Blackboard Inc. (Nasdaq: BBBB) today announced that the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) awarded Blackboard Learn its Non-visual Accessibility Gold Certification, stating that the company's software was the most accessible education application that the NFB had tested and making it the first and only learning management system to achieve certification.
A range of accessibility improvements in Blackboard Learn Release 9.1 enable blind users to more effectively interact with the platform, creating greater opportunities for disabled students and learners to more fully engage in the education and course experience. The improvements include faster navigation and better form interaction for blind users that make it easier to submit assignments, participate in discussion forums, submit responses to tests, upload files, create content and more.
In addition to the certification, Blackboard was awarded the NFB's Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award for "groundbreaking work in accessibility," In recognition of the award, presented at the NFB 2010 Convention in July, Blackboard launched the Blackboard Accessibility Grant to support further work to enable education for students with disabilities. The new program is supported by the $10,000 Bolotin Award amount and a $15,000 match from Blackboard, creating five separate grants to fund projects that help further access to education for students with disabilities.
"Online learning empowers student achievement, and Blackboard Learn Release 9.1 represents a significant advancement in access for students and educators," said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, the nation's leading advocate for equal education for the blind. "It is clear to us that Blackboard is seriously committed to improving the accessibility of its product. The National Federation of the Blind congratulates and commends Blackboard on this certification, the first we have granted to a learning management system."
As part of its accessibility efforts, Blackboard product development staff meet regularly with an active community of users, the Blackboard Accessibility Interest Group, to incorporate feedback into the product development cycle. The Company also works with this group and several client partners to develop and share resources on supporting more accessible implementations and courses.
"I am wholly convinced that accessibility across the product line is a priority at Blackboard," said Ed Garay, assistant director for academic computing at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "Blackboard spends quality time and extensive resources working with a number of schools to make significant improvements. I have no doubts about Blackboard's commitment to accessibility."
The NFB Non-visual Accessibility Web Certification Program connects Web site and application developers with leading experts on blindness and accessibility to ensure that their Internet sites or applications are fully accessible to and usable by blind people employing screen access software. Applicants go through a rigorous evaluation and testing procedure and work with a web accessibility consultant (WAC) to address any accessibility issues discovered during the evaluation, and then are continuously monitored to ensure that they remain compliant with certification criteria.
"We're committed to ensuring our platform is accessible and engaging for all users whether they use a keyboard, mouse or screen reader," said Jessica Finnefrock, Senior Vice President of Product Development at Blackboard. "With the help of a passionate group of client advisers, we've enhanced our development process to ensure everything we build and test supports assistive technologies and we've created companion training materials to ensure our clients have the tools they need to support their users in developing engaging, accessible online courses."
For more information on the NFB-NVA Certification, please visit www.nfb.org/nfb/certification_intro.asp. For more information about Blackboard and accessibility, please visit blackboard.com/accessibility and www.blackboard.com/accessibilitygrant.
About Blackboard Inc. -Blackboard Inc. (Nasdaq: BBBB) is a global leader in enterprise technology and innovative solutions that improve the experience of millions of students and learners around the world every day. Blackboard's solutions allow thousands of higher education, K-12, professional, corporate, and government organizations to extend teaching and learning online, facilitate campus commerce and security, and communicate more effectively with their communities. Founded in 1997, Blackboard is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
Any statements in this press release about future expectations, plans and prospects for Blackboard and other statements containing the words "believes," "anticipates," "plans," "expects," "will," and similar expressions, constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Actual results may differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements as a result of various important factors, including the factors discussed in the "Risk Factors" section of our Form 10-Q filed on August 9, 2010 with the SEC. In addition, the forward-looking statements included in this press release represent the Company's views as of August 12, 2010. The Company anticipates that subsequent events and developments will cause the Company's views to change. However, while the Company may elect to update these forward-looking statements at some point in the future, the Company specifically disclaims any obligation to do so. These forward-looking statements should not be relied upon as representing the Company's views as of any date subsequent to August 12, 2010.