Contents

  1. Why is accessible content important?
  2. What is Blackboard Ally?
  3. Accessibility Scores
  4. Instructor Feedback Panel
  5. Site Accessibility Report
  6. What content does Blackboard Ally scan?
  7. Alternative Formats
  8. What do students see?
  9. Frequently asked questions
  10. Get help using Blackboard Ally

Why is accessible content important?

It is important to make sure all content uploaded to the web, including content on your Blackboard sites, are fully accessible by following the training and guidance provided on the Digital Skills Hub. Then when you create or view your course content in Blackboard you can follow the feedback and guidance provided by Blackboard Ally on how to further increase the accessibility of your content.

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What is Blackboard Ally

Blackboard Ally is a tool that helps you make your course content in Blackboard accessible to all users. It does this by:

  • Automatically scanning course content and providing accessibility scores and feedback on how to improve the accessibility of the content.
  • Generating alternative accessible formats for uploaded files that users can download for their personal use.

Ally does not scan nor provides alternative formats for any student-generated content or files.

Ally’s accessibility checklist is based on WCAG 2.1 AA (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). Ally performs further additional checks on top of this that start to target the usability and quality of the content.

The following short video (2:28) provides an overview of Ally for staff:

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Accessibility Scores

Blackboard Ally measures the accessibility of your course content and displays an accessibility indicator showing how it scores. The higher the score the fewer the issues.

Blackboard Ally low score indicator Low (Red, 0-33%): File has severed accessibility issues and needs immediate attention.

Blackboard Ally medium score indicator Medium (Amber, 34-66%): File is somewhat accessible and could use improvement.

Blackboard Ally high score indicator High (Light Green, 67-99%): File is accessible but could be improved.

Blackboard Ally perfect score indicator Perfect (Dark Green, 100%): File is accessible. Ally didn’t identify any accessibility issues but further improvements may still be possible.

For content with Low to High scores, Ally shows you the issues and provides step-by-step guidance on how to improve them.

The accessibility indicator is only visible to instructors and cannot be seen by students.

Course content in Blackboard showing accessibility indicator scores

The following short video (1:06) provides an overview of accessibility scores:

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Instructor Feedback Panel

Blackboard Ally provides detailed feedback to help you improve the accessibility of your course content.

Clicking on the accessibility indicator opens the Instructor Feedback Panel.

Course content in Blackboard showing medium accessibility score and to click to improve content

For content that is not accessible, Ally identifies the issues with that content and explains how to fix the problem. You can fix the issues step-by-step or see all issues and decide what to fix first.

You will see the following details in the Instructor Feedback Panel:

  • Accessibility Score: The content’s accessibility colour and numerical score based on severity of the accessibility issue(s).
  • Description: The description of the accessibility issue(s) affecting the content.
  • Additional information: Detailed information about how the issue(s) affects accessibility and why it is important to fix the issue(s).
  • Instructions to improve: Step-by-step instructions for your preferred software that shows you how to improve accessibility.
  • Direct file upload: A drag-and-drop space to upload a fixed file to replace the inaccessible one.

While improving the accessibility of images might be one step, improving the accessibility of text can include multiple instructions and steps to follow.

Ally describes the issue(s) affecting the content, highlights the issue(s) within your original content, explains what it means and why it is important to fix the issue(s). Ally provides instructions based on your preferred software associated with the file type. The final step is to upload your improved file. This automatically replaces the existing inaccessible file and updates the Accessibility Score. If any issues remain, Ally will alert you and prompt you to fix them.

Blackboard Ally Instructor Feedback Panel

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Site Accessibility Report

The Site Accessibility Report provides an overall summary and rating of all your course content in a Blackboard site. The Accessibility Report can be a useful tool to start engaging with Ally and improving the accessibility of your content. The Site Accessibility Report is accessed from the Site Tools section of the Control Panel.

Access Ally Site Accessibility Report

The Course Accessibility Score provides an overall rating of the Blackboard site’s accessibility.

The Overview tab provides a breakdown of the course content and file types that make up your course content.

Ally Site Accessibility Report

To help you decide what to fix first, the Overview tab identifies the amount of content with the easiest issues to fix and the amount of content with low scores. There is direct access to the Instructor Feedback Panel so that you can fix the issues.

