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Accessibility and Course Management Systems Marsha Allen – CTRS, Web Manager Center for Assistive Technology & Environmental Access (CATEA) College of Architecture, Georgia Tech 404-894-4960 (voice/tty)404-894-9320 (fax) gradeproject@coa.gatech.edu. Sponsored By.

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Accessibility and Course Management SystemsMarsha Allen – CTRS, Web ManagerCenter for Assistive Technology & Environmental Access (CATEA) College of Architecture, Georgia Tech404-894-4960 (voice/tty)404-894-9320 (fax)gradeproject@coa.gatech.edu

Sponsored by

Sponsored By

(GRADE) Georgia Tech Research on Accessible Distance Education

  • Training and Research

  • Fact Sheets & Technical assistance

  • Accessible Course Models

  • Guidelines for Accessible Online Materials


    Office of Post Secondary Education (OPE),

    U.S. Dept. of Education, Grant #P333A020050.



Access Plan











Southeast disability and business technical assistance center

Southeast Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center

  • One of 10 regional centers funded by NIDRR, U.S. Dept of Education.

  • Technical assistance and training on ADA and Accessible IT in Education.

    Contact Your Regional ADA & IT Center

    800-949-4232 (v/tty)


800-949-4232(v/tty) 404-385-0641(fax)




  • Identify 3 barriers in a course management system.

  • Describe 2 techniques for creating and posting accessible content in a course management system.

  • State 3 resources on accessibility in course management systems.

News flash


  • WebCT and Blackboard signed a formal agreement expressing intent to merge companies.

  • Merger to be finalized later this year or early next year, subject to regulatory and other approvals.

  • Combined company will be named Blackboard and led by Blackboard President and CEO, Michael Chasen.

What is disability


Blind/Low Vision

Deaf/Hard of Hearing




Learning Disability

Head/Brain Injury





Temporarily able-bodied

Attitudes are the real disability: people first!

What is Disability?

Students with disabilities in k 12

Students with Disabilities in K-12

  • 1 in 12 (5.2 million) in U.S. have disability.

  • 2x special education vs. overall school enrollment.

  • Percentage graduating from high school with diploma has risen steadily in recent years.

    Source: US Census, 2000

Students with disabilities in higher education

Students with Disabilities in Higher Education

  • 9% (1.3 million) college freshmen with disability; tripled over the last 20 years.

    Source: American Council on Education, 2004

  • Disability 1st identified in postsecondary level:

    • 31% Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD)

      Source: NCSPES, 2002

    • 44% Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

      Source: NCD People with Disabilities & Postsecondary Ed, 2003

Disability and computer access

Disability and Computer Access

  • 49% Internet changed lives.

  • Spend 2x as many hours online and using email.

  • Over 50% owners use for educational applications.

  • Largest niche of online buyers, i.e. Silver Surfer

Sponsored by

“Universal design of instructional materials and activities makes the learning goals achievable by individuals with wide differences in their abilities to see, hear, speak, move, read, write, understand English, attend, organize, engage, and remember. This is built into the design and systems and not added on after-the-fact.”

Source: Council for Exceptional Children

Business case for accessibility better usability

Business Case for Accessibility: Better Usability

  • What is required for access by users with disabilities improves flexibility for all users:

    • Well-organized content

      • Screen readers rely and improves readability.

    • Proper structure and adjustable font size

      • Screen magnifiers to reflow text and flexible varying screens.

    • Keyboard shortcuts

      • Users without mouse and increased productivity.

Business case for accessibility better usability1

Business Case for Accessibility: Better Usability

  • Usability redesign: 100% increase sales/conversion.

  • Captioning helps language and learning.

  • Compatibility across technology versions.

  • More effective from start vs. scramble-fix.

  • Decreased download time.

Business case for accessibility make save

Business Case for Accessibility: Make/Save $$$

  • More people using site; tap into affluent niches

    • i.e. Baby Boomers, PDAs, phones.

  • Positive, free publicity

    • Socially responsible; standards compliance.

  • Easier to manage

    • Separate content from presentation.

  • Avoid time, cost, and stress to retrofit later.

  • Avoid potential litigation.

News flash1


  • U.S. Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently received complaints from 3 students concerning access to higher education courses.

  • Two complaints relate to distance learning courses offered by two on-line Universities:

    • Walden University: accessibility of Blackboard platform.

    • Capella University: access to WebCT.

