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Learning the Ins-and-Outs of Learning Management Systems: Accessibility Checkers

Author: Nicholas Jay Hoekstra

Over a series of posts, we are exploring various ways in which learning management systems (LMS) can be designed and organized to support diverse learners. In a previous blog, we discussed the importance of a clear, consistent approach to managing the presentation of materials. With this post, we are reviewing built-in features that can support faculty when creating content within their LMS. Although many LMS have been designed with web accessibility standards in mind, a report by EDUCAUSE highlights how important it is for faculty to use accessible templates, style features, and suitable fonts and colors when creating LMS pages. Since not every instructor is an expert in accessibility, this blog summarizes three LMS’ accessibility checkers that we can use to review the basics of accessibility.

Blackboard

The Blackboard content Editor appears wherever you can add text in Blackboard, such as on pages, in assignments, discussions, tests – and provides its own accessibility checker. By clicking on the symbol of a person with its arms open, you can see any accessibility errors and correct them. The checker looks for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and Section 504 compliance regarding the proper use of headings, alt text, color contrast, table formatting, and several other common issues. This Blackboard Instructor manual describes nine areas to improve content accessibility.

An editing feature shows various editing tools with a circle around the accessibility feature.

Canvas

Canvas includes its own Rich Content Editor that provides text editing features within Announcements, Assignments, Discussions, Pages, Quizzes and Syllabus. The accessibility checker appears as a circle containing a person with its arms open and raised slightly and highlights the text in question while providing an explanation of the error. Similar to other accessibility checkers, Canvas’ built-in tool will review text, tables, images, and links for common mistakes. The checker will provide an option to fix each error as it is found before moving on to the next. Check out this blog for detailed instruction on using Canvas’ accessibility checker.

An editing feature shows various editing tools with a circle around the accessibility feature.

Moodle

The default text editor in Moodle is the Atto Editor. Moodle’s accessibility checker—a button showing a human figure within a black circle – checks for images with missing alt text, insufficient font/background color contrast, overly large blocks of text, and missing captions or unusual formatting in tables. In addition, a screen-reader helper (showing two rectangles with braille dots) provides a summary for individuals using screen readers that details what text styles, images, and links appear within a block of text.

An editing feature shows various editing tools with a circle around the accessibility feature.

It’s a start

Accessibility checkers are great tools to help you double check your content, but be warned that they can’t verify that an image description is accurate or that documents you’ve uploaded are accessible. What common accessibility issues have you seen when using LMS? Visit the CIDDL Community and let us know! You might inspire our next blog.