Ally Accessibility Tool

Welcome to a new feature in your eLearn shell. Your course is now running the Ally accessibility tool to help promote full student inclusion in Chemeketa courses.

What is Ally?

Ally is a tool that can help faculty check and improve the accessibility of their course documents. The tool integrates into your course shell to assess the accessibility of your course documents and provides feedback and instructions to help make your documents accessible for all.

Alternative Formats

Ally can generate alternative formats of your documents for students. This ability to choose a format not only makes it easier for individuals with disabilities to access with assistive technologies (such as a screen reader or brailler), it also provides support for all students, allowing them to “read” materials in a way that best suits their learning preferences and needs. Formats the program can generate include:

  • Tagged PDFs
  • HTML (web format)
  • ePub (for ebook readers)
  • Electronic Braille
  • Audio MP3s
  • Language Translations

Note: We recognize that there are instances that you would not want a student to access materials in a certain format (such as a language translator on a French Language Exercise). If so, you can turn off alternative formats for any given document.

Learn more about the Alternative Format Feature

Support For Your Students

If you want to share information with your students, we have information and instructions for them as well: Ally Alternative Formats for Students

Accessibility Indicators

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

Four Ally analog style gauges showing the range of scores: Needs help, a little better, almost there, and perfect!

This way, you can get a quick visual idea of where the problems are and what documents to tackle first.

Please Note: These gauges can only been seen in the instructor view. Students will not be able to see any of the accessibility information.

Learn more about Ally’s Accessibility Scores

Formats Ally can Check

  • PDF files
  • Microsoft® Word files
  • Microsoft® Powerpoint® files
  • OpenOffice/LibreOffice files
  • Uploaded HTML files

Important Note:

Accessibility checkers (including Ally) can only check for a set of programmed algorithms – in other words, they are kinda dumb… They only catch 25-30% of accessibility issues. For instance: it can tell if a picture has something in the alternative text field, but not if it is useful information; that you have a table but not if you are using a table for layout rather than data; or that you have used headings but not if you have properly tagged all of your headings in a document. So keep in mind that while Ally is a great place to start, you should always check your documents manually as well.

Also, while Ally can help ensure that your documents are more inclusive for all, it is NOT a replacement for Student Accessibility Services (SAS)! 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 SAS to focus on specialized accommodations needs for your students.

Instructor Feedback and Support

Once Ally has scored your documents, it provides guidance and instructions on how to fix the issues that it finds.

Learn more about Instructor Feedback and Support

What happens now?

  • Now that Ally has been turned on, you will start to see the gauges next to files, documents, and other course content.
    Screenshot of four items in Blackboard with Ally gauges.
  • Simply click on a gauge for more information. If Ally finds accessibility problems, it will provide guidance on how to fix the problem.
    Screenshot of Ally Feedback for a PowerPoint missing alt text.
  • You can view the problems one at at time or choose to view all issues at once.
    Screenshot of Ally Feedback for a PowerPoint missing alt text with the option to see all issues highlighted.
  • For some common issues, (contrast, headings, table headers and alt-text), there is even a preview feature that shows where the problems are in your document.
    Screenshot showing preview feature listing table with missing headers and the table highlighted with a emphasized square.
  • Once you have made the changes, you can upload the file again and see your scores change!
    Screenshot of Document score with a 100% score.

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 actually 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 actually 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 Center for Academic Innovation has resources, workshops and staff to help and support Chemeketa’s accessible design efforts.

Visit us on the Salem campus building 9/106 or call 503.399.7832 to learn more.

You can also find more information and resources on the Ally – Communication & Adoption Toolkit page.

Faculty Resource Center