Brightspace has many features that can be changed or set to tailor the platform to the individual needs of staff or students. This resource has information about these and links to videos and documents about some of the settings within Brightspace, where the settings can be accessed and how to change them. The resource will also go through some of the actions you should take if using assistive technology.
UHI Accessibility Statement
Why do I need a UHI Accessibility Statement?
“D2L’s (suppliers of Brightspace) goal is to reach every learner. D2L aligns their production processes with the latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards. More information on conformance with these standards is available on the accessibility compliance page of their corporate website. D2L believe that accessibility standards and laws are more than checklists and work with their client-led Accessibility Interest Group to ensure their Section 508 Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) and WCAG checklists are descriptive and accurate."
For technical support with accessing Brightspace contact LIS via Unidesk. For support with accessing content in Brightspace, please contact your tutor.
The UHI accessibility statement is pending revision to be based on the JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) legal advice regarding Virtual Learning Environment Content. The university will endeavour to update this statement at the earliest possible time.
D2L Brightspace approach to Universal Design for learning
"We support educators in catering to learners with diverse needs. We recognize that disability arises due to unmet needs and that disability-related needs could be permanent, temporary or situational. We believe that the practice of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) built on a foundation of inclusively designed teaching process and content is the best way to meet diverse needs. Our Solution is designed to support UDL through the following strategies:
- Maintaining technical accessibility through developing in alignment with the WCAG 2.1 accessibility standards to ensure compatibility with assistive technologies;
- Ensuring functional accessibility through designing in alignment with the mental models of users with disabilities; and
- Supporting the practice of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) through features that help multiple representation, engagement, and expression.
We believe that effective online learning happens through the marriage of accessible technology and inclusive pedagogy. UDL provides instructors with tools to integrate the four essential components of teaching: instructional goals, materials, methods and assessments. We help instructors in creating learning environments that work for everyone—not a single, one-size-fits-all solution—but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs. Our Solution provides the following features under each of the three principles of UDL to support instructors."
Principle 1: Multiple means of representation
This is about giving learners a variety of ways to receive and understand information to build knowledge. Not everyone perceives information the same way, so it is critical that instruction is delivered in various, multiple formats. Various features of our Solution that support this UDL principle are stated with illustrations below.
Principle 2: Multiple means of action and expression
This is about giving learners different ways to communicate and express themselves as well as to support their executive functions. Our Solution offers instructors and learners the tools and opportunities to do the following:
Learners can choose to make submissions in a variety of formats.
Instructors can create special time limits for a group of learners or even create a separate quiz for a group of learners.
Principle 3: Multiple means of engagement
This is about challenging the learners appropriately and motivating them to learn. It is about recruiting their interest to learn and sustaining their effort and persistence. D2L's Solution offers the following strategies for creating and sustaining learner engagement:
Discussion forums allow for students to engage asynchronously amongst themselves and with the instructor.
Digital awards and badges can be created and used to incentivise learning in innovative ways.
Understanding user needs
Support for staff and learners:
|Blind||Screen reader and audio|
|Deafblind||Screen reader and electronic braille|
|Low vision||Screen magnification and contrast|
|Deaf or hard of hearing||Multi-language captioning|
|Learning disabilities||Assisted read/write, simple/visual & intuitive interface|
Keyboard access; compatibility with assistive technologies
Support features summary
- Brightspace is fully usable without mouse with a screen reader/braille output
- Using Brightspace with a screen reader - JAWS demo
- Using Brightspace with a screen reader - NVDA demo
- D2L Accessibility Lab website
- Brightspace tips for screen reader users
- Accessibility features for screen readers
- Free D2L Aira service support: Using the Aira app on a smart phone, students can call an Aira agent who will guide them through any visual task such as describing infographics that don’t have a description, reading our quiz questions, or interacting with a form. While D2L’s free offer is valid all over the world, the availability of Aira service itself in any location depends on the communication authorities permitting running Aira over their telephone network. Aira currently operates in USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
- Brightspace is fully usable with screen magnifiers
- Can magnify up to 200% without breaking.
- Interface colour contrast ratio is 7:1 at WCAG 2.1 AAA
- Works well with most browser plug-ins for magnification and contrast alterations
- Colour alone is not used to convey any information
- Using Brightspace with a screen magnifier - demo
- Accessibility features for low vision users
- Using magnification and zooming functionality
- Video Note tool allows teachers to create video lessons up to 30 minutes long (500 MB in size). Video Note automatically creates captions for videos. Captions can be edited for accuracy. This is a free service.
