In the video above, we will:
- Introduce you to Ally, the accessibility checker built into your modules
- Show you how to check your accessibility report
- Show how to fix your content in your module pages
- Show you the tools in Office365 to build accessible content from the start
1 Discover Ally
Ally is Blackboard’s built-in accessibility checker. You can use it to check the content you’ve created, fix your content, and learn how making a small change can make a big difference.
One other important advantage of Ally is that it allows you and your students to download content in alternative formats. Students can use the Ally icon to download Blackboard documents and files uploaded in the module page in a range of formats including:
- Electronic braille
- Audio (MP3)
- BeeLine Reader
And potentially tagged PDF and HTML, depending on the file.
When uploading files, you’ll have the option for “View and download”, “View only”, and “Download only”. We recommend using “View and download”, but the “download only” option is also useful if you don’t want the file to load in the page. The reason we strongly recommend using an option that includes “download” because that will allow students access to these alternative formats. If you choose “view only”, students lose access to these alternative formats, and it also doesn’t prevent students from saving or keeping your file as they can screen capture anything from your modules. One final note about uploading files – it can be helpful to upload the file in the original format that you created it in (for example DOCX instead of PDF). This can let students download the original file and change font size, colour contrast, and other elements that can help with accessibility.
You can also upload your own files and download them in these alternative formats. To do that outside of a module you, and your students, can go to the main institution page for My Dundee. Click on the tab for Assist, and then go to the last item – Ally File Transformer. This will open a new tab that allows you to drag and drop files and then choose what kind of file you would like to receive.
However, let’s take a look at how to review the accessibility report for your module page.
2 Check your accessibility report
To view the accessibility report for your module, go to the main course content page and from the “Details & Actions” menu open the “View External Apps” link at the bottom of the list. In the side panel, click on the “Accessibility Report”. One thing to keep in mind before we look at the report is that Ally is a Blackboard tool. It will highlight whatever issues it can detect, but that doesn’t mean that it will catch everything. For instance, if an image in a Blackboard document is missing descriptive text, it will tell you. But if an embedded video is missing a transcript or has colour contrast issues, it won’t be able to highlight those issues.
A new report is generated every time you click on this link, so give it a few moments to analyse your course content. At the top, you’ll see a percentage score for your course and you’ll see an overview below that with the kinds of content in your module. This can be interesting if you also want to see an overview of the makeup of your module material. If you click either “View” next to this chart or the “content” tab above this, you’ll be taken to an item breakdown of content in your module and each item’s individual accessibility score. Beside this breakdown is a button with the easiest content items to fix, and a button to fix the lowest scoring content.
Below that is a list of all the issue types, amount of content with that specific issue, and an arrow to begin fixing the content. You can sort this list by severity and by content affected. Let’s take a look at fixing your content.
3 Fix your module content
You can start fixing you content either by clicking the one of the “start” buttons at the top, or by using the arrow item in the issues list. Either way, it will take you to a new page that lists the item or items with the issue identified. Click on one of these to go directly to the item. You’ll see a score for the individual item, a description of the issue with a button for more details, and a button to learn how to fix the issue that was identified. If the issue is with the file itself, this button will give information on how to address the issue in the tool (such as Word).
If it is an issue with an item in your module itself (for example, issues in a Blackboard document or in an image you’ve uploaded), you can fix the content here. In this example, we can see the image is missing a description. I can add a description or indicate if it is a purely decorative item.
It’s important to get descriptive text right, so let’s talk briefly about how to add it and what counts as “decorative”. Although there are many uses for descriptive text and it is helpful for people with a range of accessibility issues, I like to think of what the text will tell someone who cannot see the page and is reliant on a screen reader. This means providing detail of any text in the image, any highlighting or marking you’ve added to the image, as well as giving any necessary context. A picture might be clearly related to the surrounding text when you can see the image, but if you don’t have those visual cues, it’s easy to miss out on that context and importance. If that is going to be difficult, it may be worth using the alt-text to signpost to a written description you have provided elsewhere. Just make sure you don’t mark something as “decorative” if it has a purpose beyond looking nice!
Once you make the recommended changes to your content, you can see the score adjust automatically. If there any other issues with that specific item, you’ll also see them here so you can fix that item entirely.
You can also fix a lot of your content by looking at the indicator in your module page itself. Wherever you have uploaded a file or added an image, you will see a little indicator to the right. If you click on this icon, you’ll see the same side panel that gives the accessibility score and information for that specific item. Although we do recommend that you use these indicators to fix content as you add each item, this won’t catch all potential issues so you should always run the report for the module to check your content.
The reports and indicators that you see can only be seen by instructors and support staff on your modules, so you don’t need to worry about students seeing indicators on your content as they work their way through your module.
That’s it! Ally makes it easy to identify, understand, and fix your content to make sure it’s accessible for your students. Next, let’s take a quick look at a few tools in the Office365 suite so that you can make accessible content from the start!
4 Accessibility Tools in Office365
With Microsoft’s accessibility checker, you can make sure your content is accessible before you upload it to your module. Once you’ve gotten your content created in Word or in PowerPoint, you can go to the “Review” item in the ribbon menu and select “Check Accessibility” and then “Check Accessibility” again from the drop-down menu. This will open a side panel that will check your work for any accessibility issues such as colour contrast, heading levels, alt text for your images and more!
You can click on each issue to see a drop-down menu of where the item occurs. Below that in the side panel, you’ll also see information on why and how to fix it. You can click on the drop-down menu for the specific item to fix the item directly from the menu.
Improve accessibility with Office365’s Accessibility Checker – Microsoft guide
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