Web accessibility refers to how easily people with disabilities can navigate and interact with websites. Disabilities may be physical (such as blindness, low vision, deafness, or fine motor skills difficulty), or cognitive (such as dyslexia or attention deficit disorder). People with disabilities often use assistive technologies to help them navigate the web. An assistive technology is any device that helps a person with a disability. Common web assistive technologies include modified mice and keyboards, screen readers and screen magnifiers.
Web accessibility occurs when websites support web accessibility standards, are compatible with assistive technologies, and are easy for people to navigate and understand.
At Desire2Learn we follow web accessibility standards closely and work with interested clients to test the usability of our products for people with disabilities. We believe that instructional practices should focus on helping people learn, and should not be limited by the learning management system the material is delivered in.
Many features in the Desire2Learn Learning Suite can be adjusted to improve access for individuals with disabilities. We recommend that individuals who use screen readers, screen magnifiers, or navigate primarily by keyboard, read the accessibility topics to help ensure that the features and settings they use best support their needs.
As a course designer you hold a pivotal role in ensuring that Learning Environment is accessible to all users, regardless of their learning needs. It is your content that students must access, assess, and respond to. We strongly encourage you to follow accessibility best practices to ensure you meet the learning needs of all your students.
Consult the following guides to ensure accessibility standards compliance with Learning Environment, ePortfolio, Learning Repository, and Capture.
The Desire2Learn Learning Suite includes a number of features aimed at improving the usability of the system for assistive technology users. The following list outlines some of the design decisions that benefit screen reader users:
Learning Environment is a learning management system that enables you to access course material online. There are a number of learning tools within the system that course content is contained in. This topic discusses how the system is laid out, and how different functionality, settings, and preferences benefit individuals that navigate the system using a screen reader (or other assistive technologies that interpret the contents of a page).
This topic does not document how to use specific assistive technologies. Please refer to help material for the software or device you are using if you want to learn about its specific functionality, shortcuts, and commands.
The Login page for Learning Environment has three form elements: Username, Password, and Login. The Username field has focus when you enter the page. The Password field and Login button are the next tab options.
There are two additional options displayed as links:
The Logout link is available in your personal menu on the minibar at the top of all pages. The personal menu opens when you click on your name on the minibar. You can access your personal menu using an assistive technology's links list, or by tabbing through the minibar links at the top of the page.
Learning Environment is typically organized into two levels of information: organization related information and course related information. Organization related information typically appears on My Home, while course related information typically appears on Course Home and different course tools.
My Home is generally the first page you access when you log in to Learning Environment. It is a central area for checking institution-wide news and events, and accessing organization-level tools.
Like all pages in Learning Environment, My Home has a navigation area across the top of the page. This navigation area includes the minibar and navbar. The minibar is a navigation area that contains links and menus specific to you, such as links to your courses and alerts about events related to you. The navbar typically contains links to different tools. Since My Home is an organization-level page, the links on the navbar for My Home usually go to organization-level or course-independent tools, such as your personal Locker, Email, and ePortfolio. The navbar has a Heading 2 called "Navigation". It is organized using unordered lists.
Other My Home content is organized in widgets. Typical widgets include: News, My Courses, Tasks and Calendar. You can navigate and search for widgets by Heading 2s, and navigate sections within a widget by Heading 3s.
One of the main purposes of My Home is to provide access to organization-level tools and information. We recommend you use your screen reader to view a link list and heading list for your My Home to get a feel for what options are available to you.
To access a Course Home, you must select it from the course selector on the minibar or the My Courses widget. If you are using the My Courses widget and have more than one role in Learning Environment (for example, you are both a Graduate Student and a Teaching Assistant) you need to select the tab for the role you want to view courses for. Depending on your screen reader, widget tabs may be read as tabs or links. They should always be the first content after the widget's heading.
