Blackboard Ally is an additional service within Moodle which produces an accessibility score for each file you upload to your course. It automatically checks course materials against WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards. Ally provides guidance and tips for lasting improvements to your content accessibility.
In addition to providing you with insight to your content accessibility, Ally automatically creates alternative versions of your files. This allows students to choose the type of file they want that best suits their needs. While you're in the process of improving files, students still access alternative copies.
The below video will gives a brief explanation on how you can use Blackboard Ally features to improve the accessibility for your course documents.
Currently, Ally checks files in these formats:
Microsoft® Word files
Microsoft® PowerPoint® files
Uploaded HTML files
Accessibility scores are determined by the severity of issues in each file. A low score indicates the file has severe or multiple accessibility issues; a high score means there are minor or no accessibility issues. For accessibility scores less than 100 percent, Ally gives you suggestions for improving the accessibility of the file.
Scores range from Low to Perfect. The higher the score the fewer the issues.
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.
Scores are only visible to the course Instructors.
View File Accessibility Issues
For files with Low to High accessibility scores, Ally can point the possible issues with the file and gives a step-by-step guide on how to rectify them to improve the Accessibility.
Steps to improve the accessibility:
- Once you have uploaded the file onto your course, the accessibility score pointer will show up adjacent to the name of the file. Click on this pointer to view the Instructor Feedback panel.
Please note, It takes a couple of minutes from the time you uploaded the file for the accessibility score to appear.
- This section has all the details to help you fix the accessibility.
- Select All issues to see the list of issues with the file.
- Find the issue you want to work on and select Fix.This will give you suggestions on how to fix the issue.
- You also have an option to view the alternative file formats available for students to download.
Additional details on improving file accessibility is available here.
Previews and highlights
As part of Blackboard's regular Ally release updates, the instructor feedback will now be able to show previews for the following document types;
- Microsoft Word
- Microsoft PowerPoint
Previews can be used to pinpoint accessibility issues within the document. Highlights are currently provided for the following accessibility types;
- Images without an appropriate alternative description
- Text fragments with insufficient contrast
- Tables without table headings
The introduction of this feature will make it easier for instructors to identify issues within a document as well as cut down remediation time. For all other accessibility issues, Ally will still advise you of these without highlights. An example of the preview/highlights screen below;
- Page navigation: You may type or use arrow buttons to navigate through your document.
- Highlight navigation: Use the arrow button to navigate lines within your document that contain the accessibility issue. In this example, there are 18 lines which ally has highlighted and shown to have contrast issues which require remediation.
- Hide / Show highlight button: You may choose to hide or show the highlights on your document. Maybe useful when you have multiple issues and with to only filter out 1 specific kind.
- Ally side panel: Shows your documents accessibility score, provides information about the issues identified/advice on how to fix (if applicable) and option to re-upload corrected version.
- Highlights: Highlighted in red, are the areas which require remediation.
Accessibility in PDF's and Word
Most documents are created in word-processing programs such as Microsoft Word or PowerPoint before they are converted to a PDF. Many programs create PDF files, but few produce structured or tagged PDF's. PDF tags are hidden labels that clarify the structure of the document (E.g. Table, heading, paragraph, etc.) Untagged PDF's do not contain any of this information and can cause the content to be misinterpreted.
When you upload a PDF document into your Moodle course, Blackboard Ally will analyse your document and provide you with an accessibility score. Depending on how well your document has been created to address accessibility, coloured icons will appear which correlate to an accessibility percentage score. The higher the score, the more accessible your PDF document is.
In the example above, it appears the PDF document uploaded has a low accessibility score. The below will outline some changes you can choose to make when creating your PDF's to improve its accessibility score.
Tagging a PDF
A great way to create a tagged PDF is with an editable source document, such as a Word, PowerPoint or LibreOffice file. The below screenshot demonstrates key settings to enable with a Microsoft Word file.
- Save the document as an Adobe PDF.
- Click Options.
- Make sure Enable Accessibility and Reflow with tagged Adobe PDF is enabled.
- Click OK.
Adding headers in tables
Using proper table headers will help readers understand how the tables are organised into columns and rows. It's recommended to avoid solely using text and cell formatting, such as making the text big or bold to mimic the visual appearance of a table header. This provides no underlying information about the structure of the table.
- Select the top row of your table and right click.
- Choose Table Properties.
- Select Repeat as header row at the top of each page.
- Click OK.
Ensuring your top header style is 'Heading 1'
Many times, larger fonts are used for headings, however, it's important to select the styled heading instead. Top level headers should be Header 1.
- Highlight your heading.
- Select Heading 1 from the style bar.
Adding a title
Make sure you include a title for your document using the Title style.
- Highlight your title.
- Select Title from the style bar.
Add metadata in the document
Once you have made the PDF document adding metadata further improves accessibility.
- In Adobe Pro (or alike), open the document, select File.
- Select Properties
- Enter in all necessary information such as;
Include 'Alternative descriptions' for images
An alternative description is a textual alternative for an image. It makes it easier to connect the image to its context and allows students with visual impairments to perceive the image.
Alternative descriptions should be added to all images, including those embedded within PDF, Word, PowerPoint and other documents.
- Right click on an image in your document.
- Select Format Picture.
- Click the Alt Text tab.
- Enter in your description.
Once the above steps have been followed, your document should now have a higher (in some cases 100%) accessibility score.
Further details and FAQs can be found on the Blackboard site here.
For additional assistance with Blackboard Ally please email the External TELT Support: firstname.lastname@example.org