Anthology Ally staff guide

This guide will demonstrate how to effectively use Anthology Ally to improve the accessibility of your course resources and enhance the learning experience for all students.

All HYMS staff must ensure that teaching, learning, and assessment content made available to students (via Blackboard or any other platform) is accessible. Ally can help you check course resources adhere to the latest accessibility legislation and standards.

The purpose of the Ally tool on Blackboard

The purpose of the Ally tool on Blackboard

Ally is an easy-to-use tool within Blackboard that provides an accessibility report for a course. It identifies how accessible your content is where you can make improvements on based on the accessibility indicators.

Ally has three key features:

  • It will identify course resources and content with accessibility issues
  • It will show course instructors how to make their content more accessible
  • It will also automatically give students access to files in multiple formats, such as braille, html and mp3 audio.
Ally Accessibility Scores

Ally Accessibility Scores

Ally checks accessibility for your new and existing course content. To measure accessibility, Ally assigns your content an accessibility score. Each score is composed of both a numerical number and a coloured gauge that reflects the number.

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 scores less than 100 percent, Ally gives you suggestions for improving the accessibility of the file.

Please note, students will not see the accessibility score.

Score Icons

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.

Further information on Blackboards accessibility scoring can be found on the Blackboard Help Site.

Ally Course Accessibility Report

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.

To generate a report, navigate to Details and Actions panel on the left-hand-side of the course, then View course and institution 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.

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).

Improving content based on Ally Guidance

Improving content based on Ally Guidance

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.
  • Colour contrast is insufficient. Colour contrast is the difference in brightness between the text colour and its background. Sufficient contrast is necessary to ensure legibility of the text.

We recommend editing the original version of the 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

Ally Student View

Ally allows students to generate alternate formats for resources on your Blackboard course.

Watch the video below for further information.

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.

Updated on 19/02/2024

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