Accessibility and Usability Guide

Accessibility and Usability Guide


At HPU, we use the Quality Matters rubric to guide and evaluate our course design.  Quality Matters is the industry standard in online course design, supported by research and best practice in the field of distance education.  This page outlines explanations and tips for the general rubric standard titled "accessibility and usability" to provide actionable strategies for instructors in crafting accessible course design within Blackboard. 

Standard 1: Course navigation should facilitate ease of use, meaning that the navigation throughout the course is consistent, logical, and efficient. 

Tips for facilitating “ease of use”:

  1. Use design elements repetitively to increase intuitive course navigation— design for modularity and employ module overviews at the start of each module.
  2. Include a getting started menu item in the course.
  3. Introduce learning activities with actionable verbs such as “Watch, Read, Complete, Discuss”.
  4. Integrate hyperlinks rather than typed web addresses and use the course link tool in Blackboard.
  5. Provide “proceed to next module links” at the end of each module using the course link tool.
  6. Ensure all links within the course work each term. Links break often and need to be refreshed regularly.
  7. Craft course documents using clear hierarchy indicated through heading styles. This can be achieved by implementing a table of contents that allows learners to move easily through documents.


Standard 2: The course design should facilitate readability, meaning that the course content is clearly organized and presented so learners can easily read it. 

Tips for facilitating “readability”:

  1. Check for errors in spelling, punctuation, word choice, and syntax.
  2. Use headings to indicate change in topic.
  3. Utilize white space around content to help increase comprehension and reduce eye fatigue that can occur with large blocks of text.
  4. Choose simpler fonts such as Verdana, Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman rather than complex fonts. Use consistent font throughout.
  5. Use a font size of at least 12pt
  6. Ensure text color contrasts from background color.
  7. Use color, text, and highlighting, to serve specific instructional purposes, NOT color alone to convey meaning.


Standard 3: The course should provide accessible text and images in files, documents, Blackboard pages, and web pages to meet the needs of diverse learners.

Tips for facilitating “accessible text and images”:

  1. Provide alt text for images and graphs so a screen reader, when used, can describe the images.
  2. Do not embed tables as images as they cannot be read by a screen reader.
  3. Use tables for tabular data only.
  4. Ensure that all tables have column headers.
  5. Do not use scanned PDFs as they cannot be read by a screen reader.
  6. Include selectable or searchable PDF’s
  7. Ensure PowerPoints are accessible.
  8. Do not use text colors alone to convey meaning. Convey the meaning in another way that does not require perceiving colors.
  9. Avoid underlining text unless used for navigation.
  10. Avoid writing in all caps.


Standard 4: The course should provide alternative means of access to multimedia content in formats that meet the needs of diverse learners.

 Tips for facilitating “alternative means of access to multimedia content”:

  1. Caption all video and animations
    1. Panopto Captioning (machine generated)
    2. YouTube Captioning
  2. Provide transcripts of video content
  3. Convey visual information that is critical to meaning through audio description as well.


Standard 5: The course multimedia should facilitate ease of use, which means that images,  audio, video, animation, and interactive course components should be interoperable across devices. 

Tips for facilitating multimedia “ease of use”:

  1. Break long videos, longer than 15 minutes, into shorter segments or use the chapter feature in Panopto.
  2. Use graphics and illustrations to enhance instructional materials without distracting learners.
  3. Size images so they can be viewed in entirety without scrolling.
  4. Ensure audio quality is clear.
  5. Ensure movement through presentations can be controlled by the learner.


Standard 6: The course should include vendor accessibility statements for ALL technologies required in the course.

Tips for facilitating vendor accessibility statements:

  1. Provide links to vendor accessibility statements for each required technology.
    1. Blackboard Accessibility Statement
    2. Panopto Accessibility Statement
    3. Examples of other technologies that require accessibility statements: publisher materials, polling tools, lecture capture tools, media players, document sharing system, web conferencing tools, social media tools, “lab in a box” technologies, etc.