This is content published to the web that ensures people with disabilities can access all the information they require and are not prevented from doing so due to their impairment. It is a legal requirement that web content meets accessible standards. To help, the user may use assistive technology – such as JAWS – to read the contents of the page aloud. This requires the content to be constructed in a specified way to allow the software to work.

Beyond disabilities

Producing accessible content affects all users in one way or another and not only those with disabilities.

  • devices – desktop, tablet, phone
  • browsers – old and new versions
  • connectivity – internet speeds for optimised downloading

You are not in control

Printed documents place the author in total control of its layout, size of text as well as its colour and font choice. How your page looks on your screen will be the same when it’s printed to paper. However, online this control is relinquished to some degree as each readers’ settings differ. It isn’t possible to have everyone view information in the same way:.

  • wide or narrow screen will reposition elements on the page
  • screen resolutions will make things appear bigger or smaller
  • browser will render colours and fonts differently
  • text size maybe set larger or smaller by default

Therefore it’s important not to focus too heavily on the precise presentation of content.

Don’t paste from Word

If you prepare your written work in Microsoft Word, or to some extent Google Docs, it’s important not to copy Word and paste directly into the content editor in Blackboard. At first glance this may not appear to cause problems; your words are carried over retaining all the styling you’ve added in Word. However, here in lies the problem! Along with the text on the page, Word has also copied hidden code you can’t see. This conflicts with the Blackboard page code and will cause problems for all users, not only those using assistive technologies. If you insist on writing in Word – because you like to save a ‘local’ copy of your work offline, the correct process is to copy from the word document into:

  • PC – Notepad (All Programs > Accessories > Notepad)
  • Apple – Text Edit

Now copy the plain text into the Blackboard content editor. Any styling applied in Word will have been removed, including headings, bold and italics, bullet lists and more. This is intentional and will need to be re-applied with the Blackboard Content Editor.

Tips to accessible content

Unlike printed information where accessible content is often an additional task (e.g. large print or braille), producing accessible digital content can be achieved by making general changes to existing work. This will improve the overall experience for all readers, not only those with impairments.


Use the in-built stylesheets to create headings and sub-headings where they appear within the body of a page.

  • Don’t – make the sentence bold and increase the font size
  • Do – use the heading tags (heading 1,2,3 etc) to structure your page.

Web link descriptions

When linking to another web page or file include a description – known as an ‘alt tag’ or ‘alternative tag’. Assistive technology reads aloud this phrase to aid the reader.

  • Don’t – paste the into the page
  • Don’t – write ‘click here’ to denote a link (many users don’t ‘click’ a mouse)
  • Do – write a descriptive sentence about and hyperlink from this

Fonts and colours

Try to avoid personalising your page through the use of bespoke fonts. The web handles the rendering of typography very differently to printed documents.

  • Don’t – opt for hard-to-read fonts, especially on screens
  • Don’t – use proprietary and obscure fonts others may not have installed on their device.
  • Do – use common open source fonts such as Arial, Verdana and Times New Roman.
  • Do – use the standard text colour wherever possible.
  • Do – keep a sharp contrast between text colour and page background (e,g, white and black)

Bullet lists

Reading from a screen can be more difficult than a printed page. Therefore, to help convey information quicker and more easily it’s helpful to:

  • list key points in a bullet list,
  • keep each point clear and concise,
  • limit your list to three to four items.

Calls to action

Where you require an action to take place – visit a website, read a document, etc – make this link clear. Separate from the body of text so it stands alone. Give clear instruction of

Further training

Staff Development provide access to, an online training website. Details are available on NILE.

Related information

A guide to creating basic information

Read our guide on how to use the Blackboard Content Editor to add text, links and images into your NILE sites.

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