How to Make Web Content in D2L Accessible

Create your D2L web page

This information pertains to Desire2Learn versions 10.1 and 10.3.

Use the Existing CSS

The best thing you can do to keep your Desire2Learn webpages accessible is to use the font size and style provided in the course template. Do not try to change the font typeface or size. It will be a huge hassle for you to try to keep fonts consistent if you change them (unless you know how to use Cascading Style Sheets).

Check the following elements and ensure they are accessible

For each item that you have in your document, click on the accessibility guideline(s) that corresponds to it in order to learn how to make the element accessible.


Use properly formatted headings to structure the page

It isn't enough to make headings big and bold. Headings need to be formatted as headings.
  • Highlight the text and select the Heading # from the drop-down Format menu on the tool bar.
In addition to formatting headings as headings, the headings need to be used in the correct order. Headings chunk out your content making it easier for everyone to read. Headings are also a major way of navigating with a screen reader.
Headings must be used in the correct order for them to be useful.
  • Heading 1 is like the title of a book and there is just one Heading 1 per page.
    Heading 2s are like chapter titles. Heading 3s are subsections of those chapters, and so on.
  • Heading order is also similar to the order of an outline.
  • DO NOT skip heading levels.
  • See below for a visual display of a possible order that headings might be used.Example heading structure.


Format Lists as lists

Formatting, like lists, headings and links, are read aloud to screen reader users, so the content is understood in context.
  1. Select the content you want to make into a list.
  2. Then on the toolbar, click on the Unordered List icon if the order doesn't matter or select Ordered List from the drop-down menu if the order does matter.

Images and Graphics (including Graphs, Maps & Shapes)

Provide alternative text descriptions for images and shapes

Alternative text descriptions of images (ALT text) allows screen reader users to benefit from the information being conveyed by an image. For images that cannot be adequately described in one or two brief sentences of alt text, see How to Make Complex Complex Images Accessible.
  1. Place the cursor where you want to insert an image, and click the Insert image icon from the toolbar. The Add a File window will open.
  2. Browse to the image location either on your computer or in your course offering files. Navigate to where the image is, select the image file, and click the Open button.
  3. (OPTIONAL) If you would like to organize your files, click the Choose Destination button, select the images folder, and click Select a Path button. This will store your image inside the images folder. If you don’t have  an images folder, you can create one by clicking on the New Folder link.
  4. Click the Done button (Add button in D2Learn version 10.3).
  5. The Provide Alternate Text window will open. Type in descriptive text for the image. For example: “Penguins can be found in the South Pole”
    • It’s important to write a description that conveys why you are  including the image in the page. Why is it important? What point are you trying to make with it? If the image is for decorative purposes, just check The image is decorative box instead.
  6. Click the OK button, and then the Done button to save.


Write meaningful link text that indicates the link's destination

Links are a major method of navigating for everyone, but especially screen reader users. If the links are embedded into meaningful text, they are much more useful.
  1. From the toolbar, click on the Insert Quicklink icon.
  2. Select URL in the Insert Quicklink window,
    • Type in the URL (web address).
    • Enter text that describes the link's destination in the Link Caption field (in the Title field in D2L version 10.3)
      • For example, if the link will take you to the Portland Community College website, for the meaningful description I will use "Portland Community College website" instead of the URL "" or "click here" which aren't descriptive.
    • Select Whole Window in the Open In section (Target section in D2L 10.3)
  3. Click the Insert button.
  4. And don't forget to click on the Update button to save your changes.


Create data tables with column headers

Designating column headers in a table is essential to screen reader users understanding how the information is laid out.
  1. Put your cursor in one of the cells you want to mark up as a table header.
  2. Then click on the drop-down menu next to the Table icon in the toolbar.
  3. Choose Table Cell Properties. The Table cell properties window will pop-up.
  4. In the Cell type field, click on the drop-down list and select Header.
  5. Next, in the Scope field, click on the drop-down list and select Col. 
    • (If you were making the headers for rows instead of columns, you would do the same steps but change the drop-down list in the Scope field to Row.)
  6. If you want to make all of the cells in this row into headers, you can choose Update all Cells in the Row from the last drop down menu field in this window..
  7. When you are done, click Update. You will know you have successfully changed the row to table headers because the look of the table cells will change.

Ensure a proper reading order in tables

Screen readers read tables from left to right, top to bottom, one cell at a time (no repeats). If cells are split or merged, the reading order can be thrown off.
Read your table left to right, top to bottom (never repeating a cell). Does it make sense? A screen reader reads tables in this way.
Merged, nested, and split cells change the reading order of tables. Make sure you construct your table in a way that accommodates good reading order.


Don't use color alone to convey meaning

Don't use color alone to make a distinction, a comparison or to set something off or apart from the rest of the web page. If you categorize something by color alone, those who are color blind or blind will not benefit from the color distinction.

Use sufficient color contrast

If you print your color graphic on a black and white printer, would it be understandable? Without sufficient color contrast, people who are color blind will not be able to benefit from the information.

