The Bluffer’s Guide to Blackboard Theme Accessibility


Watch the "trailer" recorded live at TLC online


With the rapid move to online teaching, ensuring equitable access to our learning environment has never been more important. Recent legislation has brought an accessibility requirement for public sector organisations such as Universities. How can we ensure that our Blackboard environment reflects our institutional brand whilst following accessibility guidelines?

Customising the Blackboard Responsive theme for the Learn Original Experience continues to be a hot topic on the Blackboard Community site. We customise the theme both to improve the user experience, and to brand our environment with our institutional colours.

In this session I will put recent legislative and regulatory changes that relate to accessibility into a global context and explain how they impact University platforms such as Blackboard.

Using examples and developments from my own experience at the University of Southampton, I will provide practical advice and tips on what we should be doing when we customise our Blackboard theme. We all want our Blackboard environments to look great and appear congruent when viewed alongside our other institutional platforms. We also want to ensure changes we make are inclusive to our whole user community.

I will demonstrate how you may check the accessibility of your own custom Blackboard theme and illustrate the application of a number of the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to Blackboard theme customisation. I will also discuss how the work we do in this area can inform the accessibility statements we are required to create for our Virtual Learning Environment.

Video of full version of the presentation, recorded live in my spare room

I hope to create subtitles when I have time, apologies for the quality of the audio - I had to make do with the kit I have available to me at home.

Skip direct to different sections:

Agenda: 0:35
What's in scope? 3:22
The supporting website and materials: 7:40
About me: 9:15
Where is Southampton? 10:05
Accessibility and COVID19: 11:35
Reflections on last year's presentation: 14:14
The regulations and guidelines and how they relate to each other: 17:05
My context: 29:46
Colour and contrast: 31:21
Complexity: Lessons from implementing in the Blackboard theme: 46:36
Blackboard course menus: 54:42
Focus indicators and styles: 59:55
Focus styles in Blackboard: 1:04:09
Reducing motion: 1:12:13
Improving usage: 1:14:19
Conclusion: 1:15:58
Thanks: 1:18:16
Final thoughts: 1:19:11

Presentation Files

View my other TLC presentations.

Links from the presentation

News items



Standards and regulations


Blackboard Community


About Colour Blindness

Colour Contrast

Example of enforcing a colour scheme based on Blackboard Course IDs using JSHack

University of Southampton resources

Recommended Links for personal development


Check out my other presentations!

For TLC Europe 2020

From TLC Europe 2019

From TLC Europe 2018

Matthew Deeprose

VLE Manager
University of Southampton