Skip to main content



Course Materials

Any files you upload to Blackboard will retain your original coding and formatting. It is Blackboard’s responsibility to make sure that their navigation, communication tools and other utilities are accessible for people with disabilities, but the system doesn’t check the content uploaded by instructors.

Course materials, including HTML and MSWord documents, multimedia presentations and links, etc. should allow all students, including those with disabilities, to access your course information. Here is a list of quick tips to improve accessibility:

Images and Multimedia

  • Web pages and MSWord files containing images can be easy for sighted users to understand, but pose problems for users who make use of screen readers. Alternate (ALT) text for images in HTML pages, use of titles and written descriptions help provide access to those who are “listening” to pages.

  • If you add images directly to the content system using the “add +Item” function to “Display Media file within a page” be sure to add the ALT text for the file.

  • Multimedia content (such as audio or video files) can be accessed by students with hearing disabilities once they’ve been captioned. If you include a particularly long audio file, provide the transcript in a separate text file next to the link to the audio file.


  • Avoid using very small font sizes

  • Be sure that students who are colour-blind can use your site. Do not rely on colour to indicate meaning. For example, to not specify that assignments currently due by listing them in red.

  • To accommodate students with learning disabilities, it’s helpful to ‘chunk’ your information using blocks of texts and headings, and to keep links organized.

Content and Organization

  • When including hyperlinks use text that makes sense when read out of context. For example, avoid "click here."

  • Improve the organization of your page by including headings, lists and consistent structure.


  • Use large, high contrast text to help students with low vision.

  • If you include an image, add an alternative text label for that image via the “Format Picture” option.

  • To accommodate students who are blind who may have difficulty in accessing PowerPoint, it is possible to save the slide outline as text using either the “Save As” or “Export” feature.

Course Tools

Though Blackboard’s core functions are technically compliant with US legislation, the communication utilities such as the discussion board and the chat feature can be troublesome for users with disabilities. Blackboard offers a Screen reader Tutorial which gives specific instruction on use of these tools.

  • The chat and collaboration tools require a java plug-in, plus an additional Java Access Bridge download may needed so that the screen reader can navigate using the keyboard shortcuts and get audio access to the elements on the page . While information about this feature is available from within the my.ryerson Course Shell website, it is difficult to install and users may need support with implementation and use. Further documentation on how best to use the collaboration tool with assistive technology is available as part of Blackboard’s Screen Reader Tutorial or by contacting the DMP at

  • The discussion board is also difficult to access using a screen reader such as JAWS or text-to-speech software such as Kurzweil. For screenreader users, the complex format, including an expandable and collapsible menu for each ‘thread,’ can become confusing, particularly when one thread has numerous replies that all use the same subject line. In addition to this, users may have difficulty using the menu which can be expanded or collapsed. Again, the Screen Reader Tutorial provides detailed information on navigating within this communication tool.

  • Students who have learning disabilities and use text-to-speech software may have difficulty accessing long pages of discussion content, as the visual highlighting of the text being read may fail to synchronize with the audio output. As a worksaround to this problem, students can load frames in a new window by right-clicking on the link to the content they want to read, and selecting the “Open New Window” option.

  • For users of speech recognition software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking, the default text editing tools cannot be used to author discussion entries. These students will need to change their preference settings in the my.ryerson tab under Tools > Textbox Options. The “Unavailable ” radio button should be selected to change the default to a simple text entry box.

Please contact the Access Centre at for more information on use of adaptive software by students with disabilities.

Course Management

Blackboard’s customization options allow you to control various elements of the course shell appearance, such as the navigation bar on the left and the colour choices. It’s important to remember that some students may have difficulty working with certain appearance settings.

  • Students with low vision might have trouble with low contrast colours. It’s a good idea to make sure the text colour and background colour are distinct so information can be easily read.

  • You have the option of changing the sidebar links from text to images (buttons). Images with text on them might pose problems for students who use screen magnifiers, as the text may become blurry and pixilated when magnified.


Blackboard’s assessment feature makes quizzing and grading easy, but students with disabilities might face certain challenges with these assessments.

  • The quizzes, which may be timed, are more difficult to manage using screen readers or other adaptive technologies

  • Students with learning disabilities might require more time to finish certain assessments, or may have difficulty with forced completion

As an appropriate accommodation for their disability, some students registered with the Access Centre may be allowed extra time to complete quizzes and tests, or other changes to the parameters.

As the instructor, you can create alternate quizzes for the use of students who may require more time for assessments. For full details on the necessary steps see our information on how to accommodate students with special requirements.

As well, you may contact the Access Centre (416-979-5113) for information about making alternate test arrangements for assessing students with disabilities who are registered with the Centre.