Skip to main content

Accessibility by Design

  • 4 Min Read

When we started D2L just over 20 years ago, it was considerably harder than it is today for people who are visually impaired to get a high-quality education. One of the first things we decided to do as a company was help break down this barrier—and many more—using technology.

John Baker

When we started D2L just over 20 years ago, it was considerably harder than it is today for people who are visually impaired to get a high-quality education. They had to depend on others to describe the visual aspects of math and science. One of the first things we decided to do as a company was help break down this barrier—and many more—using technology.

Over the years, D2L has worked hard to help learners have equitable access to education. But all of that did not happen by chance. It is the outcome of deliberate action across our company to align our product process with global accessibility standards and to involve people with disabilities at every stage of our work.

At D2L, accessibility happens by design. It’s a purposeful, inclusive design practice throughout our product development cycle, and it stems from our shared passion to transform the way the world learns.

From corporate strategy to organizational culture, accessibility touches everything we do at D2L. We have a mature accessibility program managed by our accessibility lead, who is a Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) from the International Association of Accessibility Professionals with 15 years of experience in the field. We also have several researchers, designers, developers, testers, product managers and solution engineers at D2L who serve as accessibility subject matter experts. Together, they work on sustaining a culture of inclusion across our company.

We live and breathe accessibility by design, capturing the spirit behind accessibility standards and legislation. This means we design to help overcome permanent, temporary, and situational constraints that might pose a barrier to digital access. Our products are designed to be perceived, operated, and understood by learners, regardless of ability. We make sure our products work well with a variety of assistive technologies such as screen readers, screen magnifiers, switch-based devices, and voice-operated inputs. As a learning innovation company, our goal is to deliver a comparable user experience for everyone.

At each stage of product development, teams consult with D2L’s in-house accessibility test strategist, who is an expert screen-reader user with a vision impairment. We also partner with Fable, a cloud-based platform that connects our teams to a community of people with disabilities using a variety of assistive technologies. This allows us to gather real-time input from individuals with diverse disabilities and access needs while we’re developing our products—not as a post-development afterthought.

Accessibility is one of our key metrics for tracking and reporting with each product release, on par with quality and security. Our accessibility statement sums up our commitment to accessibility and we hold ourselves accountable to that commitment by posting our accessibility conformance reports online.

We believe in the power of community and collaboration. That’s why we:

  • have nurtured a client Accessibility Interest Group for over a decade, and host monthly meetings to discuss topics of common interest related to accessibility
  • convene an Accessibility Advisory Board to deliberate on emerging inclusive educational technologies and understand best practices in the field
  • facilitate constant communication with our customers to improve the accessibility of our products
  • work with our technology partners to help make sure their products are highly accessible, moving us collectively toward an inclusive education ecosystem
  • are a long-time member of the Strategic Nonvisual Accessibility Partnership (SNAP) program of the National Federation of the Blind in the USA

When it comes to accessibility leadership, we’re thinking beyond our company and our products to help make education—and society—more inclusive and equitable for people of all abilities. We’re a proud member of the Ontario government’s Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee and lead the Digital Learning and Technology group, which helps to shape the province’s education accessibility standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We are on the Competencies Development and Review Committee of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP), where we help review international accessibility certification competencies. And we’re also part of the W3C Silver Community Group, who is developing a new version of Accessibility Guidelines as the global next-gen accessibility standards.

For D2L, accessibility remains a journey and not a destination. Our goal is to remove every barrier to quality education, regardless of ability or geography. That’s why today, two decades after we set off on our accessibility journey, we support customers like the International Disability Alliance (IDA), Canadian National Institute for the Blind Canadian National Institute of the Blind (CNIB) and Vision Australia that use Brightspace to deliver high-quality education to their members.

A parent with vision impairment who is a CNIB member tried out our Portfolio app and said, “I wish my kids’ school used this!”

Now, that’s a game changer.

We’ve come a long way, but I know we have more work to do. I’m so proud to lead a company that remains as committed to accessibility today, as it was 20 years ago.

Written by:

John Baker

Stay in the know

Educators and training pros get our insights, tips, and best practices delivered monthly