Pima Community College

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Screen Reader Tips

green and yellow squares The following describes how Brightspace is laid out, and how different functionality, settings, and preferences benefit individuals navigating the system using a screen reader (or other assistive technologies that interpret the contents of a page).

This topic does not document how to use specific assistive technologies. Please refer to help material for the software or device you are using if you want to learn about its specific functionality, shortcuts, and commands.

Logging In

The Login page for Brightspace has three form elements: Username, Password, and Login. The Username field has focus when you enter the page. The Password field and Login button are the next Tab options.

There are two additional options displayed as links: Forgot Password? and Please click here for a System Check before you log in. The Forgot Password? link opens a new window where you can request a password reset link be sent to the email address associated with your username. The System Check link opens a new page that lets you know if your computer meets the minimum criteria for using Brightspace. If you do not meet the criteria, a message displays explaining what components need updating.

Logging Out

The Logout link is one of the navigation links available in the Navbar at the top of all pages. You can access it using a links list, or by tabbing through the navigation links starting at the top of the page.

System Time-outs

The system may log you out if you are inactive for an extended period of time. The length of time is determined by your institution. A JavaScript warning will provide an option to remain logged in before your time expires.

Site Organization

Brightspace is typically organized into two levels of information: Pima Community College related information and course related information. Pima Community College related information typically appears on My Home, while course related information typically appears on Course Home and different course tools.

My Home

My Home is generally the first page you access when you log into Brightspace. It is a central area for accessing courses, checking for institution-wide announcements and events, and updating your site preferences and personal information.

Like all pages in Brightspace, My Home has a navigation area across the top of the page. This navigation area, typically called the navbar contains links to different tools. Since My Home is an organization level page, the links in the navigation area for My Home usually go to organization level, such as the Select a course... drop-down menu, or course-independent tools, such as Messages and Updates.

Other My Home content is organized in widgets. Typical widgets include: News, My Courses, PCC Library Resources and Student Notice about using copyrighted materials. You can navigate and search for widgets by Heading 2s, and navigate sections within a widget by Heading 3s.

One of the main purposes of My Home is to provide access to your courses and other tools. We recommend you use your screen reader to view a link list and heading list for your My Home to get a feel for what options are available to you.

To access a Course Home, you must select it from the My Courses widget or from the Select a course... drop-down menu. If you have more than one role in Brightspace (for example, you are both a Student and a Teaching Assistant), you need to select the role for which you want to view a course from the Role dropdown menu. Depending on your screen reader, dropdown menu items may be read as tabs or links. They should always be the first content after the widget's heading.

Course Home

Course Home is the first page you visit when you enter a course. It is a central area for accessing course specific information. Like My Home, Course Home pages have a navigation area across the top of the page and a number of widgets that contain information and links. Information and links on Course Home are specific to that course (unless they are for course-independent tools). For example, the navigation area for a Course Home might contain links to drop-down, or context menus for Communication tools, Assessments tools, Course Resources tools and Help resources for that specific course. Use Heading 2s to navigate to the main Navigation area and the different course widgets.

General Page Layout

Navigation Area and Skip to Main Content Links

At the top of each page is a navigation area that contains unordered lists with the main tool links for the course you are viewing (or for My Home or a department if you are not in a course).

Tool Menus and Action Bars

Tool menus and action bars are used to navigate areas within a specific tool. Typically, the left tool menu is used for complicated tools that need to be divided into different types of tasks.

Action Icons and Context Menus

While tool menus and action bars are used to navigate between tool areas and major tasks, action icons and context menus are used to select an action for a specific item on a list page. Every action icon and context menu has unique text that references the item the action applies to. Action icons are typically used when items are displayed in a table list (grid), while context menus are used when items are displayed outside of a table.


Tables (grids) are often used to organize content within a tool.

All tables use proper table summaries and headings. However, the easiest way to navigate items in a table is by a check box, since most table items have a Select [item] check box before their name.

Most items also have a list of actions after their name. These actions are organized in the Actions column and displayed as icons. Each action icon has a unique alt text so you can use a links list to select an action for an item. For example, you could use a links list to "Edit Topic 1."

You can also select multiple items from a table using the Select [item] check boxes and then selecting an action that can apply to multiple items. Actions that can apply to multiple items appear at the top and bottom of a table and use the alt text format [action] Selected Items. For example, you could use a links list to “Select Topic 1” and “Select Topic 2” and then “Edit Selected Items.”

Complex tables often have drop-down menus for filtering information in the table. For example, some tables have a View drop-down menu that allows you to change how information is sorted. Most drop-downs have an accompanying Apply or Go button that initiates the action.

A few drop-downs, such as per page drop-downs, update on selection so you must use Alt + Down Arrow (Windows/Linux) or Option + Down Arrow (Mac) to open the drop-down and then use the Up Arrow or Down Arrow and Enter key to select and option.

If there are more items in a table than will display on a single page, use the Page drop-down menu, Next Page icon Next Page icon, or Previous Page icon Previous Page icon to navigate to other pages.


Pages that use form fields for entering data or changing settings have a logical Tab order. If a page is divided into multiple tabs, your screen reader may read the tabs as Tab stops or as links. You normally cannot open a secondary Tab until you have filled in all the mandatory fields on the first Tab. Mandatory fields are indicated with an asterisk (*). The last options on a form are usually Cancel and Save. Sometimes the Save button is called something else related to completing the action, such as Select or Upload.

