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Blackboard Ally is a course content accessibility tool that integrates with Blackboard, allowing instructors to address accessibility issues and provide alternative formats for students at Harper College.
Accessible Content is Better Content!

What is Ally?

Blackboard Ally is a course content accessibility tool that integrates with Blackboard, allowing instructors to address accessibility issues and provide alternative formats for students at Harper College. This page provides resources, self-help guides, and tutorials related to Blackboard Ally.

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 such as: HTML for improved reading on mobile phones, Electronic Braille for the visually impaired, and Audio for learning on the go.

Get Started with Ally

Accessibility Indicators

The Ally tool will run an automated check on documents uploaded to your course and provide an accessibility “score” for each document. Once the scoring is complete, you will see a gauge next to each document, letting you know how accessible the document is.

Don’t Worry! Ally Accessibility Indicators & their corresponding scores are NEVER visible to students and do not affect the way students view and download files.

Selecting an indicator next to a course file will launch Ally’s instructor feedback panel, which will show you the issues and give a step-by-step guide on how to fix them.

Formats Ally can Check

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

Instructor Feedback Panel

Once Ally has scored your content and files, it provides guidance and instructions on how to fix the issues that it finds. Simply click on a gauge for more information. If Ally finds accessibility problems, the Instructor Feedback Panel will provide the following:

  1. A preview of the file with the accessibility issues highlighted.
  2. Preview tools for navigating and zooming in and out of the file
  3. A side panel which displays guidance on how to repair problems with the accessibility of a file. It also allows you to replace that file once it has been repaired.

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:

  1. The accessibility score for the entire course
  2. All content in your course grouped by content type
  3. A list of all remaining issues identified in the course in order of priority from severe to minor.

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. Using this report is a timesaver since it will give you a clearer picture of the different options to improve the accessibility of your course content for your students.

Other Instructor Resources

Ally Instructor Package: Resources and Support (External PDF)

Improve Content Accessibility

Once you know the accessibility score for your course, or course files, you can begin to explore the accessibility issues and improve your content to raise the score.

Common accessibility issues may include the improper use of headers on data tables, structual headings, or alternative text descriptions for images in documents or presentations, among other issues.

For more details on how to improve content accessibility please view the following Blackboard Help pages:

Alternative Formats & Students

Alternative formats benefit everyone. One of the features of Ally is the ability to generate alternative formats for many of your course documents. This ability to choose a file format not only makes it easier for individuals with disabilities to access with assistive technologies (such as a screen reader or braille), but it also supports the needs of all students, allowing them to access materials in a way that best suits their learning preferences and needs.

Ally Student Alternative formats: Left, Option for Alternative Formats hovered over next to file. Right, Download Alternative Formats hovered over, select from options: Tagged PDF, HTML, ePub, Electronic Braille, and Audio.

Recommended Actions for Student Awareness

Announcement about Ally in the Course

Hello Students,
You now have the option to download alternative formats of files in this course. Which means you can access the content in a way that works best for you! Not sure which format to use? Check out all of the options. Need help? Check out the Ally Help for Students resources. For an overview of alternative formats and why you would use them, check out the following video: Choose your Alternative Format For Blackboard Learn

Add information about Ally in your Course Materials or Syllabus

Harper College courses use the Blackboard Ally tool, which offers students alternative format options for course content whenever possible.  An alternative format allows you to engage in content in different ways, such as audio and braille forms of a written document. Alternative formats include tagged PDFs (for screen readers), HTML, ePub (eBooks), electronic Braille and audio (mp3) versions.

When available, indicated by an “A” icon to the right of an item in Blackboard, you can click on the icon to download course content in formats that work best for you. Not sure which format to use? Check out all of the options. Need help? Check out the Ally Help for Students resources.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

Don’t worry – it is not as scary as you think. You don’t have to fix everything at once – and we promise you won’t need to learn whole new programs or learn to code. Ally is just a tool to help start the conversation about how you can ensure that your materials are inclusive for all students. In fact, many accessibility practices make it easier to manage documents. For example, Word processors have built in tools for headings, lists and tables – and practices such as adding alternative text to your graphics may help you to think through and clarify the information that you want to share with your students.

And remember – you are not alone!

We are here to help! The Academy for Teaching Excellence has resources, workshops and staff to help and support Harper’s commitment to a more inclusive campus.

If you have questions about Ally or the accessibility of your course content, fill out the Academy Request Form to be connected with an Academy team member who can help.

While Ally can help ensure that your documents are more inclusive for all, it is NOT a replacement for Access and Disability Services (ADS)! Some students will still require individualized accommodation work. However, by following Ally’s recommendations, you are engaging in best practices for teaching and inclusion leaving ADS to focus on specialized accommodations needs for your students.