Any other remaining issues are listed in order of priority from severe to minor with direct access to the Instructor Feedback Panel. Those at the top of the list should be addressed first. Ally looks at the number of students impacted, how often the issue occurs, and the accessibility score to determine priority:

  • Severe: These issues are the greatest risk to accessibility and require the most attention.
  • Major: These issues impact accessibility, and while not severe, require attention.
  • Minor: These issues should be considered for a better accessibility score.

The Content tab shows all content with accessibility issues.
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What content does Ally scan?

Ally scans the following types of content in your Blackboard site:

  • PDF files
  • Microsoft Word files
  • Microsoft PowerPoint files
  • OpenOffice/LibreOffice files
  • HTML files
  • Image files (JPG, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BPM, TIFF)
  • VTBE content*
  • YouTube videos embedded in VTBE content*

* The results for these types of content only appear in the Site Accessibility Report.

Ally does not scan any student-generated content or files.

YouTube videos

Ally checks both embedded YouTube videos and links to YouTube videos for captions and presents this information in the Site Accessibility Report. Auto-generated YouTube captions are not considered to be valid captions and are not included. There isn’t any instructor feedback or alternative formats available for videos.

Blackboard Ally reporting on YouTube videos without captions in the Site Accessibility Report

Password protected content

Ally detects password-protected content, gives them a 0% accessibility score and provides guidance to help remove the password through the Instructor Feedback Panel. Ally does not generate any alternative formats for password-protected content.

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Alternative Formats

Instructor view of course content in Blackboard showing Alternative Format option

For the following file types:

  • PDF files
  • Microsoft Word files
  • Microsoft PowerPoint files
  • OpenOffice/LibreOffice files
  • Uploaded HTML files

Ally can generate these alternative formats:

  • OCR’d (Optical Character Recognition) version – automatically extracted text from scanned documents for improving reading and searching.
  • Tagged PDF (currently for Word, PowerPoint and OpenOffice/LibreOffice files) – structured PDF for improved use with assistive technology.
  • Mobile-friendly HTML.
  • ePub – for reading as an e-book on an iPad or other e-book reader.
  • Electronic Braille – BRF version for electronic braille displays.
  • MP3 Audio version for listening.
  • BeeLine Reader – enhanced version that uses an ‘eye-guiding colour gradient’ for easier and faster on-screen reading.

The following short video (0:32 – no audio) provides an overview of BeeLine reader for easier reading on screen:

Ally doesn’t provide alternative formats for documents with metadata stating no derivatives of a document can be generated. Ally will only scan the document for accessibility issues and include this data in the report and instructor feedback.

Ally doesn’t generate alternative format for student generated-content or files.

Alternative formats are for personal use only and users must not copy, post or share the alternative format with others.

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What do students see?

Students are able to access and download a range of alternative and accessible formats for files uploaded to the Blackboard sites that they are enrolled on. These alternative formats are automatically generated by Blackboard Ally. Alternative formats are for personal use only and users must not copy, post or share the alternative format with others.

Student view of course content in Blackboard showing Alternative Format option

For the following file types:

  • PDF files
  • Microsoft Word files
  • Microsoft PowerPoint files
  • OpenOffice/LibreOffice files
  • Uploaded HTML files

Students can choose to download these alternative formats:

  • OCR’d (Optical Character Recognition) version – automatically extracted text from scanned documents for improving reading and searching.
  • Tagged PDF (currently for Word, PowerPoint and OpenOffice/LibreOffice files) – structured PDF for improved use with assistive technology.
  • Mobile-friendly HTML.
  • ePub – for reading as an e-book on an iPad or other e-book reader.
  • Electronic Braille – BRF version for electronic braille displays.
  • MP3 Audio version for listening.
  • BeeLine Reader – enhanced version that uses an ‘eye-guiding colour gradient’ for easier and faster on-screen reading.

List of alternative file formats generated by Blackboard Ally

Students do not see the accessibility indicator or score for course content in your Blackboard site or the feedback Ally provides in the Instructor Feedback Panel.

The following short video (0:45) provides an overview of Ally for students including downloading alternative file formats:

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Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Because Blackboard Ally generates alternative accessible formats that students can chose from, does this mean that I don’t have to manually review my course materials in Blackboard for accessibility?

Blackboard Ally is able to convert some file types into more accessible versions and does provide a really significant increase to accessibility. However, there are many accessibility issues which it cannot automatically fix. It will highlight those issues in each piece of content and give staff members advice about how to fix them and a space for re-uploading an accessible version of the file.

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Get help using Blackboard Ally

For help using Blackboard Ally, contact the Digital Learning Team.

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