Information Services

Accessibility Statement

Accessibility statement for Blackboard Learn's use at the University.

This is the Learn service accessibility statement in line with Public Sector Body (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

Learn is a centrally supported Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) at the University of Edinburgh.  It is based on the commercial software application product Blackboard Learn, provided by Blackboard Inc.

We want as many staff and students as possible to be able to use this service. You should be able to:

  • Use browser settings can be used to adjust font size to 200%
  • Navigate most of the website using just a keyboard
  • Listen to most of the website using a screen reader
  • Use browser settings to change font and background colours to allow high contrast.

The service is primarily used to share content between staff and students which means documents and other content can be uploaded which isn’t accessible.  This means it is important for us to ensure that helpful guidance and training is available to users who create content to minimise the risk of this.

Blackboard Inc provide detailed information about the Learn software application and its accessibility along with a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) on their website.

Detailed Blackboard Learn accessibility information

We have completed our own accessibility checking of the software application, and also on our own customisations, and a sample of the content uploaded to the application. 

Customising the website

AbilityNet has advice on making your device easier to use if you have a disability.

AbilityNet - My computer my way

With a few simple steps you can customise your browser settings to make it easier to read and navigate.

How accessible this service is

This statement refers to core Blackboard Learn functionality. Other software that is integrated with Learn (such as Turnitin) will have separate accessibility statements.

We know that some parts of the Blackboard Learn application are not fully accessible, such as:

  • Increase in magnification of text beyond 200% gives some layout issues with the global navigation menu disappearing
  • The use of italics in some parts of the application
  • In small text entry boxes, the browser spell check doesn’t work
  • One button which, in mobile responsive mode, doesn’t have a text alternative
  • The calendar tool uses colour to indicate information (with no alternative provided) and the date picker is not operable via keyboard
  • Colour contrasts may not always meet recommended WCAG guidance
  • All videos added to Learn may not have subtitles

The service is used to share content between staff and students which means that staff (and sometimes students) can inadvertently make changes to the system which make it less accessible.  They may also upload documents and other content which isn’t accessible. 

What to do if you can’t access parts of this service

Within the University, we can:

  • Offer users 1-2-1 sessions to help orientate and navigate the service’s interface, in particular with regard to assistive technology
  • Offer content in alternative formats
  • If you are a member of University staff or a student, you can use the free SensusAccess accessible document conversion service. 
  • Provide advice and guidance on using accessibility features in Learn and in your operating system.

If you need information or content on this service in a different format, like accessible PDF, large print, easy read, audio recording or braille, please contact the IS Helpline:

We will acknowledge your request immediately, and respond within 5 working days.

Reporting accessibility problems with this service

We’re always looking to improve the accessibility of this service. If you find any problems that aren’t listed on this page or think we’re not meeting accessibility requirements, contact:

We will acknowledge your request immediately, and respond within 5 working days.

Enforcement procedure

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is responsible for enforcing the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (the ‘accessibility regulations’). If you’re not happy with how we respond to your complaint please contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) directly.

Contacting us by phone or visiting us in person

If you need to speak to us about Blackboard Learn accessibility please email, call or visit us:

Contacting us by phone using British Sign Language

British Sign Language Scotland runs a service for British Sign Language users and all of Scotland’s public bodies using video relay. This enables sign language users to contact public bodies and vice versa. The service operates from 8am to 12 midnight, 7 days a week. 

Technical information about this service’s accessibility

The University of Edinburgh is committed to making its websites and web applications accessible, in accordance with the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

This application is partially compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.1 AA standard, due to the non-compliances listed in the product VPAT and the list below.

Non-compliance with the accessibility regulations

Blackboard Learn Application

Blackboard provide detailed information about the Learn application and its accessibility including a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. You can see this detailed accessibility information on the Blackboard website.

From our own local testing, we found the following issues where the Blackboard Learn application fails to meet the following WCAG  2.1 AA Success Criteria:

  • There is some use of italics on key user information
    • Not success criteria specific
  • User-validation is inconsistent and often uses pop-up error messages to highlight an issue.
    • Not success criteria specific
  • Some semantics are missing (some headings not marked up as such, some lists not marked up as such, some tables not marked up as such). Tables are used for layout purposes on some pages.
  • The current day on the calendar is highlighted by colour-alone.
  • The application has a single page title across all pages – different pages are not distinguishable from each other using the page title.
  • Text is resizable to 200% throughout the Blackboard Learn 9.1 web application without a loss of content or functionality, however, any further increase in size causes formatting and usability issues.
  • Some fields and checkboxes do not have labels.
  • The browser’s spell check doesn’t always work with text fields (although it works on text areas).

