Blackboard Ally Frequently Asked Questions

What is Ally?New

Blackboard Ally is a revolutionary product that integrates seamlessly into Blackboard and focuses on making digital course content more accessible. As the instructor adds course content, the content passes through an accessibility checklist and is scored, and machine learning algorithms perform a full structural and visual analysis.

Based on this analysis, Ally is able to generate alternative formats for students that are more accessible and to provide the instructor with feedback on how to ensure future content is as accessible as possible.

What do my students see when Ally is enabled?New

Students will see a new menu to the right of any supported content that allows students to access the alternative formats available for that file.

Ally alternative format icon

Students do not see the icons that indicate the content's accessibility score, the scores themselves, nor the accessibility feedback. That information is only visible to the instructor. 

Do students see the accessibility score indicators?New

Students do not see the icons that indicate the content's accessibility score, the scores themselves, nor the accessibility feedback. That information is only visible to the instructor. 

Students only have access to download alternative formats.

What file types does Ally support?New

Ally will check and provide alternative formats for any visual or text-based content that you have added to your Blackboard course, including the following file formats:

  • PDF files
  • Microsoft® Word files
  • Microsoft® Powerpoint® files
  • OpenOffice/LibreOffice files
  • Uploaded HTML files
  • Image files, including JPG, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF

Ally also checks any text and images created using the text editor, although the results for that content is currently only available in the course accessibility report.

What accessibility issues does Ally check for?New

Ally’s accessibility checklist is based on WCAG 2.1 AA (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). This is an international accessibility standard, and most of the legislation and legal requirements worldwide align with this standard.

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 alternative formats does Ally generate?New

Ally provides alternative formats for these content 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
  • BeeLine Reader
What about copyright and prohibitions on making derivative works?New

This is an important question, particularly if you are using materials from other sources, like journal articles or publisher resources. Generally, you would not be allowed to modify these materials unless they have a creative commons or open-source license that allows derivative works.

There are a number of reasons why it is acceptable for Ally to provise these alternative formats, however:

  • Alternative formats are only and always available with the original file.
  • Students must be enrolled in a course to get alternative formats, which allows for an argument that these are instructional materials shared under fair use guidelines.  
  • Ally does not provide alternative formats for any 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 course report and instructor feedback.
What does Ally do with YouTube videos?New

Ally checks YouTubeTM videos for captions and presents this information in the course accessibility report. Auto-generated YouTube captions aren't considered to be valid captions due to the likelihood of errors. Any YouTube video with auto-generated captions is considered "not captioned".

Ally checks for both embedded YouTube videos and links to YouTube videos. There isn't any feedback or alternative formats available at this time for videos.

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