- Demo - Video Note
- Captions file can be uploaded while uploading videos.
- Third-party integration is available for captioning videos.
- Free live captioning is possible using PowerPoint or Google slides within Brightspace.
- Students can use these tools in their homes while listening to the teacher and watch the captions on their own devices.
- Students can be taught how to use their own devices to get live captions (especially for students who are deaf and have low vision, whose devices have been set with the display settings they need.
- Using PowerPoint, live captions can be received in French by any student in real time while the teacher speaks in English.
- Use Video Note to record BSL in content, discussion, feedback.
Here is a list of Brightspace tools you may want to explore that make the site more accessible and a short description of how it may be of use.
|Tool||How tool can help|
|Navigation Bar||Icon based for non-readers|
|Portfolio||Non-writers can document without writing, add audio note to give context (again no writing needed)|
|Special access in quizzes||
Give to certain students or groups of students to allow time extensions, later due date, more attempts to complete
|Exemptions in assessments and content||
Exempt a learner or group of learners from having to view content or complete assignment or quiz
|Awards||Keeps students engaged and motivated to continue working|
|Quiz features||Reduce questions per page to help students with anxiety, turn on “Disable Email, Instant Messages and alerts” to reduce distractions for students with ADHD|
|Release conditions||Can add conditions to content or assessments so learners must do a task before starting a new one, helpful to make sure they are staying on track with learning and not skipping ahead (students with ADHD, impulsive)|
|Groups||Can make groups within a single course for levelled learning groups|
|Video note anywhere with HTML editor||
Can give instructions via video verbally or using sign language, automatic close caption in 14 languages
Accessibility and navigation
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 mouse or trackball devices and keyboards, screen readers, braille readers, and screen magnifiers. Brightspace supports simplified navigation and formatting, and responsive navigation for tablets, mobile devices, and other narrow screen displays adhere to and enhance the accessibility benchmarks D2L sets for users requiring assistive devices
Web accessibility occurs when websites support web accessibility standards, are compatible with assistive technologies, and are easy for people to navigate and understand.
Accessibility features for screen readers
Designing your learning material to be correctly readable by a screen reader is very important and this screen reader introduction video compares an accessible page with a non-accessible page.
The D2L Learning Suite includes features aimed at improving the usability of the system for learners using assistive technology. Design decisions that D2L uses to benefit screen reader users include the following items:
- Standard page design. Similar functionality appears in the same place and is accessed in the same way across tools.
- Simple heading structure across all tools. Heading 1 is used for page titles. Heading 2 is used for widgets and major page sections. Heading 3 is used to organize information within widgets and subsections.
- Unique, contextual link names and button names.
- Title attributes on links that open the link in a new window. It is recommended that you adjust your screen reader settings to read the title attribute. When this setting is turned on, the screen reader alerts you when a link opens in a new window.
- Descriptive alternative text on all system images and graphics. Brightspace Learning Environment also prompts course designers to include alternative text when uploading images.
- Table row and column markup and table summaries or captions.
- Toggle icons, such as show/hide, indicate the state of the control.
- Skip navigation links and ARIA landmarks so you can skip sections of a page.
- Account settings that enable you to simplify the layout of many tools. There are specific settings related to accessibility, including system font and font size, the option to change modal dialogs to windows, and the option to turn off the HTML Editor.
- Full keyboard accessibility. The tab order is logical and tab focus is visually indicated. Drag-and-drop and other dynamic interaction features have keyboard alternatives.
- WAI-ARIA markup for links, context menus, error messages, and confirmation messages to help improve navigation.
- Support for browser and assistive technology scaling and contrast options. System content uses styles that you can overwrite using cascading style sheets (CSS); however, the complexity of the system requires detailed style sheets.
Using personal settings with assistive technology
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 containing your name. There are three links on the personal menu:
- Profile - Edit your shared personal information
- Notifications - Set how you receive notifications about activity in your courses
- Account Settings - Change display settings for Brightspace Learning Environment
- Optimizing personal account settings for assistive technology
The Account Settings link contains several tabs, depending on the role you have within the Brightspace Learning Environment. You can adjust the settings in these tabs to meet your personal needs; however, the following settings might be of particular interest if you are using assistive technology devices or software applications.
