Accessibility in Online Courses

The University of South Carolina is partnering with Blackboard to build more inclusive learning environments through the integration of Blackboard Ally, an innovative new tool that makes online course content more accessible for all learners. Accessibility is vital to USC Aiken’s strategic plan to promote quality educational experiences and we should be dedicated to creating a culture of inclusion for all students and not just meet the needs of those with disabilities. The Ally tool in Blackboard now helps to visualize this strategy as a tool that can automatically scan uploaded files (documents, slides, and images) to provide instructors with accessibility “scores” for each file. Ally also provides detailed feedback on accessibility issues, why they matter, and how to fix them. Green is the goal! Ally also offers students new alternatives to download content, includingSemantic HTML, Tagged PDF, Audio, ePub, and electronic Braille. Students now have several choices to engage with course content that best suits their individual learning preferences. On a larger scale, accommodating online courses for accessibility does help meet accreditation standards and can improve both retention and graduation rates.

What Does This Accessibility Tool Do?

  • Provides an accessibility “score” seen only by instructors for all files (Word, PDF, PowerPoint, images, etc…) in Blackboard (scores are not visible to students).

  • Provides helpful information on revising accessibility issues.

  • Allows students to download alternative formats of files including; Tagged PDF, HTML, ePub, Electronic Braille, Audio Versions.

Instructor View of Accessibility Icons in Blackboard

 Ally Instructor FeedbackIcons 0

This accessibility tool is not meant to penalize content within Blackboard but should be used to identify flagged accessibility issues associated within Blackboard courses and guide educators to creating more inclusive content. A goal for the Office of Distance Learning is to provide a plan for collaborative support for faculty and staff in meeting goals for quality, accessibility, and inclusiveness for all online courses offered at USC Aiken.

With this tool, we have the opportunity to make our online campus more accessible to help not only those with documented disabilities but all learners, including those with undiagnosed disabilities and ESL learners struggling to keep up with their coursework. We encourage all instructors to evaluate their own course content and take the first steps to improve accessibility with the help of Microsoft’s Accessibility Checker. If you need additional resources or support or if you would like to schedule a consult with an expert, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Accessibility Support USC Aiken

The Office of Distance Learning is committed to supporting online learning and once the icons appear in Blackboard we can start to help. We are planning tier 1 and tier 2 support for every school and college at the university. Tier 1 support is dependent on you utilizing resources provided by Blackboard and USC Aiken to help you understand accessibility issues and learning how to resolve those issues. Tier 2 support is for faculty who need additional help via workshops or scheduling individual consults with an instructional designer. Our goal is to be proactive in addressing accessibility and work with departments to improve the accessibility of our online presence.

Tier 1

Addressing accessibility in common files like documents, slides, and images is not difficult to achieve. In fact, some documents can be revised in only a few minutes. Common issues have to do with formatting headers, tables, slide titles, and the use of tables. Please review the information regarding Ally and associated resources that guide users on locating and addressing accessibility issues.

Tutorials and Resources

Microsoft Office365 applications have an accessibility feature, which can be used to check and improve the accessibility of files before sharing them or uploading them to  Blackboard. Tips on using this feature may be found here: Microsoft Office365 Accessibility Checker. Alternatively, if you create content using Google Drive you may want to consider using the add-on tool Grackle.

Tier 2

The Office of Distance Learning is commented to supporting all faculty and staff to meet accessibility standards. Please utilize the Tier 1 resources or the following support services. If you, or your department, would like to assist in meeting accessibility goals for the university please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Workshops and Consults

  • instructional designers at the Office of Distance Learning

  • workshops sponsored by The Center for Teaching Excellence

  • Disability Services (On Campus Courses)

    • Mandated by Office for Civil Rights (OCR) – Workshop: How should faculty engage students with accessibility needs?

  • IT Accessibility Laws and Policies. Visit Section508.gov maintained by the U.S. General Services Administration. The GSA also has a number of tools and guides that will help you understand conformance to 508 standards.

Yuja Lecture Capture
  • Provides auto-captioning for lecture capture and imported video content.
  • More information on Yuja.

 

For additional questions or support request please contact the Office of Distance Learning via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 803-641-3389.