Blackboard - Faculty - Ally

What is Ally?

Ally is an accessibility tool integrated into Blackboard. It provides instructors with indicators on the level of accessibility for a given content item within their course.

For example, if an instructor uploads a PDF document to their course, Ally will assess the PDF file for the presence of various features used by accessibility tools such as screen readers.

Ally also provides a tutorial system which walks instructors through the remediation of content in order to improve the accessibility rating.

Using Ally

There is no setup required to start using Ally.

Ally seamlessly integrates into your course and provides accessibility indicators next to any content you have uploaded. Should you choose to fix the identified issues, Ally provides a built-in tutorial system to guide you through the remediation process.

There are two main steps to using Ally (Click to expand):

1. Review Content Indicators

Review Content Indicators

When you access your course, you will now see content accessibility indictors next to your uploaded content.

When you upload a piece of content, Ally will scan the item for the presence of various accessibility features. Based on the features found, Ally will assign that content item an accessibility score.

This is then communicated to you via the indicator displayed next to that content item.

A picture showing a Blackboard content item with a highlighted box around a dial icon.

Clicking the indicator will display the issues Ally has detected. Not all issues are weighted equally, clicking the “All issues” button will display which fixes will be the most impactful.

A screenshot highlighting a panel on the right side of the screen. The panel has an indicator displaying 22 percent with a list of content issues below

2. Remediate Content

Remediate Content

Some accessibility issues can be resolved directly in the instructor feedback panel, while other issues will need to be corrected in the original document.

For example, if Ally has detected your PDF document is untagged, Ally will walk you through the tagging process in either Microsoft Word or PowerPoint.

To remediate your content, click the content indicator to open the instructor feedback panel.

A picture showing a Blackboard content item with a highlighted box around a dial icon.

Some key elements of the Ally panel:

  1. Score of the content item
  2. Button to display all issues detected for the content item
  3. Button providing a description of the issue
  4. Button with instructions on how to remediate the content item

    A screenshot showing the Ally panel. The numbers 1 to 4 are highlighting the score section, fix all items button, description button, and remediation instructions button.

The Ally panel will provide a description of the issue that needs remediation.

In some cases you may resolve the issue directly by providing the information directly in the Ally Instructor Panel.

In other cases, fixing the content item will need to be done in an outside product such as Microsoft Word. For situations requiring remediation outside the browser, click the button titled "How to fix...". This will walk you through how to improve your content using an outside product such as Microsoft Word. Once you have corrected the issue, you may re-upload the content item from within the Ally Instructor Panel.

For more details please see, improving content accessibility with Ally

The following video outlines the content remediation process:



Alternative Formats

In addition to identifying content for manual remediation, Ally will scan your content and automatically provide alternative formats (Tagged PDF, HTML, ePub, etc.) for students to download. This is an automated process and requires no action on your part.

Keep in mind, alternative formats can be disabled in cases where a content license does not permit alternative formats. Additionally, alternative formats simply convert you existing content into another format. No accessibility corrections are applied during this process. This means, if your content has a low accessibility rating, the alternative format will also have a reduced accessibility rating.

Please see the alternative formats help page for more information.

The following video will provide further details on alternative formats:

For additional details, please view the Ally Quick Start Guide


Ally FAQ

Where can I get more information about accessibility at Trent?

For more information on accessibility services and your responsibilities regarding accessibility, please contact the Human Rights, Equality & Accessibility Office

What do students see?

Students see a menu to the left or right of each document. From this menu, they can select 'Alternative Formats' to access available versions to download. Although they can download alternative formats of your files, it is best to improve the documents through the instructor feedback.

Feel free to share the following document and video with your students: Ally Student Quick Guide


How can I disable Ally?

Instructors have the option to disable the generation of alternative formats of their content. To do so, follow the instructions located within the Alternative Formats Guide

Instructors can also request to disable Ally completely within their course. Please contact for assistance disabling Ally.

What happens when a course is copied? Does Ally go with the course copy?

Yes. When you copy a course, all alternative formats and instructor feedback will also be available in the new course.

When you archive a course, only references to file accessibility are available. Ally is a cloud service and will store the alternative formats on the Ally servers, which means that these are not pushed back to Blackboard. The alternative formats will not be stored inside of the course archive, but the reference from the course archive will continue to be available.

Will Ally change my course appearance?

The only difference you'll see within your course is that Ally provides an accessibility score for your files. The score is shown by a gauge icon next to your course files. Select the gauge to view and improve your file accessibility.

What languages are supported in Blackboard Ally?

Blackboard Ally is available in many different languages. Availability includes the Ally interface, as well as the alternative formats, including the audio format.

The audio alternative format is made available in a voice that reflects the language of the source document. It uses the most appropriate accent based on the location of the Ally deployment. For example, a user in North America would receive a North American English accent, a user in Europe would receive a British English accent and a user in Australia would receive an Australian English accent for an English document.

Blackboard Ally is available in these languages.

English, US
English, UK
French, Canadian
Norwegian Bokmål
Norwegian Nynorsk
Portuguese, Brazilian

What happens to my original files?

Blackboard does not discard the original version of the document. Your original file is retained within the Blackboard system and can be retrieved if necessary.

What content does Ally check?

Currently, Ally checks files in these formats:

  • PDF files
  • Microsoft® Word files
  • Microsoft® PowerPoint® files
  • OpenOffice/LibreOffice files
  • Uploaded HTML files
  • Image files (JPG, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BPM, TIFF)
  • YouTubeTM Videos
What accessibility issues does Ally check for?

Ally’s accessibility checklist is based on WCAG 2.1 AA (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).

Additionally, Ally also adds a number of additional checks on top of this that start to target the usability and quality of the course materials a bit more.

What is a contrast check?

Contrast checks verify whether there is sufficient contrast between the text color and its background color. Text with poor contrast can be difficult to read for everyone, but especially for students with visual impairments such as color blindness.

Ally uses the contrast requirements specified as part of the WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines.

What alternative formats does Ally generate?

Ally provides alternative formats for these file types:

  • PDF files
  • Microsoft® Word files
  • Microsoft® Powerpoint® files
  • OpenOffice/LibreOffice files
  • Uploaded HTML files

These alternative formats can be generated:

  • OCR’d version (for scanned documents)
  • Tagged PDF (currently for Word, Powerpoint and OpenOffice/LibreOffice files)
  • Mobile-friendly HTML
  • Audio
  • ePub
  • Electronic Braille
Does Ally generate alternative formats for student content?

Ally currently only processes instructional content. For example, content added by someone with edit permissions in the course, such as the instructor or instructional designer. Ally currently does not process student content or student submissions.

What format is the OCR’d alternative format?

The OCR’d version is made available as a tagged PDF.

What does the instructor need to do to generate alternative formats for a content item?

Nothing. Ally automatically picks up on any existing or new materials, runs it through the accessibility checklist, and makes the alternative formats available to both the student and the instructor.

Can I disable alternative formats?

Yes. You can turn off alternative formats for individual content items, if you want. If you change your mind, you can enable it again later.

What content types are in-browser previews available for?

In-browser previews are currently available for these files:

  • Images
  • PDF Documents
  • Word Documents
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • OpenOffice/LibreOffice files (Writer and Impress)

These previews are then used to identify where in the document specific accessibility issues can be found. Highlights are currently provided for these issues:

  • Images without an appropriate alternative description
  • Text fragments with insufficient contrast
  • Tables without table headings

The instructor feedback for other accessibility issues will just show the content preview without highlights.


Resource Summary:


  • Staff
  • Faculty

Service category

  • Teaching & Learning Tools

Last updated

Thursday, October 17, 2019 - 14:01