Making Blackboard Courses Accessible – Quick Guide

When creating a Blackboard course, instructors need to create content with inclusion in mind which can benefit not only students with disabilities such as visual impairments but also improve the learning experience for all students with different learning abilities, needs, and devices.  The following is an accessibility checklist for instructors to make a course more accessible.

Accessibility Checklist

  1. Use proper headings when creating course contents
  2. Add an alternative (ALT) description to images and graphics
  3. Ensure audio and video files containing speech have closed captions or a text equivalent
  4. Use self-describing hyperlink text
  5. Ensure that all tables have column headers
  6. Don’t use scanned PDFs
  7. Ensure that the PDF has a title and is tagged
  8. Ensure that there is sufficient contrast between text and background
  9. Use Accessibility checkers built in Microsoft office and Adobe Acrobat

Part I.  Use proper headings when creating course contents

Headers: Word document

Microsoft Word has the built-in heading Styles for you to use easily. It is important to organize headings in the prescribed logical order and not to skip heading order.  For example, Heading 1 is used for main content headings, Heading 2 is used for major section headings.

  1. Select the heading text in document.
  2. On the Home tab, in the Styles group, select a heading style, for example, Heading 1 or Heading 2.

This image is for the tutorial steps 1-2.

Headers: Blackboard

Headings can be added from the text editor box when creating/editing items, assignments, test questions, discussions, etc.

  1. Select the text you want to be a heading.
  2. In the “Text” editor toolbar, select the Paragraph (Format) dropdown. If you do not see Paragraph (Format) icon, select “Show More” icon.
  3. In the dropdown select Sub heading 1or Sub heading 2.
    Note: The Heading selection from the drop down is the same heading level as the title of the item.

This image is for the tutorial steps 1-3.

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Part II. Add an alternative (Alt) description to images and graphics

Image Alt Text: Word document or PowerPoint

Note:  The steps below are for the Windows and Mac versions of Microsoft 365 Office (Web). For other versions of Microsoft Office view the Microsoft guide on adding alternative text.

  1. Right-click an image.
  2. Select Edit Alt Text.
  3. Add your description in the Alt Text field.
    Note: If the image is purely decorative you can check the “Mark as decorative checkbox” instead of describing the image.

This image is for the tutorial steps 1-3.

 

Image Alt Text: Blackboard

Option I. To insert or update an image in Blackboard using the “Content Text Editor.” This can be done from the text editor box when creating/editing items, assignments, test questions, discussions, etc.

  1. In the “Text” editor toolbar, select the Insert/Edit Image icon to add a new image, or right click an existing image and select Image.
  2. Under the “General” tab, type in the “Image Description” box that is the Alt text field. The “Title” box is optional.
  3. Click the Insert or Update

This image is for the tutorial steps 1-3.

Option II. To insert an image in Blackboard using the “Image” content:

  1. Click Build Content tab and select Image under the “Create.”
  2. In the “Name” box, enter a name.
  3. In the “Find File” section, select a file from the listing of options.
  4. Type in the Alt Text and provide a Description.
  5. Custom the dimensions of the image (optional.)
  6. Click Submit.

This image is for the tutorial steps 1-6.

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Part III. Ensure audio and video files containing speech have closed captions or a text equivalent

If you have narrated PowerPoint presentations, videos through YouTube, Zoom, or Microsoft Stream, you need to provide a text equivalent with transcript or closed captioning. YouTube and Microsoft Stream can automatically generate captions for uploaded videos. It is always a good idea to check auto generated captions and edit any mistakes.

How to generate automatic caption in YouTube Videos

How to Generate Automatic Captions in Microsoft Stream Video

 

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Part IV. Use Self-Describing Hyperlink Text

If you use the URL itself or Click Here texts as a hyperlink, users may not comprehend it. You need to provide hyperlink texts that show the full title of the destination page.  For example, use Visit the University of Houston website instead of http://www.uh.edu or Click Here.

 

Self-Describing Hyperlink: Word document

  1. Select the text you want to add a hyperlink to and then right-click it.
  2. Select Link. The text you selected displays in the “Insert Hyperlink” dialog box.
  3. Change the hyperlink text if necessary.
  4. In the “Address” field, enter the destination address for the hyperlink.
  5. Press OK to save changes.

This image is for the tutorial steps 1-5.

Self-Describing Hyperlink: Blackboard

Option I. Insert a hyperlink using the “Content Text Editor”

  1. Click Build Content tab and select Item under the “Create.”
  2. In the “Text” editor, highlight the text to be hyperlinked.
  3. Click on the “Insert/Edit Link” icon.
  4. In “Link Path” box, enter URL address or select the specific file.
  5. In “Target” box, ehoose how the link will be open either in a New Window or within the Window Frame.
  6. Click Insert.