In the Account Settings tab, consider the following configuration options:
- You can configure the Login Destination option to log directly into a course, rather than My Home. This option can simplify navigation if you are only taking a few courses.
- The Font Face and Font Size options adjust the appearance of text Brightspace Learning Environment. Choose options that provide the best results for your needs. To adjust the size of icons, you can use a magnification tool such as the zoom feature built into most browsers.
- If you use a screen reader to navigate Brightspace Learning Environment, you can turn on Show secondary windows as pop-ups. Otherwise, some secondary pages may not be distinguishable from the main page.
- If you use a screen reader or you only use a keyboard to navigate Brightspace Learning Environment, you can select the Turn off rich text editor and view source option. Using this option, you can upload HTML content authored in an external editor.
- To automatically detect embedded videos, turn on the Optimize video presentation for programmatically-driven assistive technologies option.
In the Discussions tab, consider the following configuration options:
- To simplify the layout of discussion lists, turn off the Always show the Discussions List pane option.
- Turn off the preview pane and show topics in grid view.
In the Email tab, consider the following configuration options:
- To simplify the layout of your inbox, clear the Show the Message Preview pane and Show the Folder List pane check boxes.
The Metadata tab is available only to administrators and instructors. Consider the following configuration option:
- To simplify movement through the main metadata page, select the Basic and Expand all Categories options.
Understanding the Calendar Page layout
The Calendar displays events from multiple calendars in one view.
Using calendar view modes
The mode in which you're viewing the calendar is read to assistive technology devices as part of the Heading 1 on the calendar page. You can configure your calendar to display in Day, Week, Month, Agenda, or List view.
The Agenda view groups course events from your active course calendars by date, course, or type. Events appear in chronological order and all-day events display at the top of each grouped listing.
For learners with visual impairment, the List view displays all events from your active course calendars in chronological order. You can filter the List view by event type. To view more details about the event, click an event's name. If the list contains more items than fit on the page, a Load More link appears as the last entry on the list. To append more items to the list, click the link.
The default calendar always displays the course from which you accessed the Calendar tool. The course 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. When the calendar selector opens, choose a course calendar to view. When you change your default calendar, you also switch your current course in Brightspace Learning Environment to correspond to the course calendar you select.
The calendar selector appears to assistive technology as a bulleted list of available calendars. 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 calendars to your list by selecting the Add Calendar link. Select a course link from the bulleted list to display the calendar events in the main calendar display.
If you set the calendar to display all calendars, events in the main calendar display do not indicate which course the events belong to. To distinguish which course an event is part of, select the event name to display event details.
Assistive technologies and the learning environment
This section of the guide 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 technology that interprets the contents of a page.
Different assistive technologies have specific functionality, shortcuts, and commands. Ensure that you review the help material for your assistive technology to ensure you are getting the most benefit and assistance.
Logging in to Brightspace Learning Environment using assistive technology
By default, the Login page for Brightspace Learning Environment has three form elements: Username, Password, and Log in. The Username field has focus when you enter the page. The Password field and Log in button are the next tab options. Your institution might have customized the Login page to display different form elements.
There are two additional options displayed as links:
The Forgot Password link opens a new window where you can request a password reset link. An email containing the link is sent to the email address associated with your username.
The System Check link must be turned on by an administrator. If it is turned on, the link opens a new page that checks your computer for the minimum requirements of Brightspace Learning Environment. If you do not meet one of the minimum requirement criteria, a message appears that explains which components need to be updated.
Logging out of Brightspace Learning Environment using assistive technology
The Log out link is available in your personal menu on the minibar at the top of all pages. The personal menu opens when you click your name on the minibar. You can open the personal menu using an assistive technology's links list, or by tabbing through the minibar links at the top of the page.
Brightspace Learning Environment is organized into two levels of information. Organization-related information that appears on My Home (UHI My Courses), and course-related information that appears on Course Home (Module or Unit home) and different course tools.
My Home (or My Courses)
When you log in to Brightspace Learning Environment, My Home or My Courses is your home screen (landing page or the first page you access). It is a central area for listing all the modules or units that you have access to, institutional wide Announcements, a Calendar and other institutional wide tools.
