Annotations are a great aid for visual learners and individuals with cognitive or reading disabilities, as the in-context feedback can help them better understand the context and scope of feedback. Though instructors that use Screen Readers can interact with the toolbars, visual annotations made with our Annotations tool are not usable with a screen reader. They are, however, of great value to students who benefit by seeing feedback directly overlaid on the sentence, arithmetic problem, or drawing component that needs improvement or was particularly well done.
In the case of learners who use screen readers, we recommend the use of one of several other alternative, accessible feedback mechanisms available in Brightspace such as clear written feedback or audio feedback. If the assignment is a Word file, we recommend the use of track changes feature in MS Word to provide location-specific feedback because that technology is accessible via a screen reader.
Institutions and/or individual instructors are able to decide if and when to use Annotations in their courses via a config variable that can be enabled by Org or Org Unit. Instructors can enable/disable annotations for individual assignments if Annotations is on in their course. At the same time, we also recommend creating clear policies and advice for instructors and learners around alternative forms of feedback that might be more valuable to different learners.
We give below the Learner/Instructor break up of issues to help with assessing risks and planning alternative access.
- Freehand annotations cannot be perceived as they cannot be assigned an alternative text.
- Freehand annotations cannot be connected with the underlying content as the two cannot be programmatically linked.
- Some controls for creating annotations cannot be reached using a keyboard.
We continue to report these issues transparently in our VPAT posted on our website:
- 1.1.1 Non-text content: In Annotations, the ability to add freehand annotated material does not have an alt-text equivalent. As a workaround, instructors may choose to provide feedback in a different format such as an audio note or text.
- 1.3.1 Infor and relationships: In Annotations, the ability to add freehand annotated material is only visually related to the underlying content. As a workaround, instructors may choose to provide feedback in a different format such as an audio note or text.
- 2.1.1 Keyboard: In Annotations, not all controls and options for creating annotated content can be accessed via the keyboard. As a workaround, instructors may choose to provide feedback in a different format such as an audio note or text. (note that this has been resolved)
D2L is committed to reaching every learner through accessible, engaging, and empowering learning tools. We based Annotations on the best third-party tool we could find. Due to technology limitations, we have not yet been able to move the needle with respect to making the visual aspects of Annotations accessible to screen reader users. We continue to push and keep looking out for developments.