Blackboard had an amazing booth at the NASPA/ACPA Joint Meeting in Orlando. It was the size of small house and it looked like one too! Inside their mini-mansion, the folks from Blackboard were demoing their portal solution, the Blackboard Community System.
My first question to the Blackboard representative, upon seeing that the demo utilized frames, was whether or not the system was accessible for users with visual impairments. His response was, “What are frames?” I said that that was not a good answer.
I think I had his attention at this point in our conversation. I quickly took hold of the mouse and hovered over the area where there were two frames. I informed him that sometimes frames cause access issues for folks with visual impairments who use screen readers. After giving him a synopsis regarding what a screenreader was and what it does for people with visual impairments, I left feeling like the guy from Blackboard got it. He seemed to realize that this was something that he should know about. Hopefully he will take what I taught him back to headquarters.
The big portal players, companies like SCT (makers of Luminis) and Blackboard, need to realize that accessibility needs to be at the core of their products. It is time to create web-based applications that utilize web standards. Frames and table-based interfaces are no longer acceptable parts of a successful web application.