Use with accessibility software:

JAWS (a software package that converts text to speech): On the whole JAWS was compatible and had good functionality and the shortcut and heading keys in JAWS worked well with Learn. The shortcut keys for the headings and the links also worked well.

TextHelp (a software package that can read aloud, magnify, highlight and colour overlay text which supports spelling and grammar checking): The TextHelp spellchecker function worked well with Learn. With the reader function, with hover highlight - TextHelp can read the text and does highlight. Also, highlight and read works very well.

Zoomtext (a software package that allows text magnification and contrast changing): Zoomtext is able to magnify text in Learn without distortion and change the colour schemes.

University customisations of the service

The University customises the Blackboard Learn environment very little.  The customised areas include:

    • The front page
    • The My Learn page
    • The Learn banner and colour scheme (theme)

We believe our customisations meet all WCAG  2.1 AA Success Criteria.

User Added Content

We have around 10,000 staff who may add content to our Learn site.  The accessibility of the content may vary depending on who created the content.  Some user added content may not always meet WCAG 2.1 AA Success Criteria:

Documentation and guidance provided to support the use of Learn

The documentation available to users is a mixture of HTML, Word/PDF documents and video content.

How we tested this website

Blackboard Learn 9.1 was tested by our Disability Information Officer fully in 2016 with specific areas retested in summer 2019. 

We are currently on Learn 9.1 version 3700.0.3.  Blackboard have provided a VPAT report for a test that was carried out by The Paciello Group in August 2018 with Learn 9.1 version 3400.0.4. An update for version 3700.11.0 will be coming in December 2019. 

This report is based on the results of our own testing and the VPAT report for v3700.0.4.

For the tests we completed internally, we tested our service, available at with a variety of user roles and with a variety of accessibility software.

We tested the system using a variety of browsers including Internet Explorer 11 as this is the bowser most commonly used by disabled users due to its accessibility features and compatibility with assistive technology, as shown by the Government Assistive Technology Survey

We are in the process of undertaking further accessibility testing with the Information Services Disability Team. This testing will include:

  • Spellcheck functionality
  • Data validation
  • Scaling using different resolutions
  • Options to customise the interface (magnification, font and background colour changing etc)
  • Keyboard navigation
  • Warning of links opening in a new tab or window
  • Information conveyed in colour or sound only
  • Flashing or scrolling text
  • Operability if Javascript is disabled
  • Use with screenreading software (JAWS)
  • Time limits
  • Access to specialist help

What we’re doing to improve accessibility

We will continue to work with the supplier to address the accessibility issues highlighted and deliver a solution or suitable work around. 

We have developed training and guidance courses for staff which covers building courses that are accessible to all students and universal design and we are continuing to work through our documentation and guidance to make it more accessible (including media subtitling guidance for staff).  We have also completed an accessibility audit on content in the VLE in the past year which will allow us to focus our staff development on the areas most needed. 

We will work through all service documentation to ensure it is accessible – including adding captions to any guidance videos which currently don’t have captions.

The University now has a site license for SensusAccess which allows all staff and students to create accessible versions of content.

We will continue to monitor system accessibility and will carry out further accessibility testing as these issues are resolved. Due to the complex nature of the information displayed it may not be possible to resolve all accessibility issues. If this is the case, we will ensure reasonable adjustments are in place to make sure no user is disadvantaged. We plan to have resolved the majority of accessibility issues by September 2020 at the latest.

Other useful Links

Information Services and accessibility

Information Services (IS) has further information on accessibility including assistive technology, creating accessible documents, and services IS provides for disabled users.

Assistive technology, creating accessible documents, and services IS provides for disabled users

A-Z list of higher education terms

This glossary includes common abbreviations and acronyms used across the University of Edinburgh website.

A-Z list of higher education terms


Document information

This statement was first published on 3rd of March 2020.  It will be reviewed at least once per year (during the summer months). A record of each review will be kept here in the ‘Comments’ column of the table.

Document information - versions and reviews
Description Date Owner Comments
Document creation 3rd March 2020 Karen Howie (with input from Viki Galt)  
Next review date March 2021 Karen Howie (with input from Viki Galt)