Concentrating solely on accessibility will not help students access the content if it isn’t also usable. A page might be structured in a way that allows a screen reader to operate correctly, however if your navigation is so poorly structured that students can’t find the page in the first place then there is a different problem.

Below is a number of base level principles that you should consider that will improve the accessibility and usability of your Blackboard course.

Be consistent

Consistency is extremely important in making a course usable. It reduces cognitive overload, improves communication, exhibits professionalism and allows for efficiency which all amounts to an improved experience. There are many areas of consistency that you should give consideration too including: structure and navigation, use of language, formatting, file types and visual cues.

Use descriptive and unique link text

Use descriptive link text so all users know what they are clicking on before clicking on the text. These descriptions should be unique as many screen reader users will issue a command to list all links on a page. If all links use the text “click here” then the screen reader can only only highlight links without context in a list such as ‘Click Here’, ‘Click Here’, ‘Click Here’.

Poorly written, inaccessible link:

For more information click here for the W3C guide to accessibility.

Appropriately Written, accessible link:

For more information take a look at the W3C guide to accessibility.

Font Formatting

Use a sans serif font such as Ariel or Verdana as this is normally easier to read than a serif like Times New Roman. The Blackboard default text is “size 3”, however you are encouraged to make any text on a page “size 4” so it is more legible. Use formatting consistently throughout the module. Do not over use bold when emphasizing text. If everything is emphasized then nothing is emphasized. Using italics can be problematic for those with dyslexia. It is also advisable to not use underlined as a another form of emphasis as this is normally used a hyper link signifier. It can confuse users into thinking that they can click the underlined text.

Be particularly careful when copying and pasting text from Word as this will often bring it unwanted styling information that can effect the format.

Use headings

Screenshot of the available text format options in the black rich text editor.

Divided your pages semantically with headings to create a page outline. This is vital for users who use screen readers to access Blackboard. The headings can be used by screen readers to navigate the page. This has the added benefit of allowing visual users to easily scan the page.

In Blackboard you should use the Format drop down menu to select a suitable sub heading format for any headings that you insert in the rich text editor.


When creating Word documents that will be uploaded to Blackboard you should follow the same advice as above, creating headings within the document. You can select them from the style menu. You should export Word documents as a PDF with settings to preserve document structure and create a heading tree. This will not only make the document more accessible but will ensure consistency of layout across different devices. Using italics can be problematic for those with dyslexia, as can long paragraphs and justified text. Try to break up long paragraphs as much as possible by using bullet points and use left align formatting.

Make transcripts available

Audio and video content will often be problematic for students with hearing or visual disabilities or users with unreliable internet access. Providing text transcripts can over come many of this hurdles. If you are creating a video or audio content yourself it is advisable to work from a script in the first instance. Not only will this normally improve the production quality of your content, but you then have a ready made transcript without the need for separate transcription later.

Alternative text and descriptions.

Screen shot highlighting the text description field in Blackboards insert image tool.All non text based content such as images and charts should have concise descriptions that describe the contents of the media.

This can be added in Blackboard when you embed an image in a page.



Be careful with colour usage

Don’t use colour as the sole signifier of importation information. Think about how you can use text labels and shape in addition to colour. Below are 2 examples.

Example of a time table only using colour to signify which group the information relates to.
Using only colour to convey information


Example of a time table using colour and text labels to signify which group the information relates to.
Using colour and text labels to convey information


Using only colour to convey information
Using colour and shape to convey information

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