Navigate Blackboard Learn with JAWS

Before you get started

For a great experience in Blackboard Learn with JAWS®, you need to know a few things.

Set Auto Forms Mode to Manual

When auto forms mode is set to its default, which is "Automatic," arrowing over an edit field, combo box or other control automatically focuses it and turn forms mode on. As the Blackboard pages are dense with content, it is often necessary to review page content line by line. For this reason, set Auto Forms Mode to Manual.

  1. Open your browser and load Blackboard Learn.
  2. Press Insert + V to open the Quick Settings dialog.
  3. Type Auto Forms Mode into the search field and press Tab to focus the list of results. The first result should be Auto Forms Mode. This is set to automatic by default.
  4. Press Space until JAWS announces that it is set to Manual.
  5. Press Enter twice to apply the changes and close the dialog.

Start JAWS before launching your browser

JAWS must be launched before the browser is opened. If you don't you may experience these things.

  • Errors when pressing the hotkey to list links (Insert + 7), form fields (Insert + F5), headings (Insert + F6) and so on
  • You can't arrow up and down through page content with the virtual PC cursor

To fix this, close all open browser windows and reopen Blackboard Learn. JAWS should grab the page content and the element lists should function normally.

Quickly jumping to content

Each page of the Blackboard Learn with Original experience is dense with customization options. These options allow you to add or remove menu items from any of the several sections that preface the content of the actual page. Many of these can be ignored.

The main content of the page can almost always be found by pressing Control + Home to jump to the top of page content, followed by pressing the 1 key on the top number row twice. The first time you'll encounter a heading marking the Quick Links Menu, and the second time you'll find the heading marking the start of page content.

A particular exception to this is the Course Menu. It appears above the content of the page for a course. You find and activate links from this menu directly. You can also find all of its options below the Course Menu heading level 2.

Locating headings, links, and form controls

If you are not familiar with JAWS's HTML navigation commands, we recommend that you read the relevant documents in JAWS help.

You'll find these commands most useful when you use Blackboard Learn:

  • Press the H key and Shift + H to move through headings on a page.
  • Press Insert + F7 to have JAWS list links.
  • Press Insert + F5 for form controls.
  • Press Insert + F6 to bring up a list of headings. Begin typing the name of the heading to quickly locate it within the list.

    Example: Type "My course" to find the My Courses heading and enter to jump to it.

  • Press CTRL + F to quickly find text on a page. Type text such as "My Course" into the JAWS Find dialog that appears and press Enter. JAWS finds the next occurrence of that text and jumps to it.

Find out what can be done on a page

Use the Tab key and Shift + Tab keys to move between links, form controls and other actionable page content. Blackboard Learn has placed instructional text that is not actionable in the Tab order. If you Tab to an item that begins with words instructive in nature, these are instructions and no action can be taken.

Example: Press 'Submit' to create the test

Continue pressing Tab to find the control you're looking for.

If you hear an element's role after tabbing to it (link, button, check box, edit, Combo Box, and so on) then you are able to interact with that element as you would in any other application.

Deactivating Forms Mode

JAWS activates Forms Mode when it believes that you'll need to enter text, review text, or manipulate a control. You'll hear the high-pitched blip announcing that Forms Mode is activated.

You'll need to turn off Forms Mode to review the text on a page using the Up and Down arrow keys.

To turn off forms mode, press the Plus key on the number pad. If you have Laptop Mode active, press Caps Lock + Semicolon.

Application Mode

When focusing Rich Content Editor controls, JAWS enters Application Mode. This is the same as Forms Mode, except you need to press NumPad Plus twice quickly to get out of it. The first time Plus is pressed you hear "Application Mode." Press Plus again before JAWS stops saying the word "Application." JAWS disables Forms Mode so you can review page content.


Menus are vertical list of items that appears after activating a link. Use the Up and Down arrow keys to move through this list. It's important to pay attention to context because menu items don't have a role of link. Only their names are spoken when focused.

Pressing Tab while a menu is opened closes the menu.

If you open a menu and decide that you had chosen the wrong link, press Tab to dismiss the menu from view. However, JAWS usually leaves Forms Mode on.

The Course Menu

The Course Menu contains links to jump to the Grade Center, assessments, wikis, blogs, groups, discussion forums, announcements, and so on.

Find this menu under the Course Menu heading level 2.

Check boxes

JAWS may report the checked or unchecked state of a check box in a strange manner.

  • On some pages, JAWS announces "Checked. Not Checked." after pressing space to check a check box.
  • When the space key unchecks a check box, JAWS announces "Not checked. Not checked."

If you're ever unsure about the state of a check box or any other control, press Insert + Tab to repeat it.

Rich content editors

Most multiline edit fields allow formatting of text. These include comments, descriptions, and so on. The controls to format text are contained inside of a toolbar.

You run across these controls while arrowing down through each page. There are many of them. Press Tab to jump down to the edit field, where you'll be able to enter content.

Text pasted into a form field isn't read out automatically by a screen reader. Use the standard reading commands: Press INSERT + right or left arrow key to read characters/words. Press ALT + arrow keys to read next/previous sentences. Press CTRL + arrow keys to read paragraphs. You can also tab out of the field and SHIFT + TAB back into it. That should cause JAWS to start reading the content.