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Oncourse Tool Accessibility Breakdown

Tools that Are Generally Accessible to Students Using Assistive Technology

  • Announcements
  • Assignments (with exceptions)
  • Calendar
  • Chat
  • Messages (with exceptions)
  • Gradebook
  • News (with exceptions)
  • Test and Surveys (with exceptions)
  • Podcasts
  • Profile
  • Resources (with exceptions)
  • Syllabus (with exceptions)
  • Web Content (with exceptions)

Accessible Content in Oncourse

It's important to realize that much of the success for a student with disabilities in using Oncourse is dependent upon the accessibility of the content pieces that are provided to them in Oncourse (PDFs, Word documents, PowerPoints, etc.). Please see the Creating Accessible Instructional Materials page if you have questions about the accessibility of the documents you are posting to Oncourse. If you are creating content within Oncourse using the embedded rich-text editor (CK Editor), please see the (Draft) Creating Accessible Content Using CK Editor Guidelines page.

Tool Specific Accessibility Hints

General Hints

Many tools in Oncourse are accessible to students with disabilities who use assistive technologies (like screen-reading software). Students with disabilities will generally be able to navigate Oncourse and get to the content provided to them by instructors. Please be aware that some tools might be more challenging for students with certain disabilities. Read the information specific to the tools you are utilizing below for more information.

Rich-Text Editor / WYSIWIG Editor / CK Editor

The rich text editor (or What You See Is What You Get Editor – WYSIWYG) editor in Oncourse is generally considered accessible. However, it still may prove challenging to non-visual users who use an assistive technology (like screen-reading software). Be aware that any task in Oncourse that requires use of the WYSIWYG editor may cause difficulties to students with disabilities (some may consider it unusable). If possible, use workarounds that don’t require use of the WYSIWYG editor.

Users who cannot use a mouse (non-visual users, users with physical impairments) will need to know the CK Editor's Keyboard Shortcuts. The entire CK Editor interface can be used through the keyboard. The important shortcut keys to learn are:

  • Alt+F10 – moves the focus to the toolbar. Enter (or Space) selects an option, Esc returns to the editing area.
  • Alt+F11 – moves the focus to the elements path. Enter and Esc can be used here as well.
  • Tab and Arrow keys – move through toolbar items and options.
  • Tab – jumps through dialog window fields.

For a complete list, see the CK Editor Keyboard Shortcuts page in the CK Editor Users Guide. Non-visual users that use the JAWS screen-reading software may find the CK Editor JAWS Help useful.


The assignments tool is generally accessible, however there is one important consideration to keep in mind. As mentioned above, the rich text editor (or What You See Is What You Get Editor – WYSIWYG) editor in Oncourse is inaccessible. If, when creating the assignment, the student is required to enter their solution in the WYSIWYG editor, then they may not be successful.

The best solution is to allow students to submit attachments. When creating an assignment, do not set the "Submission Format" to "Text only" (see Figure 1).

Screenshot used for Figure 1 described below.

Figure 1. Example of setting an assignment's Submission Format to "Text and Attachments"

It is important to use meaningful, consistently formatted names for both the assignment titles and for any attachments included with the assignment. Clear, meaningful names will make it much easier for screen-reader users to locate the assignment and attachments.


The events listed in the calendar tool are accessible, however it is best if the students use the "Events List View" to view the calendar in a table format.


The messages tool is fairly accessible. Luckily it does not use the WYSIWYG editor. There is one task that is known to cause difficulty, though, to users of assistive technology. Selecting multiple items in a combo box is extremely difficult to do accurately while using an assistive technology like a screen-reader. In the Messages tool, this limits the user’s ability to select multiple email recipients. Students who have to send email messages to multiple classmates at once (for example, to a study group) will have difficulty.


The news tool is pretty accessible. It is important to keep in mind the accessibility of the page the user will be redirected to when accessing content.

Test and Surveys

The test and survey tool has three issues that content creators need to be aware of.

The first is that users with disabilities often will require extend test taking time. Timed quizzes could pose a difficulty. Oncourse allows students to be grouped, and the time limits can be configured independently for each group. Simply create a new group, and put any students requiring extended test taking time into that group.

The second is that users with low vision or who are blind will have difficulty with the matching type questions. They cannot see the screen to easily review which item is assigned to what letter / number to successfully set all of the combo boxes. It will require a lot more memory, skill at using their assistive technology, and time to be successful at completing questions of this question type.

The third is that users who are blind will not be able to complete the audio recording type questions. The audio recording feature uses a Java applet to perform the recording. This applet is not accessible using screen reading software. If a student needs to submit an answer in the form of an audio recording, a manually created recording could be uploaded to a specified folder in the Resources tool instead.


It is important to remember to use concise, meaningful, and consistently formatted names for items placed in the Resources tool. This includes keeping the display name and the item’s actual file name as close to the same as possible (otherwise users may have trouble finding the file after downloading it).

Also, it is important to make sure the items are created in an accessible format. Information is available on how to create accessible PDF, MS Word, MS PowerPoint, and other documents.


The syllabus tool itself is pretty accessible. Again, it is important to use well named files and that any attachments and linked documents are created in an accessible format.

Web Content

The Web Content tool itself is pretty accessible. It is important to keep in mind the accessibility of the page the user will be redirected to when accessing content.

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