Accessibility in Blackboard Collaborate with the Ultra Experience

Linked files are available in English only.

Blackboard is fully committed to ensuring all products and services we deliver are both usable and accessible to all users regardless of age, ability, or situation. In keeping with our strong tradition of leadership around accessibility, our products are designed and developed in accordance with the internationally recognized Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA as well as the Section 508 standards in the United States. A third party conducts regular audits of our software to ensure quality expectations are being met and maintained.

More on Blackboard's commitment to accessibility

Best screen reader experience

  • Full-screen reader support of all key workflows.
  • Global keyboard shortcuts for common actions. There are additional keyboard shortcuts. To learn more, see Keyboard Shortcuts.
  • Screen reader support for whiteboard activities and uploaded files, without requiring complex conversions.
  • Live closed captioning. To learn more, see Live Closed Captioning.

Collaborate Best Screen Reader Experience

Screen reader browser support

For the best Blackboard Collaborate experience with your screen reader use Firefox® and JAWS on a Windows® system. On a Mac® use Safari® and VoiceOver.

  • Windows 10
    • Firefox with JAWS v17: Provisional
  • Windows 7
    • Firefox with JAWS v17: Compatible
  • macOS
    • Safari with VoiceOver: Certified
    • Firefox with VoiceOver: Provisional

Keyboard navigation

Industry standard keyboard interactions are used throughout Blackboard Collaborate. Keyboard navigation patterns differ between browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome), but the interactions within any particular browser are common and consistent.

If you are using a Mac with Firefox or Safari and are having difficulty navigating using your keyboard, review and update your operating system and browser settings. This ensures they are properly configured for keyboard navigation. To learn more, see the following information:

Global keyboard shortcuts have been established for common actions within Blackboard Collaborate. Additional keyboard shortcuts include the following:

  • To turn the microphone on and off, press Alt + M in Windows. On a Mac, press Option + M.
  • To turn the camera on and off, press Alt + C in Windows. On a Mac, press Option + C.
  • To raise and lower your hand, press Alt + H in Windows. On a Mac, press Option + C.
  • To move to the next slide, press Alt + Page Up. On a Mac, press Alt + Fn + Up Arrow.
  • To move back a slide, press Alt + Page Down. On a Mac, press Alt + Fn + Down Arrow.
  • To access the attendees list, you'll first need to reveal the Attendees panel by tabbing to and activating the button labeled "Open Collaborate Panel." If the button is labeled "Close Collaborate Panel," the panel is already open. Next, find and activate the "Attendees" tab with the Enter key. You are now in the Attendees panel. From here, Tab to and press Enter on the "Access list of attendees" button. You can only access this button by using the Tab key. It is only visible when it is focused. Press Spacebar to activate it. If you are a moderator, you can now use Tab to move through the controls for each attendee.

Recording playback keyboard shortcuts

  • To pause and play the recording, press Space Bar.
  • To repeat and skip the recording by 10 seconds, press the Left and Right arrow keys. Or press Shift + Left arrow or Shift + Right arrow to move the marker on the progress bar by 10 seconds.
  • To increase and decrease the volume by 5%, press the Up and Down arrow keys.

Navigating the Collaborate panel with screen readers

Collaborate Panel With a Screen Reader

Using the "button" or link quick keys (B in JAWS or VO + Command + L in VoiceOver) look for the button labeled "Open Collaborate Panel".

If the link quick key in VoiceOver doesn't identify this action, try VO + Command + G to go to the next graphic, or VO + Right Arrow to read the next item until you find it. 

Activating this button opens a 'tab list' which works as follows:

  1. The first tab "Chat" is focused by default. Use the TAB key on your keyboard to interact with the elements within the chat panel including reading and posting messages.
  2. Use the right and left arrow keys to move through the tabs (Chat, Attendees, Content, and Settings).
  3. Once a tab has focus you can use the TAB key to move through the elements on the page. Or back to the list of tabs.
  4. Tab to the "close Collaborate Panel" button to exit out of this experience.

Chat history keyboard controls

Chat history keyboard controls in Collaborate

Use the keyboard controls at the top of the Chat panel to move between messages. The keyboard controls are only available after messages have been posted in Chat and are only available with keyboard navigation.

  1. From the text entry field in the Chat panel press Shift + Tab to open the keyboard controls. Or from the Chat with menu at the top of the panel press Tab.
  2. By default, the focus is on the Next chat message control. Press Shift + Tab to find the Previous chat message and First chat message controls. Press Tab to find the Last chat message control. Collaborate's chat history only has 50 messages displayed at any given time.
  3. Press Space Bar to activate the control and listen to the message.
  4. Press Tab to move through the controls and return to the chat text entry field.


Screen reader users can tab through polling and choose an option from the available list. Screen readers only announce the numbers for each choice. Moderators need to make sure attendees know what choice each number represents.

More on polling for students

More on polling for moderators

Share content

Application sharing is not currently supported for screen readers in Blackboard Collaborate. If you are using a screen reader, you can share files and a blank whiteboard with your attendees. You cannot share an application that is open on your device. For example, you can't share a Microsoft® PowerPoint® open on your computer.

