Cognitive | D2L
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Accessibility Lab: Cognitive


Welcome to the Cognitive page to experience how we make Brightspace more easily understandable by everyone. Here we introduce you to what digital access constraints people with cognitive challenges might face, how Brightspace is designed to make understanding the interface easier for them by reducing their cognitive load and how it works with assistive technologies such as eReaders. At the end of the page, check out our hands-on exercises to practice what you’ve learned!

Cognitive Access Constraints

Cognitive challenges could happen from birth or develop later in life. They could be progressive or sudden.

Conditions encountered often in the education field are attention deficit disorder (ADD) and learning disabilities: dyslexia (difficulty with reading,) dysgraphia (difficulty with writing,) and dyscalculia (difficulty with math.) Other conditions include autism and traumatic brain injury.

Assistive Technologies

Learners might use a variety of assistive tools and techniques such as augmenting the reading experience with an e-Reader to using of an alternative customizable graphic keyboard.


eReader is a generic software that helps learners focus better on learning content by providing both audio and visual reinforcements. eReader tools such as ReadSpeaker and Read&Write read out the content and at the same time highlight the words being read, thus helping the learner focus better.

Brightspace has integrated ReadSpeaker into the Content tool. When a course topic is opened in the content tool, a small media player icon is visible above the content. Upon clicking the icon, this tool reads out the content and at the same time highlights the words being read. This makes it easier for a learner needing additional help to focus on their course content and allows them to set highlighting options. BrightSpace also allows learners the choice to use other commercially available e-Readers such as Read&Write Gold without integration.

Programmable keyboards

The Intellikeys keyboard allows the setting up of a variety of layouts depending on the cognitive capability of the learner.

Intellikeys Programmable USB keyboard

Intellikeys programmable keyboard

Alternative Communication tools

The following video illustrates the use of a picture-based communication tool called Proloquo2go by non-verbal children.

Experience the tool on the iPad in the Cognitive Space using the hands-on exercises provided at the end of this page.

D2L encourages our development teams to experiment with emerging technologies through Inspiration sprints. One of our teams recently experimented with Voice Experience (VX) using the Alexa Voice User Interface (VUI) and developed a ‘skill’ for instructors to ‘Ask Brightspace’ how many assignments have been submitted since a specified time or how many assignment are due to be marked. Being able to get such information while peeling potatoes for dinner would certainly reduce cognitive load for any instructor!

Brightspace Designs for Learning with Ease


  • Brightspace uses standard components and design patterns.
  • Pages are designed to appear and operate in predictable ways.
  • A series of pages in the Brightspace Accessibility and Navigation guide are devoted to helping users understand the layout and features.
  • Context-sensitive help is available.


  • Date pickers are presented consistently throughout the platform.
  • Consistent language and iconography is used throughout the system.
  • Icons are easy to distinguish and metaphors used are intuitive.
  • Abbreviations are marked up; for example, short names for days of the week are marked up to give the respective full names.


  • Users may set font preferences to enlarge system fonts in Brightspace.
  • Discussion forums can be set to display only unread messages.
  • Errors are clearly highlighted for quick visual identification.
  • Email interface can be set to show or hide message preview and folder list panes.
  • The number of items displayed per page can be customized.
  • Through the “impersonate” feature, users can avail remote assistance to solve issues.
  • Language packs may be created with more simple language.
  • Users may be given extended time or alternative test dates through the “Special access” options.
  • If permitted, users may download all of the course notes in their native format for viewing in an external application.


Scavenger Hunt

Now that you’ve learned about different assistive technologies and had a change to check out the Accessibility Lab Hands On Exercises, you can head over to our final Scavenger Hunt. You’ll find additional resources there to help you discover various accessibility issues that we’ve purposefully built into the page. Let’s see if you can find them all!

Head over to the Scavenger Hunt page now!