Laws and standards for accessibility

Laws and Standards for Accessibility

  • Federal Law

    • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

    • Americans with Disabilities Act

    • Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act

  • State Laws on Accessibility (list from ITTATC Project) www.ittatc.org/laws/state_prototype.php

  • Standards and Guidelines

    • W3C World Wide Web Consortium Guidelines


    • IMS Guidelines for Accessible Learning Applications www.imsglobal.org/accessibility/accessiblevers/

Section 504 of the rehabilitation act

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

  • Different chapters, titles, sections etc.

  • Title 29, Chapter 16, Section 794

    • 504: Nondiscrimination under Federal grants and programs


    • 504: Findings and purposes

      • Needs for AT to help those with disabilities access information.

      • Information (electronic) needs to be accessible so AT will work.


Americans with disabilities act

Americans with Disabilities Act

  • Passed 1990 before Internet.

  • Title II

    • Applies to any local, state, and public organizations as well its activities, services, and programs.

    • Effective communication applies to Internet per Department of Justice.


W3c world wide web consortium guidelines

W3C: World Wide Web Consortium Guidelines

  • Global, industry-based initiative

  • Voluntary compliance

    • Web Content, User Agent, Authoring Tools, etc.


Section 508 of the rehabilitation act

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act

  • Federal departments must:

    • Accommodate employees with disabilities.

    • Design accessible websites.

    • Procure accessible information technology.

  • Interpreted applicable to state entities, including public colleges and universities.


If section 508 adopted as policy

If Section 508 adopted as policy …

  • For 504: likely demonstrate ”nondiscrimination and AT access” requirement.

  • For ADA: likely demonstrate compliance with “effective communication” requirement.

  • For W3C WCAG: likely meet minimum Level A, Priority 1 of which 508 was based.

Access guidelines for distance learning

Access Guidelines for Distance Learning

  • Developed by GRADE Project and MERLOT

  • Format: Must, Should, May

    • PDF Files

    • Excel Documents

    • Flash Applications

    • PowerPoint Files

    • Video and Media

    • Word Documents


Barriers to access in course management systems

Barriers to Access in Course Management Systems

  • Generally occur when CMS or posted materials are not designed to interact with assistive technology.

What is assistive technology at

What is Assistive Technology (AT)?

  • Assists a person with a disability in performing a task that most people can do without such technology.


Barriers in webct

Barriers in WebCT

  • Lack of tutorial on using WebCT with AT.

  • Frames-based interface.

  • Inaccessible tools such as Chat, Whiteboard, etc.

  • Pop-up windows and content in new windows.

  • Adding images but no option for alternative text.

  • Close placement of elements difficult.

Considerations in breaking down barriers for students with disabilities

Considerations in Breaking Down Barriers for Students with Disabilities

Frames in webct

Frames in WebCT

  • Each as separate web page makes difficult for screenreaders and refreshable Braille displays to access.

  • Examples of Frames:

    • Inaccessible Frames: Yours is a Very Bad Hotelwww.hyperorg.com/misc/DoubleTreeShow_files/frame.html

    • Accessible Frames: University of Washington

      • www.washington.edu/accessit/AU/phys101a.html

Mouse only commands

Mouse Only Commands

  • Inaccessible to users not using a mouse due to disability or environment:

    • PDA

    • Cell-phone

    • Other mobile and web-enabled devices

    • Keyboard

    • One-hand, hands-free

Timed responses

Timed Responses

  • Affects users who need extra time for reading and writing:

    • Physical or cognitive disabilities

    • Slow connection

    • English as second language

  • Difficulty or unable to effectively participate in “chat” as pace too fast.

  • Inform user and offer option for extended time.

    ** In WebCT, adjust time for class but not individual student.

Webct and physical impairment

WebCT and Physical Impairment

  • Login through Opera to use header navigation and list of links.

    • Browser not supported message.

    • If try to use anyway, cannot access all links.

    • Must use another browser which unfamiliar and less efficient plus may require download/install == more time.

Readability context alternate format

Readability, Context, & Alternate Format

  • Aoccdrnig to a rscheearchr at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a tatol mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbeslm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh!

  • Cluttered, poorly organized, and inconsistent screen layouts decrease comprehension for students who have difficulty reading, writing, and processing information as well as screenreader users.

Webct and learning disability

WebCT and Learning Disability

  • Difficulty in reading commonly results in accommodation of more time for tests.

