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Getting Started with Blackboard Ally

Starting this summer, you’ll notice some new icons on your Moodle courses. These are icons from Blackboard Ally, a new plugin for Moodle that is designed to help you meet accessibility requirements in the coming year.

Learn more about Ally’s key features.

For more information or individual support, please contact: digitalservices@brookes.ac.uk.

Which icon is for Alternative Formats?

The Stylised ‘A’ Icon with a downward facing arrow to the left is for Alternative Formats.

Document with the Ally Alternative Format Icon indicated by with the words 'Alternative Formats' written above in a speech bubble. The icon is a stylised capital A with a down arrow in black.
Figure 1. When you upload a file resource, like a Document, the Ally ‘A’ icon appears automatically.

This is the icon that both students and staff can see. Clicking on this icon allows you to download alternative versions of a File resource. For example, if an instructor uploads a Word document to Moodle, Ally provides the opportunity to download it in other formats right from the course screen.

Pro Tip: The alternative formats will be better if you first make the original resource as accessible as you can using the Accessibility Checklist and following the Accessibility Guidelines.

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What types of Alternative Formats are available using Ally?

When you click on the Alternative Formats icon for a valid resource, a list of available formats will appear.

Screenshot of the dropdown menu that will appear once you click on the Alternative Formats 'A' icon.
Figure 2. When you click on the Ally ‘A’ icon, a list of available alternative formats will appear based on the original file type.

Quoted below is the Blackboard Ally guidance on Alternative Formats, including the types of files that Ally reads and what types can be requested.

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,
  • BeeLine Reader.

Pro Tip: Remember the alternative format will be better if the original source has already been created using the Accessibility Checklist and following the Accessibility Guidelines.

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How do I access Accessibility Feedback and Reports?

Staff have more options to view accessibility scores and reports. There are ‘gauges’ icons that appear next to resources that link to feedback resources and a full report available in the Navigation Tray.

What are these new ‘gauges’ icons?

Screenshot of course showing gauges next to an image and two PowerPoints.
Figure 3. The Ally icons are subtle, and only appear next to certain resources.

These icons, in the shape of a fuel gauge, show you at a glance whether a file or other resource is accessible. These gauges also appear next to any images you include on the course. An accessible resource will have a green ‘full’ gauge and a resource that needs more work will be either orange or red and show as less ‘full’.

Blackboard Ally has further guidance on accessibility scores, an except is included below.

Four fuel gauges from Perfect Green and Full to Poor Red and Empty. Text reads:  Low (0-33%): Needs help! There are severe accessibility issues. Medium (34-66%): A little better. The file is somewhat accessible and needs improvement. High (67-99%): Almost there. The file is accessible but more improvements are possible. Perfect (100%): Perfect! Ally didn't identify any accessibility issues but further improvements may still be possible.
Figure 4. Scores range from Low to Perfect. The higher the score the fewer the issues.

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What happens when I click on the ‘gauges’ icons?

Clicking on this icon will open a side panel that explains the score, gives guidance on how to increase your score, and if possible will allow you to apply a fix directly from the panel.

These two panels will show the accessibility gauge, an explanation of the score, a copy of the original document to follow along with, links to suggestions for how to apply a fix, and a space to edit it directly on the Ally Panel.
Figure 5. When you click on an Ally ‘gauge’ Accessibility Feedback can be viewed and some fixes can be applied.

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What is the Accessibility Report?

In the Navigation Tray (opened using the pink ‘hamburger’ icon in the top left corner) near the bottom there is a new ‘Accessibility Report’ button. Clicking on this will pull up the full report for the whole module. This report has a more detailed view of what issues you may need to fix and offers the opportunity to do so directly from the screen. If the fix needs to be applied on Moodle rather than on Ally, clicking on the links will take you to the relevant section on the course.

Screenshot of Accessibility Report showing Overview tab including the Course Accessibility Score, the breadown chart of all course content, and the list of content with the easiest issues to fix.
Figure 6. Sample Accessibility Report

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Updated on July 24, 2020

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