Many forms allow you to create content using the Brightspace HTML Editor (WYSIWYG). The HTML Editor is fully accessible by keyboard, but lacks non-visual feedback when options or formatting are selected in the editor view. You can make changes in the source view so you can read your changes in the code as you work, or turn off the HTML Editor in your Account Settings area. If you turn off the HTML Editor it is replaced by text fields that accept HTML.

Some form pages contain links to additional actions, which may not be recognized as form elements by your screen reader. For example, there is a link to create a New Folder on the Add Contact form in Email. Always check for links when filling out a form in Brightspace.

Most form pages provide either a confirmation or error message when you submit the form using an ARIA alert. The message appears at the top of the page and should take focus. If there were errors in your submission the message explains each error and provides links to the appropriate fields so you can resolve the issues.

Treeviews and Frames

Brightspace has tried to keep page layouts as simple as possible. However, some tools, such as Email, use treeviews and frames to layout complicated lists of items and options. Most of these pages have options to Hide Tree (Manage Files) or Show (or hide) the folder list pane (Email). Check the tool's settings and tool bars for ways to simplify the page layout.

Help Text

Many forms contain inline help, Help icon Help icons and links to additional help material either immediately after the page heading or section heading, or after individual fields. It is a good idea to read the entire contents of a form before filling it out, and to look for help text or a help link immediately after a field if you have difficulty understanding its purpose.


Some pages contain sections that are collapsed by default. Collapsed sections contain advanced or supplemental information that is not required to complete standard tasks. To expand a collapsed section using a keyboard or screen reader, select the appropriateExpand or Show iconExpand or Show icon.

Load More

When a list contains more items than the page currently displays, a Load More link
appears at the bottom of the list as the final list item. Clicking this link appends more
items to the list.


Some links open secondary pop-up windows for completing page-specific tasks. These links should indicate that they open in a new window through a title attribute. Use the Down Arrow and Tab keys to read the contents of the pop-up. The last options should be buttons to cancel or complete the task. Occasionally, these buttons are in a separate frame.

Warning: Some secondary pages use modal dialogs instead of separate windows to display information. If you primarily navigate the web using a screen reader we recommend that you select Show secondary windows as pop-ups in the Account Settings tool.


Most pages that contain lists of items or users have a Search For field near the top of the page. To perform a search, enter a word or partial word in the Search For field and select the Search button.

Use the Show Search Options link to select advanced search options.

Use the Clear Search link to clear the Search For field.

Personal Tools

Your User Name at the top of the My Home and Course Home provides a drop-down menu with links to edit your Profile and Account Settings. These tools provide you with links to tools that store your personal information and preferences. Depending on your permissions, the following links may be available:

Account Settings

We recommend that you adjust the settings available in the Account Settings tool to meet your personal needs. Here are some recommendations:

Discussions Tab

Email Tab

Calendar Page Layout

The Calendar tool can display events from multiple calendars in one view. Read the
following sections to help orient yourself to key elements of the Calendar interface.

Mini Calendar

The mini calendar is the first element of the Calendar interface; it appears after a heading 2 that matches the current month and year. It's a quick reference for the active calendars in the Calendar tool. It indicates which dates have events and the day, week, or month currently selected in the main calendar display.

The mini calendar includes leading and trailing dates. This means that you might see the last days of the previous month and the first days of the next month depending on which day of the week the current month begins.

Default Calendar

The default calendar is always set as the course from which you accessed the Calendar tool; its name appears as a heading 2 on the page. If you have permission to create course events, those events appear on the default calendar.

You can change your default calendar by selecting a course in the My Calendars list. Changing your default calendar also switches your current course in Brightspace to correspond to the course calendar you select.

Calendar View Modes

In addition to standard Day, Week, and Month views, the Calendar tool also displays calendar events in an Agenda and List view.

The Agenda view groups course events from your active calendars by Date, Course, or Type. Events display in chronological order and all-day events display at the top of each grouped listing.

List view displays all events from your active course calendars in chronological order. You can filter this list by event type. Click an event's name to view more details about that event. If the list contains many items, a Load More link appears at the bottom of the list as the final list item. Clicking this link appends more items to the list.


Tasks are not connected to specific calendars. The task pane enables you to keep a personal list of tasks and set their deadlines to keep track of things to do.

To simplify your interface, you can limit the appearance of the task pane from the Settings link in the Calendar tool. This link appears after the Calendar view modes.

Getting Additional Support

If you are having difficulty using Brightspace to complete your course work, consider seeking help from your instructor or your campus Access and Disability Resources (ADR) office. Most institutions have support centers to help users learn new technology, seek special accommodations, and organize tutoring and other support.

There is a wealth of assistive technology products available to help people use computers and the Internet. A few examples include: special keyboards and mice, speech recognition software, screen magnifiers, screen readers, and Braille displays. Investing the time to find the hardware and software that is right for you, and then learning how to use it effectively, is worthwhile. Take advantage of help documentation and tutorials to learn commands, shortcuts, frequent tasks, and special tips.

Pima Community College is committed to providing accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities in a timely and effective manner. To request a reasonable accommodation, students must be registered with the campus Access and Disability Resources (ADR) office. Accommodations can only be made based on eligibility determined by Access and Disability Resources. Services can be requested at any time during the semester. Requesting services well in advance will help to ensure that resources are available when needed. Please contact an ADR office at 206-6688 or ADRhelp@pima.edu.

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