Share files

Screen reader users can access text from PowerPoint and PDF files shared in the session. This provides an easy way to follow along as slides change.

Moderators and presenters must select Share Files and upload the files to Collaborate for screen readers to access the text.

Audio and video set up

Having trouble setting up your audio and video with JAWS? Jump to Audio Set Up with Jaws in Google ChromeTM.

Having trouble setting up your audio and video with VoiceOver? Jump to Audio Set Up with VoiceOver.

Audio notifications

Collaborate uses audio to alert you to something new. Different notifications have different sounds. 

  • Mute: Sounds like a series of notes from high to low.
  • Unmute: Sounds like a series of notes from low to high.
  • Disconnected: Three notes that sound like "Buh da da".
  • Inactivity: Sounds like a bounce or spring.

You can choose to turn these notifications on or off.

  • Join session notification: Sounds like a boing.
  • New chat notification: Sounds like a thunk.
  • Hand raise notification: Sounds like "Duh da." Only moderators can hear hand raise notifications.
  • Leave session notification: Sounds like "Bing bong."

Live closed captioning

The Ultra experience includes live closed captioning. This provides an accessible learning experience for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as for students whose native language is different from the moderator's.

Moderators must make attendees captioners. Captioners type what is being said during a session. Other attendees can view what is being typed in real time. You can have multiple captioners for multiple languages.

More on making an attendee a captioner for moderators

Captions entered during the live session are included when the session is recorded. If your session had more than one caption track, only the first available one is captured.

More on session recordings for participants

Being a captioner

As a captioner, you can provide captions for others in your session. This is a role that is assigned to you by a moderator.

There can be more than one captioner in a session. Captioners are identified in the Attendees panel with a Closed Caption (CC) icon by them.

Live closed captioning is not supported in Japanese, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, and Korean. Users with browsers set to these languages receive an error when they start.

Let's get started

When you are made a captioner you see an alert letting you know that you can now provide captions.

Select Let's get started when you are ready. This alerts other attendees that captions are available. Your captions appear on their screen as you type them in real time.

Selecting Let's get started also opens a text field for you to type what you hear during the session.

Your name is used as the title of your captions by default. It is good practice to change the title to something others can recognize when they view your captions. For example, Closed Captions or Spanish Subtitles.

Do you see the content being shared and want to watch the speaker? Select the picture-in-picture to see the active speaker.

Chinese, Japanese, and Korean browsers

The input process for live closed captioning is not supported in browsers set to Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. This means that what you type may not appear how you want. Attendees see all keystrokes, not just the resulting word.

Example: To type the Japanese word "河口", the captioner types "kakou", which appears as "kかkこう". These characters are manually converted into "河口". Attendees viewing the captions see both the typed and converted characters, making the captions difficult to understand.

Set your browser to English to type captions in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

Watch a video about live closed captioning

The following un-narrated video provides a visual representation of some of the information included on this page. For a detailed description of what is portrayed in the video, open the video on YouTube, navigate to More actions, and select Open transcript.

Video: Closed Captioning in Blackboard Collaborate shows you how closed captioning works in Blackboard Collaborate with the Ultra experience.

Recording captions and chat transcripts

Download Collaborate Recording and Transcripts

If the moderator has allowed session recording downloads, you can download recordings and transcripts from the recording player Recording menu.

Open the Recording menu at the top left of your screen.

  • Download the full recording
  • Download caption transcripts
  • Download chat transcripts

You can also download captions from the main Recordings list.

  1. From Recordings find a recording with Closed Captions (CC).
  2. Select the Closed caption options menu and select Download captions.

Add Captions to Your Collaborate Recordings

Add captions to your recordings

If you used live closed captioning in your session, there are captions with your recording already!

Add captions to your videos to engage all learners. Captioning video creates accessible content for individuals who are deaf or hearing impaired. Captions can help all students consume the video content. The uses for captions are limitless.


  • Anyone working in a noisy environment can read captions.
  • Non-native speakers can read captions in their own language.
  • Students learning to read can follow along with the speaker.
  • Students can see the spelling of terms that will be on a test.
  • Anyone can search the session for key terms.

You can upload Video Text Tracks (VTT) caption and SubRip Subtitle (SRT) files to add or replace captions in recordings.

To learn more about VTT caption files, visit W3C WebVTT and Mozilla WebVTT.

To learn more about SRT files, visit the SubRip topic on Wikipedia and How to Create an SRT File by 3Play Media.

  1. From Collaborate scheduler, select Recordings and find the recording you want.

    The Collaborate Scheduler is available in Blackboard Learn and LTI compliant LMS courses. The Collaborate Scheduler is not available in the Blackboard Open LMS Collaborate activity module.

  2. Select the Recording options menu, and select Add caption source.
  3. Browse for the VTT file and upload it.

Overwrite captions

Recordings with captions have a Closed caption options menu. Open that menu if you want to overwrite the captions.

  1. From Recordings, find the recording you want.
  2. Select the Closed captions options menu, and select Overwrite caption source.
  3. Browse for the VTT file and upload it.