Blackboard Accessibility Interest Group

Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services (CITES) and Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES)

University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign

Progress report

One-day workshop/training at Blackboard

I have been invited to go to Blackboard in Washington D.C for one-day workshop on August 9. Many members of ProductDevelopment department will be participating in the workshop including the Product Management, UI Design, Engineering, Performance Engineering, Quality Assurance, Technical Communication and others involved in the operational aspects of the department.
The goal is that the members of development groups gain some basic knowledge about the accessibility, assistive technology, illustrating how people with disabilities interact with their systems, and promote the Universal Design Approach as a potential solution.
I will be meeting also in smaller groups with QA, Engineering, and UI Design teams to have more detailed discussion on accessibility problems and the potential solutions for them.

List of Blackboard Contact Team

Here's the list of our contacts at Blackboard as of August 2007:

Revisiting Blackboard Issues list

Accessibility issues on Blackboard Academic Suite available to the Blackboard Accessibility Interest Group at Blackboard Connections has been visited by Hadi and the Issues list has been updated accordingly.

Creating sub-groups

In our Interest group we have many experts with various backgrounds that we can divide our group into more specialized sub-groups so we can utilize everyone's knowledge and expertise. Here's the suggested sub-groups:

  1. Idea
  2. Testing
  3. Documentation
  4. QA
and of course, we will have our general group. The idea is that the entire group meets once per month and our sub-groups meets as many time in a month as needed. The sub-groups report to the general group.

BB World 2007

Presentation and Bird of Feather Session

With the financial support from Educational Technology and Disability Resources at the University of Illinois I was able to attend at the BB World 2007 conference and present a paper titled Good Online Pedagogy is Accessible jointly with another colleague from UIUC.
I was able to participate in the Bairds of Feather session dedicated to accessibility. This was a very interesting session. Click here to view the minutes for the BB World 2007: Birds of Feather session: Accessibility

Expanding our collaboration through out all the development phases

On the side of the conference I was able to meet with many of Blackboard colleagues and discuss the accessibility problems with the product and ways that our group can help. In a constructive meeting and discussion with Stephanie Cupp, User Experience Manager at Blackboard, 3 product managers including Kristin Allen, with whom we worked on GradeBook PDP Project, William Murray, User Interface Manager, Andy Jacobson, the Technical Communication Manager, Ella Herz, QA Manager (I meet with her at a different time and place), and two of my colleagues from Educational technology departments, we agreed on the followings:

Accessibility on Blackboard Roadmap:

The letter we sent to Blackboard top management has made its points. In one of the big sessions at the BB World 2007, Jessica Finnefrock, VP of product development introduced the Blackboard Roadmap for the first time publicly and since I didn't see the accessibility is not part of the roadmap officially, I raised the question and she appreciated the effort of our group and apologized for not including accessibility in the roadmap and promised to do it effective immediately. So I would like to inform that Accessibility is now a fixed part of Blackboard Roadmap (at least officially) and hope this will remind everyone in that company to think about the accessibility and design with accessibility in mind.

Response from Blackboard on Expanding Collaboration Interest Group Relationship

Jessica Finnefrock, Vice President of Product Development responded very positively on the letter. Click here to view her response to the letter and additional follow up correspondences.

Letter to Blackboard on Expanding Accessibility Interest Group Relationship

Letter to Blackboard in Microsoft Word Format

Letter has been sent to the following people at Blackboard:

Received Letters

  1. City Colleges of Chicago, John H. Dozier, Vice Chancellor of Information Technology & CIO
  2. Colorado State University, Dr. Patrick A. Burns, Vice President for IT
  3. Darthmouth College, Malcolm Brown, Director, Academic Computing
  4. Eastern Illinois University, Michael Hoadley, Assistant VP for Academic Affairs for Technology
  5. Eastern Kentucky University, Dr. Gene Kleppinger, Manager, Online Learning
  6. Governor State University, John Stoll, Dean, University College
  7. North Carolina State, Tom Miller, Vice Provost for Distance Education and Learning Technology Applications
  8. Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville, Jennifer Vandever, Director, Academic Computing
  9. University of Illinois at Chicago, Ed Garay, Assistant Director for Academic Computing
  10. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, Ken Spelke, Associate Dean for Information Technology and Research
  11. University of Minnesota, Linda Jorn, Director, Digital Media Center, Office of Information Technology
  12. University of New Mexico, Debby Knots, Manager, New Media and Extended Learning
  13. University of Toronto, Marden Paul, Director, Strategic Computing
  14. Purdue University, David Schwarte