This image is for the tutorial steps 1-6.

Option II. Insert a new web link using the “Web Link” content:

How to Create a new Web Link tutorial

 

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Part V. Ensure that all tables have column headers

To make sure that your tables are accessible, you need to add headers to your tables.  It improves how the individual navigates tables especially if using a screen reader.  Please note that Microsoft Word only allows the top row of a table to be designated as a row heading.

Table headers: Word document

  1. Position the cursor in the top row of a table.
  2. Right click with the curse in that row.  Select Table Properties.
  3. Select Row tab.
  4. Select the checkbox “Repeat as header row at the top of each page.”
  5. Click OK.

This image is for the tutorial steps 1-5.

Table headers: Blackboard

  1. In the “Text Editor” box, click any cell of the top row of a table.
  2. Click the “Table Row Properties” Icon.
  3. In the “General” tab, select Header from the “Row Type” drop-down Box.
  4. Click Update.

This image is for the tutorial steps 1-4..

Part VI.  Avoid using scanned PDFs

A scanned PDF is just an image of text and it can NOT be read using a screen reader (an assistive technology used by people with vison-based disabilities.)  Avoid scanning book pages and instead make a request to the University of Houston library to get a PDF copy to put in Blackboard “Course Reserves” link.

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Part VII. Ensure that the PDF has a title and is tagged

It is important to add a document title because Assistive Technology simply reads the metadata that is saved in the actual PDF file as the document title, which may be different from the document file name.  Improve the accessibility of PDFs by adding tags in Acrobat. Tags are same as Headings in Word documents.  Assistive Technology users rely on tags (headings) to navigate the logic structure within the document.

Add a PDF document title

  1. Select File > Properties.
  2. Select the Description tab
  3. In “Description” tab > the “Title box, add or change the document’s title.

This image is for the tutorial steps 1-3.

Tag PDF in Acrobat

Note:  For best results, tag a document when converting it to PDF from an authoring application, such as Microsoft Word or OpenOffice Writer.  For example, you have headings in a Word document and covert to pdf file, these headings should be tagged.

  1. Choose Tools.
  2. Select Accessibility.
  3. Select Autotag Document.
    Note: If the PDF was tagged before, you will receive a message “This document is already tagged.”

This image is for the tutorial steps 1-3.

Part VIII. Ensure that there is sufficient contrast between text and background

Use high contrasting color in the course content can help individuals with vision disabilities like color-blindness and low-vision impairments to accurately interpret information.

Use the WebAIM’s Color Contrast Checker enables you to check your text color and background for normal-sized and large-sized text, and WebAim will instantly let you know whether the contrast passes or fails WCAG 2.0 standards.

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Part IX. Use Accessibility checkers built in Microsoft office and Adobe Acrobat

You have uploaded Microsoft (Word, PowerPoint, or Excel) or PDF files into Blackboard so students to access them easily and quickly.  However, you might not be aware that your documents may contain some barriers for students with disabilities.

Fortunately, Microsoft Office and Adobe has a built-in Accessibility Checker tool which finds accessibility issues and warnings, explains the reasons for them, and offers solutions.

Accessibility Checker: Word, Excel, PowerPoint (Web version)

  1. On the ribbon, select the Review
  2. Select Check Accessibility.
  3. An Accessibility Checker panel will open to the right of the document. This panel provides you with a list of errors and warnings. When you click on an error or warning, instructions on how to fix it appear below the “Additional Information” section.

This image is for the tutorial steps 1-3.

 

Accessibility Checker: Word, Excel, PowerPoint (Desktop version)

  1. In the menu, select the “File” tab.
  2. In the sidebar menu, select the “Info” link.
  3. Select the “Check for Issue” link.
  4. From the drop-down menu, select “Check Accessibility”.
  5. An Accessibility Checker panel will open to the right of the document. This panel provides you with a list of errors and warnings. When you click on an error or warning, instructions on how to fix it appear below the “Additional Information” section.

This image is for the tutorial steps 1-2..

 

 

This image is for the tutorial steps 3-5.

 

Accessibility Checker: Adobe Acrobat

Note:  Strong recommendation to start in Microsoft Word and export to an accessible PDF.

  1. Choose Tools.
  2. Select Accessibility.
  3. Select Accessibility Check.
  4. In the “Report Options” section, select options for how you want to view the results.
  5. In the “Page Range” section, select All pages in documents or select a page range if you prefer to.
  6. In the “Checking Options” section, click Select All or select options you prefer to.
  7. Click Start Checking. The results are displayed in the Accessibility Checker panel on the left, which also has helpful links and hints for repairing issues.

This image is for the tutorial steps 4-7..

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