My home screen
Like all pages in Brightspace Learning Environment, My home has a navigation area across the top of the page that includes the minibar and the navbar. The navbar 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 Email and Brightspace ePortfolio. For screen readers and other assistive technology, the navbar has a hidden default Heading 2 called Navigation, and it is organized using ordered lists. There might be other headings depending on institution configuration needs.
Other My Home content is organized into Widgets. Typical widgets include News, My Courses, Tasks, and Calendar. Using an assistive technology program, you can navigate and search for widgets using Heading 2, and navigate across sections using Heading 3.
One of the main purposes of My Home is to provide access to organization-level tools and information. If you are using a screen reader, you can view a list of links or headings on My Home to familiarize yourself with the available options.
Module or Unit home (you will see this referred to as 'Course' in D2L terminology).
Module/unit Home is the first page you visit when you enter a module or unit. To access a module/unit Home, you must select it from the My Courses widget on the landing page, or use the search feature to find the module/unit. If you are using the My Courses widget and have more than one role in Brightspace Learning Environment (for example, you are both a graduate student and a teaching assistant), you select the role tab, and then view the modules/units for that role. Depending on the screen reader, tabs might be read as tabs or links. In both cases, tabs are read as the first content immediately following the widget heading.
Module or unit page view
Module/unit Home is a central area for accessing module/unit-specific information. Like My Home, Module/Unit 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 Module/Unit Home are specific to the course, unless the information relates to module/unit independent tools. For example, depending on the implementation, the navigation area for Module/Unit Home contains links to Grades, Discussions, and Quizzes for that specific course. Use Heading 2 to navigate to the main Navigation area and the different course widgets.
Technical support features
Landmarks are waypoints that a screen reader uses to navigate a page. In general, Brightspace Learning Environment uses two landmarks:
- The navbar has a landmark called Navigation.
- The main body of all pages has a landmark called Main.
Understanding the general page layout
Pages in Brightspace Learning Environment have been designed so that the layout is similar across all tools. The way you interact with the navigation area, links, headings, action buttons, context menus, tables, tabs, forms, expanding and contracting text areas, pop-ups, search, and other content areas is the same on all Brightspace Learning Environment pages.
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 you can use to switch between courses, alerts about events and updates for you and your courses, and a personal menu for setting your preferences and logging out.
You can jump to the navbar by selecting the hidden heading Navigation. The navbar typically contains an unordered list of tool links for the course you are viewing. If you are not in a course, the navbar list contains tool links for My Home or a department. Depending on how the navbar was set up, the links might be organized into link groups. Link groups do not appear in the links list. You can locate link groups by checking the form fields list or navigating by button.
Using headings and ARIA landmarks with assistive technology
Headings and ARIA landmarks help you navigate pages throughout the system:
- Heading 1 and Main landmarks navigate page titles.
- Heading 2 navigates through widgets and major page sections.
- Heading 3 organizes information within widgets and page subsections.
- Navigation, Search, and Complementary ARIA landmarks provide context on a page.
Tool navigation and action buttons navigate areas and perform tasks within a specific tool. Typically, the tool navigation links divide complicated tools into different types of tasks. For example, in Grades, the tool navigation divides the Enter Grades and Manage Grades areas. Tool navigation links are available from the hidden Heading 2 Tool Navigation.
Action buttons control page-specific tasks. For example, the Manage Grades page includes a New action button to add grade items or categories.
See the ARIA Landmarks example on the W3.org website.
Use context menus to select an action for a specific item on a list page. Every context menu has unique link text that references the item to which it applies. For example, in your Locker, files have context menus called Actions for [file name]. The context menu opens a menu that contains actions you can perform on that file.
Tables and grids organize content within a tool. All tables use heading and table summaries or captions. In some cases, you can navigate rows of a table by check box, since some table items have a Select [Item] check box before the item name. In some cases, table rows have a context menu after the item name. These context menus have unique link text so you can locate the correct context menu for the item you want to interact with.
You can select multiple items from a table using the Select [Item] check boxes, and then choosing an action to apply to the selected items. Actions that you 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 can use a links list to choose Select [Topic 1] and Select [Topic 2], and then choose Edit Selected Items.
