Logo for Blackboard Ally

Ally (Accessibility)

What is Ally?

Blackboard Ally is a service that scans all uploaded files within a Canvas course (documents and images) and assigns an “accessibility score” based on how accessible the file is based on a number of criteria. Criteria include document structure, tagging, and order, alternate text for images, color contrast, and other parameters. This is then communicated back to instructors with feedback on how to improve the accessibility score of a file. Ally can also generate alternative formats of files, providing students multiple ways to access the content within a file, such as via HTML, audio, electronic braille, and other formats.

Accessibility Score Indicators

Canvas files section showing three files with low, medium, and high Ally scores

Ally measures the accessibility of each file attached to your course and shows you at a glance how it scores. Scores range from Low to Perfect. A higher score means fewer issues.

  • Red dashboard indicator with needle pointing to the left Low: File is not accessible and needs immediate attention.
  • Orange dashboard indicator with needle pointing to the middle Medium: File is somewhat accessible and could use improvement.
  • Light green dashboard indicator with needle pointing to the right High: File is accessible but could be improved.
  • Dark green dashboard indicator with needle pointing to the right Perfect: File is accessible. No improvement needed.

Instructor Feedback

After scanning a file, Ally can provide detailed feedback regarding the current issues that the file has (missing document tags, no alternate text, etc.). Ally will also give step-by-step instructions on what a particular issue means and how to fix the issue, allowing instructors to take their files and improve their accessibility scores.

Screenshot of a file preview in Canvas with Ally identifying accessibility issues

Alternative Formats

Ally allows students and instructors to download any file in a number of different formats, increasing the ways they can access the content of the file. Ally generates this file the first time it is requested and may take a few minutes to produce; subsequent requests will return a requested file automatically.

Popup dialog showing six possible alternative format options for Ally

What Alternative Format Options Are Available?

Alternative formats may vary by file type, but some formats available include:

  • Tagged PDF – A structured PDF for improved use with assistive technologies.
  • HTML – For viewing in a browser and on a mobile device.
  • ePub – For reading as an eBook on an iPad or other e-reader device.
  • Electronic Braille – BRF version for consumption on electronic braille displays.
  • Audio – MP3 version for listening to a file.
  • BeeLine Reader – An enhanced version for easier and faster on-screen reading.

However, a caveat is that the more accessible a file is, the better the output of the alternative format will be. Thus, a file with low accessibility rating will have a degraded alternative format as compared to a file with a higher accessibility rating.


Accessing Alternative Formats via the Files Section

In the Files section, click on the three-dot icon of the file you would like to download the alternative formats and choose Alternative formats.

Accessing Ally's alternative formats from a file in the Files section of Canvas
Accessing Alternative Formats via a File Embedded in a Page

If the file is embedded in a page, the alternative formats can be downloaded by clicking on the Download icon next to the file name.

Accessing Ally's alternative formats from a file embedded on a Canvas page