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Blackboard Ally staff guide

Guide overview

  • the purpose of the Ally tool on HYMS Blackboard
  • Ally scoring of content
  • Ally guidance on improving content via the feedback panel
  • how to improve original content outside of Blackboard and upload again
  • Ally student view: alternative formats
  • Ally course accessibility report

The purpose of the Ally tool on Blackboard

Ally helps improve how accessible certain types of content are by providing tips and step-by-step guidance for improvement and an accessibility report.

Ally automatically, where possible, also provides students with alternative downloadable formats for certain types of files.

New government regulations to make websites / online resources accessible to all

As outlined on our help page ‘creating accessible content’ (please click on the following link; creating accessible content), since the 23rd September 2019, all public sector bodies have had to comply with new government regulations to make websites and online resources accessible to all. All HYMS staff must ensure that teaching, learning and assessment content made available to students (via Blackboard or any other platform) conforms to this new legislation. Improving your resources with the Ally tool is a great way to ensure content is more accessible to students.

Ally scoring of content

HYMS staff with Blackboard instructor or course builder roles will see coloured dials called accessibility scores on the left side of certain types of content items.screenshot of Ally scoring dial

Please click on the following link to the relevant Blackboard help page regarding what the coloured scoring means:  Ally accessibility scoring.

Please note, students will not see the accessibility score.

Ally guidance on improving content via the feedback panel

On an individual content item, select the accessibility score dial icon to open the feedback panel. This will provide you with helpful guidance on improving your content and the scoring. Please click on the following link to the relevant Blackboard help page regarding the feedback panel; Ally feedback panel.

Common issues highlighted by Ally

  • Presentation / document contains images missing ‘alternative description’ (textual alternative for an image). Descriptions should be added to all images, including those embedded within PDF, Word, PowerPoint and other documents. 
  • PDF is not tagged. PDF tags are hidden labels that clarify the structure of the document (e.g., table, heading, paragraph, etc.).  
  • PDF is a scanned image / document. If possible, it is better to provide an original or text-based version of the file.  
  • PDF, presentation, document, table has no headers. Always use the program’s native heading styles / formatting to ensure headings are properly marked as headings. 
  • Color contrast is insufficient. Color contrast is the difference in brightness between the text color and its background. Sufficient contrast is necessary to ensure legibility of the text.

screenshot of field to upload content in AllyImprove original content outside of Blackboard and upload to the feedback panel

We recommend improving the original version of an item of content outside of Blackboard and the Ally tool. For example, it is best to edit an original Word document in Office Word, original PowerPoint slides in PowerPoint etc.

We also recommend uploading the improved resource into the Ally tool feedback panel. This will replace the other version and generate a new rating. You will then see a success message if this has uploaded successfully.Ally success message





Please access further guidance on improving content at the below listed help pages.

HYMS teaching resource PowerPoint template

We have recently promoted a version of the HYMS template with headings included automatically on each slide. For teaching content delivered via PowerPoint presentations, please use this HYMS template at the following link; HYMS template. To ensure content is accessible, please be sure to enter text into the title text boxes on every slide. Click on the link above and enter your HYMS email account details to access the slides. From file choose to download a copy to save your own version on your desktop to edit.

Ally student view: alternative formats

Please click on the following link to the relevant Blackboard help page: alternative formats. This explains the types of files that are reported on and what alternative formats are generated. Please also see our help page for students;  Blackboard Ally: student guide.

Example scenarios for using different formatting;

  • adjust text, font, and background color, 
  • copy, paste, and search, 
  • highlighting, note taking, and bookmarking,
  • adapt format to a device (such as a mobile), 
  • work offline, 
  • flexible working whilst commuting, doing other activities etc,. 
  • and personal preference or need for listing or reading. 

Please see the following link for more information of what a student might do with content in an alternative format. https://help.blackboard.com/Ally/Ally_for_LMS/Student/Alternative_Formats. 

Further notes on Alternative formats

  • Alternative formats of content may fail to be generated if files are too big. 
  • Alternative formats of content are not generated for; announcements, excel spreadsheets, external links (video links and website links), discussion boards, embedded video files, eLearning packages and quizzes.
  • The ALT format ‘Translated Version’ is not available on the HYMS Blackboard.

Ally course accessibility report

The Ally tool reports on all items in a Blackboard course. The report generates the overall course accessibility score, the distribution of course content by content type and the list of all issues that have been identified in the course.

screenshot of accessibility report linkTo generate a report, navigate to control panel in a course menu, then course tools / accessibility report.

It is possible to sort by severity, issue name, number of issues identified and the accessibility score.  It is easy to navigate to content items that have been flagged with an issue. This should make working through the remediation of multiple items faster.

Please click on the following link to find out more about what content Ally checks; Blackboard Ally guidance.

screenshot of Ally accessibility report






Further notes on reporting

  • Hidden content is scored and is included in the accessibility report for the course. Consider downloading and removing content that is hidden if it is no longer required.  
  • Content not used anywhere on the course but stored in the content collection is not scored by Ally. To see a list of the files that are and aren’t checked by Ally, from the course menu go to course management/ files / course ID.
  • Content folders and text content written directly onto a page (without an attachment) are default scored as ‘good’ and an ALT version of any text can be generated. Default scoring is visible only in the accessibility report and there will be no suggestions for improving content.
  • Because folders and text items (without an attachment) are given a default ‘good’ scoring and can be used extensively on a course, a course report may present a ‘good’ scoring overall. However,  when looking a little closer it can become clear that a substantial proportion of other content (images, PDFs, Word documents and PowerPoint presentations) are listed as having a low rating (orange or red). 

Updated on 10/06/2021

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