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Ally & Accessibility

Introducing Ally

it's about progress not perfection
Ally was integrated into BbLearn Summer 2019

Your class is full of diverse students with unique learning abilities. Ally automatically provides students with more accessible content so they can choose formats that work best for them: HTML for improved reading on mobile phones, Electronic Braille for the visually impaired, and Audio for learning on the go.


Accessible content is better content.


Blackboard Ally - Accessible content is better contentAlly automatically scans your original content in BbLearn and generates Alternative Formats (Ally Alternative Formats Icon) to make each file more accessible without altering the original file in any way. Ally shows Accessibility Indicators
(Accessibility Indicator)
& Scores
for each content file in BbLearn. Indicators and scores are only visible to Instructors. Along with providing guidance, these indicators help improve the overall accessibility of files delivered to your students. The more accessible your original files are, the better the automatically generated alternatives will be.


Students can't see accessibility scores & indicators.


The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning does not expect faculty to attempt to fix their BbLearn course content all at once! Ally allows the University of Idaho to take its first steps in addressing course content accessibility issues. UI's use of Ally will continuously help us move forward with our goal of fostering an inclusive, diverse community of students.


Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection. — Mark Twain


An Introduction to Ally

(0:56 min video)

Run Course Accessibility Report

The course accessibility report provides an accessibility summary and overview at the course level.

  • To run this report, expand Course Tools from your course's Control Panel
  • Select Accessibility Report.

Ally's course accessibility report displays:

  • The accessibility score for the entire course
  • The distribution list of course content by content type
  • A list of all remaining issues identified in the course in order of priority from severe to minor. Ally looks at the number of students impacted, how often the issue occurs, and the accessibility score to determine the priority.

Select an issue to see all the content that have that issue. Select content to open the Instructor Feedback panel and fix the issue.

Note that Ally's course accessibility report provides a way to work on low scoring content or focus on fixing the easy issues, which ever you prefer. Either option gives you direct access to the instructor feedback which outlines how to best fix the issues.

Ally Support Materials (PDFs)


Fixing Accessibility Issues

PDFs from the Library

Some PDFs downloaded from various library resources show RED on Ally's accessibility scale (Red Ally Indicator). The UI Library is aware that many of the PDFs from their external resource databases have low accessibility scores. We hope these resource agencies work to improve the accessibility of their PDFs over time. But for now, there is nothing you can do to modify these files and make them more accessible.

Make a File More Accessible

Ally - What are the dial icons for?

Don't Worry! Ally Accessibility Indicators (Accessibility Indicator) & their corresponding Scores are NEVER visible to students and do not affect the way students view and download files.

Overview: Our annual upgrade to BbLearn in Summer 2019 came with Blackboard's new accessibility tool called Ally. This tool displays red, orange, or green Accessibility Indicator icons (Accessibility Indicator) to the left of most files distributed by BbLearn.

  • Accessibility Indicators (Accessibility Indicator) are color-coded to let you know how accessible the file is as scored by Ally.
  • Accessibility Indicator Simply click on an Accessibility Indicator icon to learn more and fix an issue.
  • Clicking on an Accessibility Indicator icon shows you the accessibility feedback details for its corresponding file.
  • Once you click on an Accessibility Indicator icon (Accessibility Indicator), Ally walks you through a series of steps you may take to make the file more accessible. Ally organizes this feedback in a decision tree, so all you need to do is read the directions and respond to the prompts. Learn what the issue is, why it matters, and how to correct it appropriately.
  • KEEP IN MIND: This is about progress, not perfection! We do not expect faculty to attempt to fix their course content all at once. Improve only what you can and only when you have the time to do so.
  • NOTE: PDF files downloaded from various library resources cannot be modified and thus, there is nothing you can do to improve the accessibility of these files at this time.
  • In some cases, Ally allows you to make the fix directly, such as adding an alternative description to an image file. In other cases, Ally links you to resources to help solve the problem using the same tools you used to create the original content. Upload a corrected file directly to Ally, and watch your score improve.

    TIP for Microsoft Documents

    If a PDF is generated from one of your own Office documents, try resaving it out to a PDF using the newest version of Microsoft Office. For example, our testing showed that by changing nothing in a Word document and simply resaving it out as a PDF via Office 365 Online, Ally's Accessibility Indicator (Accessibility Indicator) changed from red to green and the resulting file size was just 7% of the original PDF size.

