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Welcome to D2L's Accessibility Lab

– a showcase of the philosophy and practice of accessibility at D2L
Hello and welcome to D2L’s Accessibility Lab. In this lab, we demonstrate what accessibility means to us and how we design Brightspace to help you reach every learner. We have laid out experiences for you in three pages – Sensory, Physical, and Cognitive – to systematically understand what constraints people with disabilities might face, which assistive technologies they choose to use, and how Brightspace is designed to meet their needs. We also have some hands-on exercises for you in each space to solidify your experience.

How would you like to learn today?

Please close your eyes, lock your fingers, and try to shut your mind for a few seconds. No, we’re serious! Please do that before you continue reading. You would have experienced a disconnect with the world around you. Loss of sensory, physical, or cognitive abilities to any degree poses a challenge to our effective interaction with the world. Inevitably, these abilities keep us connected with the world around us – both in its physical and digital forms.

Meeting a person with a sensory, physical, or cognitive challenge could sometimes make us feel awkward and at a loss to know how to respond. Here’s a video that suggests some do’s and don’ts.

Video duration: 3 minutes 40 seconds

View / download the text transcript of the Disability Sensitivity Training video

When you leave this room, we are sure you will have greater empathy for individuals with a disability.

Accessibility is about Choices

At D2L, we view disability not as a personal trait but as the inability of a system to meet the needs of its users. To us, accessibility is not about accommodating a disability. Accessibility is about choices. As human beings, we are diverse, with different needs at different times. Accessibility is about providing choices that meet users’ needs. Brightspace provides choices to its users (learners, instructors, and admins) to support every learner develop to their full potential.

Brightspace is Accessible

  1. The Brightspace interface is designed to be perceivable through a variety of sensory modalities. Learners can choose the modality that works for them such as vision, hearing, and/or touch with assistive technologies where required.
  2. The controls in Brightspace are designed to be operable through a variety of interaction modes. Learners can choose the mode of interaction they wish to use such as speech, switch control and/or touch according to what works for them or their assistive technologies.
  3. The interface and content in Brightspace are designed to be understandable to users across different cognitive levels. Learners can choose to use the assistive technology they need to augment or replace their capabilities.
  4. The technologies underlying Brightspace are engineered to remain robust enough to work seamlessly on a variety of existing and emerging devices. Learners can choose to learn with ease using any device such as desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone at any time and in any location with a consistent and delightful user experience.

Inclusive Design at D2L

We achieve accessibility through the process of inclusive design. We design to help users meet their diverse needs in using technology by putting the user at the center from the very beginning. Our designs are based on thorough user research (we encourage you to visit our UX lab across the passage to learn more.) As illustrated beautifully in Microsoft’s Persona Spectrum shown below, disability could be permanent, temporary or situational. For example, in the context of hearing loss, deafness would be a permanent disability, not being able to hear due to an ear infection would be a temporary disability, and not being able to hear very well in a noisy bar would be a situational disability.

Persona spectrum

Persona Spectrum

(Image source: Microsoft Inclusive Design Toolkit)

When we design for people with permanent disabilities, we end up with designs that benefit everyone. Designing to meet diverse user needs also helps us meet world-class accessibility standards as published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C.) We continuously align our production process with the most recent standards. When any of our clients identify a use case that our design hadn’t anticipated,  we codesign with them to make Brightspace even better. We believe in the power of community and collaboration.

Accessibility Interest Group

Our Accessibility Interest Group (AIG) is a steadily growing community that includes our clients and partners. Together, we work towards building a more inclusive education ecosystem. The AIG meets on the first Thursday of every month from 11 am to 12 pm ET to share knowledge and best practices about cutting-edge accessible technologies. We also have an active mailing list where peer practices and resources around accessibility are shared and discussed. If this community interests you, please read more about the AIG and sign up for membership.