Learn Web Accessibility: An LMS Administrator's Perspective

Published on February 3rd, 2017 | from CAMH Education

Web Accessibility: An LMS administrator’s perspective

As part of CAMH Education’s Simulation and Digital Innovation group, Anne Simon implements a number of CAMH external online and blended courses. We’ve asked her to give us a little insight into considerations for web accessibility.

As a learning management system (LMS) administrator in CAMH Education, I ensure we deliver online courses that are accessible to our audience (e.g., learners and facilitators). By making accessibility an essential part of course development, we can support and enhance the learning experience.

Web accessibility goes hand-in-hand with usability and responsive design, and should be at the forefront of building an online course. Meeting web accessibility requirements might seem overwhelming, but through planning, understanding the laws and collaborating with your course project team and experts, the process can become efficient and sustainable. I’ll provide a brief walk-through of some of the ways an LMS administrator involves web accessibility at the different phases of course development.

Preliminary planning and design phase

This phase aims to choose the delivery method of a new course. An online or blended (i.e., both online and face-to-face) course may require an LMS and other applications (e.g., authoring tools, such as Articulate Storyline, or webinar software, such as Adobe Connect). Selecting the right applications should include an understanding of their compliance with web accessibility standards. These details usually appear on a product’s website and documentation.

I’ll also customize and test the accessibility of a particular application according to any organization- and course-specific requirements. Within an LMS, the customizable sections cover site and course administration:

  • Examples of site administration:
    • User roles and permissions
    • Plugins
    • Reports
    • Privacy settings
  • Examples of course administration:
    • Theme
    • Navigation
    • Content page structure
    • Learning activity tools

Site Administration area in Moodle LMS

Detailed course development phase

This phase involves researching, writing and reviewing course content. Accessibility should stand at the forefront here, so when the course is ready for me to author (i.e., design and upload) it using an LMS and other applications, I can develop its design and structure to meet web accessibility standards.

Authoring a course can include:

  • using tools, features and plugins related to an application
  • front-end development with HTML, CSS and JavaScript
  • posting a transcript and applying captions for audio/video
  • using Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) attributes
  • following accessibility laws related to web accessibility requirements
  • applying tips and best practices from experts, learned from site news and tools, blogs, online communities, conferences and events, webinars, social media (e.g., Accessibility News, Beyond Compliance tool, CNIB, WebAIM, UsabilityMatters, AccessOntario)
  • using tools for web accessibility audits (e.g., W3C web accessibility evaluation tools list, in-browser web developer tools, usability testing, code validators, color contrast checkers, screen readers, inbuilt accessibility options on mobile phones).

WebAIM’s Color Contrast Checker online tool

Implementation and monitoring phase

After conducting final reviews and accessibility audits, a course can launch, and enrollment and ongoing technical support begin. Depending on their accessibility needs, learners might ask for additional support before and after launch. (Note: The Education team manages accessibility requests on a case-by-case basis.)


Increasing the font size in Desire2Learn/Brightspace LMS.

For example, learners can request:

  • starting the course early so they keep up with discussion activities
  • providing alternative formats (e.g., PDF, or printed pages)
  • increasing the font size
  • extending time limits to complete an online exam
  • extending time to complete course

CAMH Education strives to provide a satisfactory and positive experience for all our learners. As such, I provide technical support information within a course, which includes:

  • helpdesk contact
  • a statement about our commitment to accessibility
  • asking questions (during evaluation) about accessibility needs.

For more information, please visit Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and AccessForward, who all provide free online training modules.

You can check out courses offered by CAMH here: http://www.camh.ca/en/education/about/AZCourses/Pages/default.aspx

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