LMS and screen reader vendors are quickly and aggressively addressing the problem of accessibility. Over the course of research and writing this paper, new versions of most of the products evaluated and used to evaluate were released. Blackboard, Prometheus, HPR, and A-Prompt have all been updated within the past few months. For example, Blackboard 5.5 includes a compliant frameset, including good descriptions and links to the content available in each frame. Blackboard 5.5 also fixes all of the alt tag problems we saw in previous versions. Prometheus has also taken great strides in improving its product. The more recent version has fixed alt tag and frame naming issues.
The LMS vendors' efforts are augmented by improvements in the screen reader software. Our latest tests show the new programs are more resilient and able to cope with problems. The readers themselves have addressed accessibility standards violations that prohibited the use of LMSs by all but the highest-end screen readers. As noted earlier, HPR 3 was updated to contend with and work around many accessibility errors. It is now nearly perfect as an accessible LMS viewer.
LMS accessibility has improved in the last couple years, based on the earlier SNOW comparisons. It is imperative that LMS companies continue to improve. As can be seen from this review, these programs still have a way to go to be compliant to Priority 1 of the W3C/WAI guidelines. Thus, they are also not compliant with Section 508. Most LMS companies have made commitments to being compliant. We need to continue to review their products under stringent conditions to verify that they meet this commitment.
The quickly changing snapshot of an "accessible LMS" is nearly impossible
to capture. We cannot hope to give LMS administrators the one correct answer
to which product is the most accessible. We encourage campuses to review the
latest releases with this same procedure to determine where improvements have
Content authored by AnnMarie Johnson
and Sean Ruppert. ©2001
last updated November 19, 2001 by AnnMarie Johnson.