Course Home is the first page you visit when you enter a course. It is a central area for accessing course specific information. Like My Home, Course Home pages have a navigation area across the top of the page and a number of widgets that contain information and links. Information and links on Course Home are specific to that course (unless they are for course-independent tools). For example, the navigation area for a Course Home might contain links to Grades, Discussions and Quizzes for that specific course. Use Heading 2s to navigate to the main Navigation area and the different course widgets.
At the top of each page is a navigation area that includes the minibar and the navbar. You can skip the navigation area on any page by selecting the Skip to main content link.
The minibar appears at the top of every page. It contains links to: My Home; a course selector that enables you to switch between courses; alerts about events and updates specific to you and your courses; and a personal menu for setting your preferences and logging out.
The navbar contains an unordered list with the main tool links for the course you are viewing (or for My Home or a department if you are not in a course). You can jump to the navbar by selecting the heading "Navigation".
Headings and ARIA landmarks are used throughout the system to help you navigate pages. Heading 1s and Main landmarks are used for page titles. Heading 2s are used for widgets and major page sections. Heading 3s are used to organize information within widgets and major sections. Navigation, Search and Complementary ARIA landmarks are used to provide context.
Note If you do not set the accessibility preference "Show secondary windows as pop-ups," your screen reader’s heading and landmark lists will read two heading 1s and two Main ARIA landmarks when you open dialog boxes.
Tool navigation and action buttons are used to navigate areas and perform tasks within a specific tool. Typically, the tool navigation links are used for complicated tools that need to be divided into different types of tasks. For example, in Grades the tool navigation divides the Enter Grades and Manage Grades areas. You can find the tool navigation links under the hidden heading 2 called Tool Navigation. Action buttons encompass page specific tasks. For example, the Manage Grades page include a New action button to add grade items or categories.
While tool navigation and action buttons are used to navigate between tool areas and perform tasks, context menus are used to select an action for a specific item on a list page. Every context menu has unique link text that references the item it applies to. For example, a file in your Locker will have a context menu beside it named "Actions for [file name]" which opens a menu with item specific actions.
Tables (grids) are often used to organize content within a tool.
All tables use proper table summaries and headings. However, the easiest way to navigate items in a table is by a check box, since most table items have a Select [item] check box before their name.
Most items also have a context menu after their name. These menus contain item specific actions. Each context menu has unique link text so you can use a links list to locate the context menu for the item you want to perform actions on.
You can also select multiple items from a table using the Select [item] check boxes and then selecting an action that can apply to multiple items. Actions that can apply to multiple items appear at the top and bottom of a table and use the alt text format [action] Selected Items. For example, you could use a links list to "Select Topic 1" and "Select Topic 2" and then "Edit Selected Items".
Complex tables often have drop-down lists for filtering information in the table. For example, some tables have a View drop-down list that allows you to change how information is sorted. Most drop-downs have an accompanying Apply or Go button that initiates the action.
A few drop-downs, such as per page drop-downs, update on selection so you must use Alt + Down Arrow (Windows/Linux) or Option + Down Arrow (Mac) to open the drop-down and then use the Up Arrow or Down Arrow and Enter key to select an option.
If there are more items in a table than will display on a single page, use the Page drop-down list, Next Page icon, or Previous Page icon to navigate to other pages.
Pages that use form fields for entering data or changing settings have a logical tab order. If a page is divided into multiple tabs, your screen reader may read the tabs as tab stops or as links. You normally cannot open a secondary tab until you have filled in all the mandatory fields on the first tab. Mandatory fields are indicated with an asterisk (*). The last options on a form are usually Cancel and Save. Sometimes the Save button is called something else related to completing the action, such as Select or Upload.
Many forms allow you to create content using our HTML Editor (WYSIWYG). The HTML Editor is fully accessible by keyboard, but lacks non-visual feedback when options or formatting are selected in the editor view. You can make changes in the source view so you can read your changes in the code as you work, or turn off the HTML Editor in your Account Settings. If you turn off the HTML Editor it is replaced by text fields that accept HTML.
