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Digital educationStudent engagement

Accessible learning

24 September 2014

by Catherine Emmett

Recently, ELTT were asked whether the core learning technology tools we use in the University are accessible. I’m not going to talk again here about what is important about accessibility because I’ve blogged a bit about this previously, but I am going to try to answer this question. In fact, there isn’t a completely straightforward answer to this question, so we thought it would be useful to use this week’s post to try to answer this and talk a little more about accessibility and learning technologies.

WCAG 2.0 Level AA conformance logoThe first thing to factor in about accessibility is that the core centrally-provided learning technology system in the University (Learning Central) was chosen partly for its adherence to accessibility standards. The core functionality in Learning Central (Blackboard Learn) conforms to Level AA Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. WCAG 2.0 provides recommendations for making web content more accessible, and is intended to ensure that, by following the guidelines, content will be accessible to a range of people with disabilities, and indeed, make content generally more usable to all. To conform to WCAG 2.0, the web tools must conform to a wide range of testable success criteria for users with disabilities. If you are interested in the detail of accessibility Learning Central provides, you can take a look at the Blackboard Learn release notes.

However, the standard itself can only apply to the tools (and the interface) within Learning Central itself. Any content, materials or resources which you add/upload to Learning Central yourselves will only be accessible if you have created them to be accessible.

One of the things we in ELTT try to do is provide advice and help on how to make sure your content is accessible. This is extremely important to help support all our students and is why within the essentials of Learning Central guidance materials that we offer in our staff induction module (available soon in Learning Central!) we cover ‘the basics of accessibility’. In our interactive presentation, we cover tips for text, images, audio, and video. For example, one of the tips describes how to make videos more accessible. One basic way to do that is to provide video captions (or subtitles), and there are plenty of tools out there to help you provide subtitles. For major video services like Vimeo and YouTube, for example, you could use a tool like Amara which allows you to easily create your own subtitles.

There’s a lot more advice we can offer beyond these basics, of course, but if you’re looking to get up to speed quickly on creating accessible content, then that interactive presentation is a good place to start. And if you don’t want to wait for the induction module, you can access the “Basics of Accessibility” interactive presentation by clicking here.

If you have any other queries on accessibility and learning technologies, as always, please do get in touch with us at