The Role of the Learning Management System in Accessibility

At TCU we currently use Brightspace by D2L (TCU Online) as our learning management system (LMS). The LMS plays a major role in accessibility. In online courses, this is the main platform through which students access content facilitated and provided by the instructor. It is important that institutions start with an LMS that meets accessibility standards so that all courses start off as accessible at the most basic level. Brightspace by D2L meets WCAG 2.0 AA standards for web accessibility.

Structures that are set up behind the scenes in the LMS influence whether or not all students are able to effectively access and use course content. Some examples of structures that are built into an LMS for accessibility are:

  • The ability to navigate using the keyboard
  • The ability to format text with a hierarchy structure
  • The inclusion of alternate text (alt text) fields when including an image
  • The ability to chunk information into cohesive segments that do not rely solely on visual clues

Once content is added to the course, care must be taken to ensure that the course continues to be accessible. Starting off with the right features does not guarantee accessibility once an outside tool or document is added to the course. Time should be taken to follow some simple, recommended practices of for accessibility.

Accessibility and Accommodation Considerations

All people learn differently, you may consider ways to organize and facilitate your course that support the learning needs and styles of all users. Your learning materials need to effectively engage, educate, evaluate, and accommodate diverse learners. It may be helpful to consider the following:

Common Accommodations in TCU Online

Often when we talk about accessibility in an online course, the focus is on users with visual impairments and the ways in which TCU Online works with assistive technology. There are many other types of accommodations that TCU Online can help with as well. This list, created by D2L and modified by TCU, is a list of common accommodations that can be delivered within TCU Online. This is not a complete and exhaustive list.

Accommodations, Adjusted Timelines, and Special Access

Accommodations Tool

  • Instructors can set quiz time extensions and multipliers which will persist across all quizzes for a student in a course. This is useful to streamline setting up accommodations for all quizzes per student. Additionally, they can ‘always allow right click’ a common requirement for students that use assistive technology to access their quizzes. Learn more on the Grant Quiz Accommodations from the Classlist page.

Adjust Timelines with Special Access

Using Special Access, Instructors can allow specific groups of students extended deadlines for assignments, surveys, or quizzes. The links below will guide you through managing these in your TCU Online courses.

  • Assignments – Add Special Access to an Assignment
  • Discussions: A note about Discussions: Discussions are asynchronous by nature, meaning that students typically are asked to respond over the course of a few days to a prompt that was created for them in advance. Since students will all have several days to respond, often special accommodations are not needed, unless the student is unable to participate during the set timeframe. In essence, the student will need an extension, not an accommodation. Learn more about adjusting dates for Discussions.
  • Quizzes – Grant Special Access for Quizzes – In Special Access for Quizzing, instructors can allow students additional or additional/unlimited attempts at a quiz. This is useful for setting accommodations for a single quiz per student. To set accommodations for all quizzes for a student, review the Grant Quiz Accommodations from the Classlist page.
  • Surveys – Add Special Access to a Survey

1:1 Attention

For students that might need extra attention, Instructors can setup groups 1:1 with students. This allows the instructor to setup a discussion with the student where the two can communicate privately, either via text or video. These posts can then be evaluated, if needed. Learn more about the Groups tool.

Automated Communication

Intelligent Agents send automated emails to help keep students on track or to provide additional support. Learn more about Intelligent Agents.


Instructors can use Awards for positive reinforcements of desired behavior. Learn more about the Awards tool.


The Checklist tool allows instructors to setup checklists for students to help them keep track of what they need to complete. Learn more about the Checklist tool.


In Content, Instructors can use Release Conditions to hide content until some condition is met. This helps students by only showing them the next thing they need to do, without overwhelming them with all of the content left.  Learn to Set Release Conditions to Modules or Sub-Modules or Set Release Conditions to Content Topics.

In Quizzes, instructors can specify the number of question per page to limit the number of questions a student sees at once. Learn how to Set One Question Per Page in a Quiz.


In contrast to special access, Instructors can also exempt specific students from activities such as Assignments, Discussions, or Quizzes.


Feedback can be provided in audio, video, and/or text formats. With the rich HTML editing capabilities in evaluation, instructors can provide instructions in text or video formats for students that may need both. Learn about how to Evaluate Submissions and Add Feedback in the Assignments Tool and Enter Grades for a Single Grade Item for All Students, Sort and Preview Feedback, and Leave Feedback.


Similar to Feedback, instructions can be provided in different audio, video, and/or text formats. Learn how to add instructions when Creating an Assignment Folder (see step 7), a Discussion Topic (see step 5), or a Quiz.

Read Aloud

TCU Online integrates with ReadSpeaker to provide read-aloud capabilities for students that may struggle with reading. Learn more about ReadSpeaker.

Reducing Distractions

In Quizzes, instructors can prevent students from accessing their email, instant messages, or alerts when they have a quiz attempt in progress under Optional Advanced Properties. Instructors can also use Respondus Lockdown Browser to prevent students from accessing other software on their computer during their quiz to help reduce distractions.


Self-Assessments allow students to reflect on their learning with question libraries similar to that of Quizzes. With the elimination of numeric evaluation, students can make reflective learning and course material comprehension their main priorities.

Submission Formats

Students can submit their assignments or post to a discussion via video using Video Note to record and attach a video. Students can also add video or text to accompany their file submission assignments to help them talk about their work.

Students can also submit audio or video responses to Written Response Quiz questions when “Enable HTML Editor for learner responses” or “Enable Inserted Images and Attachments” are enabled.

Visual Schedules

Setting Dates for course activities can help students plan ahead.  instructors can post and pin a visual schedule for students to follow, so that they know what to expect for the day ahead. Students can also use the Pulse app to manage their time. Learn more about setting dates and making your course Pulse friendly.

Guidelines for Creating Accessible Content within TCU Online

As you develop your content, use the accessibility guidelines below and learn how to make the elements accessible.

  • Use the HTML Templates
  • Use the Accessibility Checker
  • Text
  • Headings
  • Lists
  • Images and Graphics (including Graphs, Maps & Shapes)
  • Links
  • Color
  • Tables
  • Flashing/Blinking Content
  • Interactive Elements, Forms & Buttons
  • Math and Science equations/formulas/notation

Learn more about how to Create Accessible Content within TCU Online.

Additional Resources