Some form pages contain links to additional actions, which may not be recognized as form elements by your screen reader. For example, there is a link to create a New Folder on the Add Contact form in Email. Always check for links when filling out a form in Learning Environment and other Desire2Learn products.
Most form pages provide either a confirmation or error message when you submit the form using an ARIA alert. The message appears at the top of the page and should take focus. If there were errors in your submission the message explains each error and provides links to the appropriate fields so you can resolve the issues.
If you complete a quiz, survey, or self-assessment and answer choices contain equations made from an equation editor, you can gain the best experience by reading the choices while out of forms mode. Out of forms mode, MathPlayer is able to render the equations more comprehensibly. If you read equations within forms mode, your screen reader will read out MathML code instead of the equation.
We have tried to keep page layouts as simple as possible. However, some tools, such as Manage Files and Email, use treeviews and frames to layout complicated lists of items and options. Most of these pages have options to Hide Tree (Manage Files) or Show (or hide) the folder list pane (Email). Check the tool's settings and tool bars for ways to simplify the page layout.
Many forms contain inline help; Help icons and links to additional help material appear either immediately after the page heading or section heading, or after individual fields. It is a good idea to read the entire contents of a form before filling it out, and to look for help text or a help link immediately after a field if you have difficulty understanding its purpose.
Some pages contain sections that are collapsed by default. Collapsed sections contain advanced or supplemental information that is not required to complete standard tasks. To expand a collapsed section using a keyboard or screen reader, select the appropriate Expand or Show link.
When a list contains more items than the page currently displays, a Load More link appears at the bottom of the list as the final list item. Clicking this link appends more items to the list.
Some links open secondary pop-up windows for completing page-specific tasks. These links should indicate that they open in a new window through a title attribute. Use the Down Arrow and Tab keys to read the contents of the pop-up. The last options should be buttons to cancel or complete the task. Occasionally, these buttons are in a separate frame.
Important Some secondary pages use modal dialogs instead of separate windows to display information. If you primarily navigate the web using a screen reader we recommend that you select Show secondary windows as pop-ups in the Account Settings tool.
Most pages that contain lists of items or users have a Search For field near the top of the page. To perform a search, enter a word or partial word in the Search For field and select the Search button or press the Enter key.
Use the Show Search Options link to select advanced search options.
Use the Clear Search link to clear the Search For field.
Desire2Learn uses WAI-ARIA markup in a number or areas to help support navigation by keyboard and assistive technologies. For example, WAI-ARIA markup is used for tabs, context menus, error and confirmation messages, and for page navigation landmarks.
The minibar includes a personal menu with links to tools that store your personal information and settings. To open the personal menu, select the link that is your name. The following links are available:
We recommend that you adjust the settings available in the Account Settings tool to meet your personal needs. Here are some recommendations:
Select the Basic and Expand all Categories options to simplify movement through the main metadata page.
The Calendar tool can display events from multiple calendars in one view. Read the following sections to help orient yourself to key elements of the Calendar interface.
In addition to standard Day, Week, and Month views, the Calendar tool also displays calendar events in an Agenda and List view. The mode in which you're viewing the calendar appears as part of the heading 1 on the page.
The Agenda view groups course events from your active calendars by Date, Course, or Type. Events display in chronological order and all-day events display at the top of each grouped listing.
List view displays all events from your active course calendars in chronological order. You can filter this list by event type. Click an event's name to view more details about that event. If the list contains many items, a Load More link appears at the bottom of the list as the final list item. Clicking this link appends more items to the list.
The default calendar is always set as the course from which you accessed the Calendar tool; its name appears as a link on the page. If you have permission to create course events, those events appear on the default calendar.
You can change your default calendar by selecting the link labeled with the default calendar's name. This opens the calendar selector where you can select a course to view its calendar. Changing your default calendar also switches your current course in Learning Environment to correspond to the course calendar you select.
A bulleted list of calendars available to you displays once you select the link for the current calendar. Each calendar corresponds to an individual course you are enrolled in. If one of your courses is missing from the calendar selector, you can add course calendars to your list by selecting the Add Calendar link. Select a course link from the bulleted list to display its calendar events in the main calendar display.