Complex tables might have drop-down lists for filtering information in the table. For example, some tables have a View drop-down list to change the sort order. Most drop-downs have an Apply or Go button that initiates the action. Some drop-down options, such as the drop-down for the number of items on each page, update when you make a selection. To use these, press ALT+Down Arrow (for Windows or Linux) or Option+ Down Arrow (for Mac) to open the drop-down menu, and then use the Up Arrow or Down Arrow and Enter key to make a selection.
If your table consists of more than one page of items, use the Page drop-down list, the Next Page icon, or the Previous Page icon to navigate to other pages.
Form fields on pages in Brightspace Learning Environment have a logical tab order. When you press tab, the focus moves to the next location identified as a link. In most cases, you cannot progress past the first mandatory field until you have entered information into the field. Mandatory fields are designated with an asterisk (*). The last tab locations on a form are usually Cancel and Save, or another action related to completing the action, such as Select or Upload.
In some cases, you can create content using HTML Editor. The editor is fully accessible by keyboard; however, it lacks the 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 you can turn off the HTML Editor in your Account Settings. If you turn off the HTML Editor, it is replaced by basic text fields that accept HTML coding.
Some form pages contain links to additional actions that might not be recognized as form elements by your form reader. For example, there is a link to create a New Folder on the Add Contact form in Email. It is a good practice to check for links when filling out a form in Brightspace Learning Environment or other D2L 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 the focus. If there are 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 with an equation editor, you might get the best experience with an assistive technology device if you do not read the equation using forms mode. Out of forms mode MathPlayer can render the equation more comprehensibly. If you read equations within forms mode, your assistive technology might read out MathML code instead of the equation.
Some links open secondary windows for completing page-specific tasks. These links should indicate that they open in a new window using a title attribute. Use the Down Arrow and Tab keys to read the contents of the pop-up. The last options on the pop-up should be
buttons to cancel or complete the task. Occasionally, these buttons are in a separate frame on the pop-up.
If you primarily navigate the web using a screen reader, it is recommended that you select the Show secondary windows as pop-ups option in the Account Settings tool.
Most pages that contain lists of items or user names 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 Enter.
Use the Show Search Options link to select advanced search options.
Use the Clear Search link to clear the contents of the Search For field.
Navigating Brightspace Learning Environment using a keyboard
Brightspace Learning Environment is a learning management system that enables you to access online course material. Users who navigate the system using a keyboard or assistive technologies that emulate a keyboard can use keyboard shortcuts and other navigation tips to more easily use the learning management system.
Certain keyboard keys have specific actions you can use to navigate the system:
- Use the Tab key on your keyboard to navigate through the options on a page. Use Shift+Tab to return to a previous option. Brightspace Learning Environment highlights page elements that you can interact with (such as links, fields, and buttons) as you tab through them, which makes it easier for you to complete tasks and select options.
- Press Enter or Return 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 to select the option.
- Use Alt+Down Arrow keys (Windows and Linux) or Options+Down Arrow keys (Mac) to open drop-down lists that do not have an Apply or Go button, and then use Up Arrow, Down Arrow, and Enter keys to select an item from the drop-down list.
- Use the Enter or Return key to open a menu (such as a context menu, an alert, or the course selector list). Then, use the Tab or 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 keys to change a radio button option.
- Do not use Alt+F4 to close pop-up windows or pages. This action closes your browser window.
Different browsers use different keystroke combinations to activate access key shortcuts:
- For Firefox: Use Alt + Shift + [accesskey] (Windows/Linux) or Control + [Accesskey] (Mac).
- For Chrome: Use Alt + [accesskey] (Windows/Linux), or Control + Option + [Accesskey] (Mac).
- For Safari: Use Alt + [accesskey] (Windows/Linux), or Control + Option + [Accesskey] (Mac).
There are different keyboard shortcuts that perform different navigation tasks in the HTML Editor:
- Use the Tab key and Shift + Tab to navigate through the options in the HTML editor.
- Use the Shift + Arrow keys to highlight content in the main 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.
Use the Tab key and Shift + Tab keys to move through the Brightspace Capture portal. The first tab stop enables you to Skip over Navigation. The second tab stop displays the controls for playing content in the media player. These player controls also have access key shortcuts:
- Press access key 1 to toggle playback.
- Press access key 2 to seek reverse.
- Press access key 3 to seek forward.
- Press access key 4 to increase the volume
- Press access key 5 to decrease the volume
- Press access key 6 to focus the video.
Within the media player, you can use the Space Bar to select an option.