RESOLUTION 2010-3 Regarding nonvisual access to Blackboard


WHEREAS, in these difficult economic times, employers are demanding a highly skilled workforce; and

WHEREAS, obtaining at least one college degree is becoming a necessity in today’s competitive employment market; and

WHEREAS, instructors and professors at most colleges and universities require their students to use learning management systems to access the curriculum, to post assignments and to participate in class discussions; and

WHEREAS, Blackboard, a leading producer of learning management systems, recently updated its platforms by adding nonvisual access features and has also provided nonvisual access guidelines, allowing professors and instructors to post their work so that it will be user friendly for persons who depend on nonvisual access technology; and

WHEREAS, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Maryland state law require colleges and universities to ensure that blind or visually impaired students and faculty have access to online learning which includes learning management systems; and

WHEREAS, too many universities such as the University of Maryland at College Park and Capella University have refused to upgrade their Blackboard systems to the currently accessible version and have not adequately trained faculty to follow the accessibility guidelines even though they have been informed of the existence of these features and products; and

WHEREAS, such practices impede student progress toward an equal education and deprive them of the economic benefits of employment because it takes too long to get a degree when they are forced to drop courses; and

WHEREAS, advocacy organizations such as the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland and the 51 other affiliates of the National Federation of the Blind across the country have a responsibility to issue accessibility report cards and other types of documents that inform the general public concerning which universities violate the law by ignoring requirements to provide nonvisual access to online learning and learning management systems:  Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this twenty fourth day of October, 2010, in the city of Annapolis, Maryland, that this organization insist that all colleges and universities that reside in or do business in Maryland immediately begin to upgrade their learning management systems, such as Blackboard, to ensure that blind and visually impaired students and faculty have access to these systems as required by law; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge these colleges and universities to provide adequate training to their faculty members on accessibility so that real access may be achieved; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urge college and university procurement officers to negotiate contracts that demand nonvisual access in both the original product and upgrades to that product as required under state and federal law.