Add Descriptions to Images

Images are a great way to engage learners and can help communicate complex ideas to students. For students with visual impairments, alternative descriptions that explain the content of an image are crucial for their learning. For all students, text descriptions can provide deeper context to aid their comprehension.

  • Click the Accessibility Indicator icon (Accessibility Indicator) next to an image to learn what you can do to make your image more accessible.
  • Select the What this means button for an explanation and How to write a good description for some quick tips.
  • Add your alternative description to the text field in the Ally feedback window. Make sure your description is more than just the title of the file or Ally will report an accessibility error. Describe the image and what's important and mention any text in the image.
  • Click Save.
  • If your image is only for visual effects and does not contain info relevant to the learning content, you may press the indicate image is decorative button. This means no alternative description is necessary and helps assure students of the purpose of the image.


Ally's Alternative Formats

Telling Your Students about Ally

We recommend that you distribute one or more of the following resources to your students to help them gain familiarity with Ally:

It is important for the University of Idaho to offer students meaningful, inclusive, and accessible learning opportunities. Ally provides students with Alternative Formats for files distributed via BbLearn. For Word documents, PowerPoint documents, and PDF's, you may download alternative formats of the content (e.g. Audio mp3 files for learning on the go).

Ally Help Resources:

Download Alternative Formats

Ally automatically scans your original content in BbLearn and generates Alternative Formats (Ally Alternative Formats Icon) to make each file more accessible without altering the original file in any way. Note: Students may access Ally's Alternative Formats from their phones via a Web browser, but not through the BbLearn Student app. However, Alternative Format access is coming to the BbLearn Student app in a future release.

  • Select the Alternative Formats icon (Ally Alternative Formats Icon) to the right of a content item or attached file.
  • Select one of the available formats (e.g. HTML, ePub, Electronic braille, Audio).
  • Press the Download button.
  • The file may take a few minutes to generate and download.
  • Ally Alternative FormatsDepending on the type of document, you many find some or all of these options:
    • An OCRed PDF which is used to improve the text of scanned documents
    • A Tagged PDF with improved navigation, especially if you use a screen reader
    • An HTML version that will be adjust text for your mobile devices
    • An ePub version if you use an eReader or tablet
    • An Electronic Braille version if you’re a braille reader
    • An Audio version for listening to an MP3

Disable Alternative Formats

Ally gives you the ability to disable student access to the Ally-generated Alternative Formats (Ally Alternative Formats Icon) for a file. To disable:

  • Select the Alternative Formats icon (Ally Alternative Formats Icon) to the right of a content item or attached file (as shown below).
  • Click on the down arrow to the right of the Download alternative formats title
  • Select Disable alternative formats for this file
  • The screen will tell you that the alternative formats for this file have been disabled. If you wish to re-enable the Alternative Formats (Ally Alternative Formats Icon) for your students, simply click the Enable for this file button.


Additional Help

Why Accessibility Matters

(2:47 min video)

UI Accessibility Support

UIDAHO - Center for Disability Access and Resources (CDAR)
Email: cdar@uidaho.edu
Phone: (208) 885-6307
Location: Bruce M. Pitman Center, Suite 127, Moscow Campus
Provides services and support to ensure that students are able to access and participate in the opportunities available at the university.

UIDAHO Faculty Staff Handbook 6400
6400 - Academic Adjustment and Accommodation for Students with Disabilities
The university will operate each service, program, or activity so that the service, program, or activity, when viewed in its entirety, is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.

Blackboard Inc. Commitment to Accessibility
Blackboard is committed to ensuring that their platform is usable and accessible. The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) recently awarded Blackboard Learn, Release 9.1 with a Nonvisual Accessibility Gold Certification, making it the first learning management system to achieve certification.


Accessibility Tips

Instructors are required to provide equal access for any inaccessible content (e.g., video) available in a timely manner to ALL enrolled students. Common tips for making your course content accessible include:

  1. Provide appropriate ALT tags for images. Use empty ALT tags (e.g., alt="") for decorative graphics. Learn More »
  2. Both Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Slides can be used to produce real-time captioning for slide show presentations shared during a Zoom session.
  3. Provide timely alternatives for multimedia (e.g., transcripts). Learn More »
  4. Additional resources and tips regarding the process of making your content accessible are available from the UIDAHO Web Authoring site.


Keyboard Navigation Alternatives

  • Press Alt + Shift + L on your keyboard to access the Quick Links navigation in BbLearn.
  • You may press Tab (moves cursor down) or Shift + Tab (moves cursor up) to navigate to your course content.

Not finding what you need? Try BbLearn's User Manual.
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