Creating Accessible Blackboard Courses

Below are a number of base principles to consider to improve the accessibility and usability of your Blackboard course.

Be consistent

Consistency is extremely important in making a course usable. It reduces cognitive overload, improves communication, exhibits professionalism and increases user efficiency, all of which contribute to improving the user experience.

There are many areas of consistency to consider including:

  • Structure – follow the Aston template to build your course. This will ensure students find similar resources in similar places across all their courses.
  • Navigation – group similar items together in folders rather than a long list down the screen.
  • Use of language – avoid slang terms and ensure items are referred to with the same name. For example, Aston university log on details could be called ‘Aston login’, ‘Aston log in’, ‘Aston username and password’.
  • Formatting – use the same styles and headings in your content and ensure you update them on content imported from another source.
  • File types – It can be helpful to convert documents to a PDF (portable document format) to ensure that formatting remains consistent and that documents can be read on as many devices as possible. However, you may also wish to consider also providing, for example, a Word or PowerPoint file, as some students might use the Learning Tools features in Word or Microsoft’s Immersive Reader. The ability to use these assistive technologies will be lost when content is solely distributed as a PDF.
  • Visual cues – ensure these are always identical to allow users to instantly recognise them.

Font formatting

  • Use a sans serif font such as Arial, this is easier to read than a serif font such as Times New Roman.
  • Use 12 or 14
  • Do not overuse bold when emphasizing text. If everything is emphasised, then nothing is emphasised.
  • Using italics can be problematic for those with dyslexia.
  • It is advisable to NOT use underline as another form of emphasis as this is often used to signify a web link. It can confuse users into thinking that they can click the underlined text.
  • Do not copy and paste text from Word as this may bring unwanted formatting information that your page. If you need to copy and paste text, first copy your text into Notepad, then copy and paste from Notepad into Blackboard. This will strip out the unwanted Word formatting.

Use Headings

Divide your pages semantically with headings to create the page outline or hierarchy. For example, a single item in Blackboard could look like:


Sub Heading 1

Sub Heading 1


Sub Heading 1

Sub Heading 2

Sub Heading 1

Screenshot of the available text format options in the blackboard rich text editor.

This is helpful for users who use screen readers to access Blackboard as the headings will be used by a screen reader to navigate the page.

It also has the added benefit of allowing visual users to easily scan the page.

In Blackboard, you should use the Format drop-down menu to select a suitable subheading format for any headings that you insert in the rich text editor.

Alternative text and descriptions.

All non-text-based content such as images and charts should have concise descriptions that describe the contents of the media.

After you have added an image into the Content editor:

  1. Right the image
  2. Click Image
  3. Fill out the Alternative description field.

Alternative description text box in the Blackboard content editor

In many cases writing alt-text can be quite difficult. See this guide by WebAIM about writing alt-text for help.

Use descriptive and unique link text

Use descriptive link text so all users know what they are clicking on before selecting the link.

Many screen reader users will list all the links on a page, if all links use the text ‘click here’, the screen reader can only create a list of links without context consisting of ‘Click Here’, ‘Click Here’, ‘Click Here’.

Poorly written, inaccessible link:

  • For more information click here for the W3C guide to accessibility

Appropriately written, accessible link:


Documents such as those from Word or excel, or indeed pdfs that have been made from these documents can be problematic for students to access for a multitude of reasons. Take a look at our Making Accessible Documents help for guidance.

Make transcripts available

Audio and video content may be problematic for students with hearing or visual impairment or those with unreliable internet access. Providing text transcripts can overcome these hurdles.

If you are creating a video or audio content yourself it is advisable to work from a script. This will improve the production quality of your content and provide you with a ready-made transcript.

Be careful with colour usage

Don’t use colour as the sole signifier of important information as colour blind users will not be able to see it. Use text labels and shapes in addition to colour.

Using only colour to convey information.

Monday 2-3pm
Tuesday 10-11am

Using text labels with colour.

Red Group Tutorial
Monday 2-3pm
Blue Group Tutorial
Tuesday 10-11am

Using only colour to convey information.

Using shape and colour to convey information.

More information on accessibility & Blackboard