Note If you have Calendar set to display all calendars, events in the main calendar display do not currently distinguish which courses they are part of when you scan the calendar. To distinguish which course an event is part of, you must select the event name for its details.
The mini calendar appears after a heading 2 that matches the current month and year. It's a quick reference for the active calendars in the Calendar tool. It indicates which dates have events and the day, week, or month currently selected in the main calendar display.
The mini calendar includes leading and trailing dates. This means that you might see the last days of the previous month and the first days of the next month depending on which day of the week the current month begins.
Tasks are not connected to specific calendars. The task pane enables you to keep a personal list of tasks and set their deadlines to keep track of things to do.
The Desire2Learn Learning Suite includes a number of features aimed at improving the usability of our systems for people with disabilities. The following list outlines some of the design decisions that benefit people that navigate our products by keyboard or using an assistive technology that emulates a keyboard:
Learning Environment is a learning management system that enables you to access course material online. There are a number of learning tools within the system that course content is contained in. This topic provides some basic advice for people who navigate Learning Environment using a keyboard or assistive technologies that emulate a keyboard.
Note If your organization's Learning Environment includes integrations with Kaltura or Capture, we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 8 or higher to avoid possible keyboard traps in those media players.
Use the Tab key on your keyboard to navigate the options on a page. Use Shift + Tab to return to a previous option. Learning Environment highlights page elements that you can interact with (such as links, fields and buttons) as you tab through them, to make it easier for you to complete tasks and select options.
Press the Enter or Return key to select a link or button.
Use the Down Arrow and Up Arrow keys to navigate drop-down lists that have an Apply or Go button beside them.
Use Alt + Down Arrow keys (Windows and Linux) or Option + Down Arrow keys (Mac) to open drop-down lists that do not have an Apply or Go button, and then use the Down Arrow, Up Arrow and Enter keys to select an item in the drop-down.
Use the Enter or Return key to open a menu (such as a context menu, an alert or the course selector), and then use the Tab key and Enter key to select a link.
Use the Space Bar to select a check box or radio button option.
Use the Down Arrow and Up Arrow to change a radio button option.
Important Do not use Alt + F4 to close pop-up windows or pages. This action closes your browser.
Different browsers use different keystrokes to activate access key shortcuts:
Use the Tab key and Shift + Tab keys to navigate through the options in the HTML Editor.
Use the Shift + Arrow Keys to highlight content in the main content area of the editor.
Use the Shift + Alt + Q keys to jump to the top tool menu of the editor.
Use the Shift + Alt + Z keys to jump to the main content area of the editor.
Use the Shift + Alt + X keys to jump to the element path for the editor.
There are a number of settings in the Account Settings tool that you may find useful when navigating Learning Environment by keyboard.
Choose the Basic option to simplify movement through the main metadata page.
We recommend that you use Internet Explorer 8 or higher to navigate the Capture Portal.
Use the Tab key and Shift + Tab keys to move through the Capture Portal.
The first tab stop enables you to Skip Over Navigation.
The second tab stop displays media player controls to control presentation playback. These player controls also have access key equivalents (keyboard shortcuts):
If you are tabbing inside the media player, use the Space Bar to select an option.
The Desire2Learn Learning Suite includes a number of features aimed at improving the usability of the system for assistive technology users. The following list outlines some of the design decisions that benefit people that use screen magnifiers, zooming functionality and color contrast functionality:
Note Courses that use legacy navbars don't scale as well.
Learning Environment is a learning management system that enables you to access course material online. There are a number of learning tools within the system that course content is contained in. This topic provides some basic advice for using the system with screen magnifiers, zooming functionality and color contrast functionality.
Screen magnifiers, zooming functionality and color contrast functionality are often used by people who have difficulties reading online. Difficulties can include low vision, color blindness, eye strain, or dyslexia. Screen magnifiers and zooming functionality are also used by individuals who have fine motor skills difficulty as they increase the target for selectable content (such as links, icons and form fields).
