These last two weeks stretched my patience to the limits. The cause stems from hassles with accessible digital learning mediums employed with my classes at the University of Kansas. The main culprit once again is Blackboard.
The landscape for this semester includes two online courses and two classroom based seminars. All of them heavily rely on Blackboard to exchange information. In addition, one class connects via Adobe Connect. All of these methods for conveying information over a digital interface meets basic accessibility standards, as tested through Freedom Scientific’s JAWS. Well, that leaves me in a slight pinch, as I rely on Mac OS 10.10 with Voice over and Safari or the iOS variants through Voice Over.
My previous blog post, “Why Education is Important yet Difficult for a Disabled Individual,” summarized the initial barriers and stressors one faces upon entering the halls of academia. Within this post, I critiqued the User Interface for the Blackboard site, based on personal experiences as a Mac user. Since this post, Mac released OS 10.10 Yosemite and iOS 8. In both of these updates, accessing Blackboard took a step backwards. On one hand, one can point the finger at Apple for the changes, on the other hand, Blackboard has done nothing to update their products, which leaves folks like me stuck in the middle.
Diving into accessibility barriers thus far faced this semester, here is a quick list:
- Blackboard still implements customizable frames, instead of rolling out a basic HTML interface similar to Amazon and Facebook
- Blackboard Mobile Learn now has significant Voice Over barriers starting rom the initial screen to enter your academic Institution to the inability to click on links within discussion posts (click here for my review on Blackboard Mobile Learn on AppleVis)
- Adobe Connect only provides Voice Over with the ability to occasionally interact with the login screen, but no other form controls or buttons are accessible
- Adobe Connect for iOS is completely inaccessible with Voice Over, and has been for several years according to this post from AppleVis
Based on this summary, the barriers for me to engage with digital interfaces through my equipment definitely fails to live up to accessibility standards outlined in Section 508, W3C, IAAP, and other widely accepted standards and regulations. I am not saying this with the mindset that I cannot implement workarounds, rather, that more must be done by these companies to push accessibility for all systems. For example, I installed VM Fusion ignored to run Windows 8.1 and NVDA, Window Eyes, and System Access Mobile Network (SAMNet). Each of these offers a slightly different experience to approach Blackboard and other online learning mediums. Secondly, I have informed my instructors and professors about the difficulties I have faced, and agreed to appropriate accommodations. Next, I have sent a clear and concise message to Blackboard and Adobe on the above issues. Finally, I have attempted to reach across my network and online communities to obtain feedback from others.