Blackboard Collaborate (Ultra) Touts Assistive Tech Adherence

Blackboard has improved accessibility functionality for its online collaboration application. Blackboard Collaborate with the Ultra experience recently underwent an audit by a company that provides consulting to organizations in the area of accessibility. SSB Bart Group determined that the Web-based conferencing tool met Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0 at Level AA. Analysis also found the product supported federal Section 508 standards "with exceptions."

Ultra is an optional user interface based on Blackboard's learning management system, Learn 9.1.

As the WCAG assessment reported, while Collaborate (Ultra) doesn't "fully support the WCAG 2.0 requirements... it does support, with exceptions, most of the important technical and functional accessibility needs of most disability and assistive technology types." For example, the software allows for live captioning, supports 4.5:1 contrast and follows consistent navigation.

The core issues in both reviews were few. The evaluator found that Collaborate (Ultra) wouldn't allow assistive technology or keyboard-only users to access the Share Application plug-in, that these users are unable to place content on the whiteboard, and that screen reader users lacked the ability to access content placed on the whiteboard.

Both assessments were done on Windows 7 using Chrome 43 or Firefox 41.0.1 browsers and iOS 8 using the Safari 8.0.3 browser. Several assistive technologies were tested: Freedom Scientific JAWS 16, Apple VoiceOver, ZoomText 10.0 and Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13.0.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.