There are a couple of ways you can increase the size of content in Learning Environment to improve readability:
Your institution or individual course instructors can customize page colors and text font as desired. As a result, the readability of Learning Environment depends a lot on your institution.
If you are having difficulty using Learning Environment because of the text and background colors used, we recommend that you use a screen magnifier or other assistive technology that allows you to invert or adjust the colors on a page.
Another popular option is to use a custom cascading style sheet (CSS). There are many free cascading style sheets available on the internet. CSS works best in Learning Environment when background images are turned off, but normal images and icons are left unaltered. Learning Environment is a complex site with a number of different tools and page designs, as a result a fairly detailed style sheet is needed to display content effectively.
There are a number of settings in the Account Settings tool that you may find improves the readability of Learning Environment.
Choose the Basic option to simplify movement through the main metadata page.
If you are having difficulty using Learning Environment to complete your course work, consider seeking help from your organization’s disability services, or your assistive technology’s help documentation.
All people learn differently. Organizing your course in a way that supports the learning needs and styles of all users can be a difficult task. Your learning materials need to engage, educate, evaluate and accommodate people effectively.
In this topic we discuss a number of design decisions you can make to help ensure your course is accessible to all users.
When you set up an online course it is important to remember that for many students it marks a big change from a traditional classroom. This can be challenging for students with physical or learning disabilities as they can feel disconnected from their instructor and other support systems.
Furthermore, Learning Environment provides course designers a lot of flexibility in how they set up and organize their course materials. Although there are many benefits to this flexibility, it can be daunting for students with learning disabilities and students who rely on assistive technologies to navigate pages to find all of your course materials and assignments.
There are some easy design decisions you can make that will help all students use your online course effectively:
Many course designers create course materials that put users with learning and physical disabilities at a disadvantage without intending to. Usually disadvantages result from users not having enough time to complete tasks or not having appropriately designed resources.
Here are a few things to consider when organizing course materials in a time-sensitive manner:
One of the most effective course design decisions you can make to improve student engagement is to offer course materials and assignments that appeal to more than one sense. For example, the same material or assignment can have an audio, video and text component. This type of redundancy helps engage students with different learning types, reinforces important concepts, and helps ensure that users with physical disabilities can access content in a suitable format.
Special Access and Release Conditions are used to set criteria around the availability of content, which can be useful for accommodating students with different needs.
The following examples show when you might use release conditions or special access to improve accessibility:
The Organizing your course accessibly  and Setting release conditions and special access to support students with different needs  topics provide guidance on organizing your course and setting release criteria to better support students with disabilities. This topic and the Accessible HTML templates  discuss design decisions you should consider when creating HTML content. Most of the tips provided are web content standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
We recommend that you create HTML topics for your course content when possible. HTML code is easier for assistive technologies to interpret than application based files such as MS Word. It also allows you to link content topics together and link content to different tools in Learning Environment.
Tip Consider using one of our accessible HTML templates  to streamline your content creation process.
The Account Settings tool includes a number of settings that can be adjusted to improve accessibility. These settings are controlled by individual users. Make sure users enrolled in your courses are aware of options that might benefit them.
Your organization likely has a Disability Services office, library support staff, and tutoring staff available for students seeking additional help. Familiarize yourself with the programs at your organization and share this information with students who seek additional support.
The following template packages were designed by Desire2Learn to make it easier for course instructors to create accessible, professional looking HTML content files.
The templates use a cascading style sheet (CSS) to format the content in HTML files. To use a template effectively, you must save the TemplateFiles folder containing the stylesheet.css file and supporting images in the same root folder as your HTML files and reference the CSS file appropriately.
We suggest that you create copies of the sample HTML files so you always have unedited template files to refer to.
Note You cannot see all of the template styles and images in the editor. Preview the file periodically to ensure it is formatted as expected.
If you want to create another content topic based on the template topic, you can copy the file you just created or create another new topic based on the copy HTML template file.