Check color contrast with Desire2Learn's color tool

1.  Go to the module and click on the page you want to check the color contrast.
2.  Select the text that you want to change to another color and click the drop down menu next to the Color icon in the toolbar.
3.  Select the color and click Save.
Note: When picking a color for your text in Desire2Learn, make sure you choose a color that registers with a green checkmark for WCAG AA in the Select a Color window.Shows green assessibility check mark

For a stand-alone tool that can test things in many applications (not just D2L), try the Colour Contrast Analyzer Tool

  1. Download Colour Contrast Analyzer Tool
  2. Open the Colour Contrast.exe file,
  3. Make sure you are in the Result -- Luminosity mode, not the contrast result for color blindness.
  4. Click the Foreground eye dropper tool, hover over and click the foreground color to select the foreground color.
  5. Click the background eye dropper tool, hover over and click the background color.
  • These are results for regular size (approximately 12 pixel) font and large text (18 pixel or larger).
  • Best practice standards are to reach a pass in the AA standards.
  • Don't worry If you fail the AAA standards, though you might want to consider something with more contrast.
  • Avoid these combinations:
    • Red & Black
    • Blue & Yellow
    • Red & Green

Flashing/Blinking Content

Eliminate or limit blinking/flashing content to 3 seconds

Any flashing/blinking content (especially content in red) can cause seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy as well as other photosensitive seizure disorders, so it should be limited and used only when necessary. Web pages that do contain flashing content, should limit the flashing to no more than three flashes per second and not use fully saturated reds in the content. If you do have content that flashes/blinks more than three times per second, freeze the blinking content momentarily so it falls below the three times per second limit. If you have a web video with a scene involving very bright lightning flashes (or other scenes with flashes), edit the video so the lightening doesn't flash more than three times in any one-second period.

Interactive Elements, Forms & buttons

Check the reading order of forms

We recommend the D2L quiz tool for creating forms. If you link out to an outside web-based form, check its reading order and how well it works with a screen reader.
Tab order and proper labeling of form fields and buttons is important to those who are blind or physically disabled.
1.  To check the reading order of a form, try tabbing through the form. Does it land on the form fields in the order someone would want to fill it out? If it doesn't you will need to edit the order of the form fields.
2.  Can you submit the form without using the mouse? (The keyboard command to activate a button or link is the Enter key.)
o If you cannot, is there another way that is accessible to students who can't use a mouse or those who are blind, for the student to submit this information that is accessible to them. Can they save it and email it to you,
for example?

Label form fields and buttons

If you are using the D2L quiz format as your form, you can be assured that the form fields and buttons are clearly labeled.
For other forms,
1.  Make sure the form fields are associated with a label. One way to do this is to test the form with a screen reader.
2.  Does the screen reader tell the user what to fill into the form fields? Is it clear how to
submit the form?
3.  If you don't know how to test with a screen reader, please contact VTAC or your instructional designer.

Ensure that any action that uses a mouse, can also be completed by a keyboard.

People with carpal tunnel and other mobility issues often cannot use a mouse. While there are more and more input device and software options such as speech to text software and touchpads, keyboard accessibility remains an important input format for many assistive technologies
1.  Whatever the operation or behavior, make sure a mouse is not required.
2.  Try navigating the web page without a mouse. Use the following keyboard keys to navigate and interact with the web page all of its content:
o Tab,
o Arrow keys,
o Enter
o Spacebar
Keyboard commands clearly provided (and common operating system and
browser keyboard commands) may also be used.
3.  Could you complete the course without using a mouse?

Test interactive learning objects with a screen reader

Even if something is keyboard accessible, objects, buttons or input fields may not be properly labeled which would make the learning object inaccessible to someone using a screen reader.
1.  If the web page with the interactive object or behavior on the webpage has passed the keyboard only test (above), try it out with a screen reader.
o Does the screen reader read the button labels?
o Are any changes made to the webpage by scripts or user interaction, made
understandable to the blind or low-vision user?
2.  If you don't know how to test with a screen reader, please contact VTAC or your instructional designer.

Math and Science equations/formulas/notation

Use MathML to write math and science equations, formulas and notation on a webpage.

The D2L equation editor outputs MathML, and you can publish Microsoft Word with the MathType plugin to MathML. See How to Make Math-Science Resources Accessible.

Additional Guidelines to adhere to

  • Caption video and transcribe audio.
  • Don't require inaccessible software applications be used. Consider the software applications you require students use. Are they all accessible? Can you separate the task or outcome from the application and let students use whatever works best for them?
  • Optional materials and resources too must include a balance of accessible options

Run an Automated Checker

There are a few different web page accessibility checkers, but in order to check web pages that require a log-in, such as D2L does, you will need a browser-based checker, such as the WebAIM WAVE accessibility toolbar add-on for the Firefox and Chrome browsers:
  1. Download & Install the WAVE toolbar.
  2. Open the D2L page in its own window by clicking on the open in a new window icon. 
  3. Right-click on the page in the new window, and select WAVE, then choose "Errors, Features, and Alerts" to see what accessibility errors you have on the page.
  4. Error icons in green, red, yellow and blue will appear on the page. If you hover over an error icon, more information on the error will appear.
  5. Return to the original D2L page, and open the D2L editor to repair the problems you found.
There's a lot more you can do with this toolbar too, but this is how you do an accessibility error check with it. Check out this webpage and video:  Identifying Web Accessibility Issues using WAVE tool

Additional Resources