    • Unable to readily adjust and apply time settings for individual students or course material.

Screenreaders and text to speech software

Screenreaders and Text-to-Speech Software

  • Comprehension affected by content structure and reading order of technology as well as need for alternative text descriptions for visual materials, graphics, and media.

Hearing is seeing

Hearing is Seeing …

  • Click here

  • Click here

  • Click here

  • Document

  • Here

  • Download

  • Screenreaders

  • Get

  • Information

  • One

  • Word

  • At

  • A

  • Time

  • And

  • By

  • Viewing

  • Links

  • Or

  • Headings

  • In

  • Page.

Reading order of tables

Reading Order of Tables

Example of screenreader view of table

Example of Screenreader View of Table

  • “There is a 30% chance of Classes at the University of rain showers this morning, Wisconsin will resume on but they should stop before September 3rd. the weekend.”

Operating system access features

Operating System Access Features

  • Accessibility Wizard

  • High Contrast

  • ShowSounds

  • Serial Keys

  • Mouse Keys

  • Keyboard:

    • Sticky, Bounce, Slow, Repeat

Webct and visual impairment

WebCT and Visual Impairment

  • Login using IE with high contrast settings.

    • Lack of carryover for high contrast settings.

    • Need to “ignore” styles in browser accessibility options

    • Inconsistent application of user preferred size and color.

    • Lack of heading information for user orientation (since visual styling used).

Webct and visual impairment1

WebCT and Visual Impairment

  • Teaching assistant using screenreader cannot easily navigate.

    • Frames with scrolling windows

    • Fixed heading size.

    • Result in more time and errors, esp. GRADE Book.

    • Tables lack id and association of header to data cells.

Blackboard and visual impairment

Blackboard and Visual Impairment

  • Difficulty with login and navigation

    • Provide “alt-text” for buttons and images.

    • Make links distinct.

  • Posted materials not accessible.

    • Make accessible webpage.

    • Provide in text or accessible Word document.

  • Difficulty with digital drop-box to submit work

    • Allow student to email.

Code for alt text of images

Code for Alt-text of Images


Federal Court Concepts

  • Alternative-text (alt-text) #1 solution

  • Provide same info by context


Letter entering mailbox


No alt text no understanding

No alt-text = no understanding

kwajex.gif (45k)

Alt text of images

Alt-text of Images

  • When adding images in CMS, lack option for alternative text.

  • May need to edit code:

    <img src=“logo.gif” border=“0” height=“150” width=“200” alt=“Federal Court Concepts”>

Federal Court Concepts

Magnification software and cctv

Magnification Software and CCTV

  • Result in viewing small portion of screen.

  • Cluttered webpages and inconsistent formats make navigation and comprehension difficult.

Seeing through others eyes

Seeing Through Others Eyes …

Macular Degeneration

In general, magnification and high levels of illumination will assist in reading and other near vision tasks.

Photos courtesy of National Eye Institute http://www.nei.nih.gov/photo/sims/sims.htm



Photos courtesy of National Eye Institute http://www.nei.nih.gov/photo/sims/sims.htm

Age related cataracts are often yellow or brown causing loss of sensitivity to blue.

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy

Photos courtesy of National Eye Institute http://www.nei.nih.gov/photo/sims/sims.htm

This is the largest single cause of visual impairment among those of working age.

Tunnel vision

Tunnel Vision

Photos courtesy of National Eye Institute http://www.nei.nih.gov/photo/sims/sims.htm

This impairment often makes it possible to read small print but not large print.

20 200 legally blind view of software

20/200 Legally Blind View of Software

Aging cataract view of software

Aging/Cataract View of Software

Color and contrast

Color and Contrast

  • Use color to highlight focus, increase aesthetic appeal.

  • Ensure color alone is not required to ensure access for students who are color-blind, or in environment where color is comprised .

    Bad: Information in red is required.

    Push the green button to start.

    Good: *Required information in red with asterisk.

Use high contrast between text and background

Use high contrast between text and background

High Contrast

High Contrast


Very Low Contrast

Avoid distracting backgrounds

Avoid distracting backgrounds

Read this text against a highly-colored psychedelic background

Results of color testing using vischeck com

Results of Color Testing Using Vischeck.com

Original Image

Blue/Yellow Color Blind

Red/Green Color Blind

Results of color testing

Results of Color Testing

  • Red/green color blindness

  • Blue/yellow color blindness

Animation flicker rate

Animation Flicker Rate

  • Flashing images annoying.

