body.

For more insight into how Blackboard is challenging accessibility norms, watch their full presentation below.

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