  • Can cause seizures for users with photosensitive epilepsy.

  • Seizures can occur if exposed to flashing images between 4 to 59 hertz (flashes per second).

On the blink test the animation flicker

On the Blink: Test the Animation/Flicker

  • If you do not have photosensitive epilepsy, example of flickering rate: www.cinema.ucla.edu/strobe/

  • Illustration of flickering standards: http://ncam.wgbh.org/richmedia/media/flicker_demo.html

  • Use AIS Web Accessiblity Toolbar (under Images)

Captioning audio and video content

Captioning Audio and Video Content

  • Types

    • Closed - Open - Real time

  • Benefits:

    • Students who are deaf or hard of hearing

    • English as second-language.

    • Different learning styles.

    • Quiet/noise-free, shared environments.

    • Searchable, printable, and markable reference.

Captioning tools

Captioning Tools

  • Common, free software:

    • Windows Media On-Demand Producer (WMODP).

    • Media Access Generator (MAGpie)

  • File formats need certain software to play or edit:

    • MOV files (Quicktime)

    • RM files (Real Player)

    • ASF and WMV files (Windows Media Player)

    • MPG and AVI files playable by most

Audio description ad

Audio Description (AD)

  • Verbal description of key visual elements in media inserted into natural pauses in audio of the media.

  • Used by individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

  • Types: Closed - Open - Real time

  • AKA “Descriptive video, video description”

Barriers beyond the web

Barriers Beyond the Web …

Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF files

  • Avoid built-in “Save as Webpage” = JUNKY!

  • Multiple columns.

  • Lack of structure which AT relies upon.

  • Lack of textual equivalent for images, media.

  • Lack of software to view the document.

Illinois accessible web publishing wizard for microsoft office

Illinois Accessible Web Publishing Wizard for Microsoft Office

  • Converts Word, PowerPoint and Excel files to accessible, valid webpages with style sheet.

  • Guided interface that automates most of the conversion.

  • Adds “Save As Accessible Web Page” option under File menu of all Office applications.


Testing and evaluation

Testing and Evaluation

  • Print with images OFF and black/white to reveal issues like contrast, distractions, print settings.

  • Navigate without a mouse (keyboard only).

  • Check the load time.

  • Use screenreader or voice-enabled tool.

    • IBM Home Page Reader


  • User testing

Barriers in webct1

Barriers in WebCT

  • Accessibility and WebCT by Joe Wheaton, Ph.D.

    Associate Professor Rehabilitation Services, Ohio State University, Co-Director Web Accessibility Center and Certified WebCT Trainer.


Assuring cms courses are accessible

Assuring CMS Courses are Accessible

  • Consider diversity of students and instructors for age, language, learning style, and abilities.

  • Check web pages are designed to be accessible.

  • Consider how teachers and students will interact.

  • Check accesssibility of video and audio content.

  • Make all content beyond webpages accessible.

Tips to improve webct accessibility

Tips to Improve WebCT Accessibility

  • Provide instructions for users of AT.

  • Avoid using Chat and Whiteboard for giving vital course material.

  • Have all tools open in “Same Window” when given option.

  • Don’t use icons or paste the source in the title field.

  • Provide text alternative for all self-test and feedback.

Tips to improve webct accessibility1

Tips to Improve WebCT Accessibility

  • Deliver all questions one at a time with ability to revist or make copy with alternate settings.

  • Use Discussion tools with as much division by topic.

  • Add Search, myGRADES, myProgress, and Glossary to Home page.

  • Be certain each link is Course Menu on left also available on home page or organizer.

Tips to improve usability and accessibility

Tips to Improve Usability and Accessibility

  • Proper links, labelled individually.

  • Clear navigation mechanisms.

  • Logically structured page layouts.

  • Clear color contrast.

  • Reasonably-sized, adjustable text.

  • Straight-forward language.

  • Resources For More Info on CMS Access (Word)

Challenge to you

Challenge To You …

  • Redefine true accessibility to be a state of …



Sponsored by

?Questions and Comments!

Marsha Allen, Web Developer


Robert Todd , Project Director


Center for Assistive Technology & Environmental Access

Georgia Tech, College of Architecture

490 Tenth Street, Atlanta, Georgia 30318

404-894-4960 (v/tty) 404-894-9320(fax) www.catea.org/grade/


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