University of Vermont

Center for Teaching and Learning

Blackboard Ally

UVM's Commitment to Accessibility

Diversity and inclusion are deeply held values at UVM and we are committed to making all learning environments, including Blackboard, accessible to every student. To help advance these goals, as articulated in "The ADA Technology at UVM" (Nov. 2017, UVM Compliance Services), The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is conducting a pilot program test the viability of a new Bb tool, called Ally.

What is Blackboard Ally?

Blackboard Ally is a tool that enhances usability and accessibility of course documents. Ally evaluates documents that are uploaded to Blackboard and provides an accessibility score for each file. For files that don't comply with accessibility guidelines, Ally provides information to faculty to improve its accessibility. Ally's uses WCAG 2.0 AA (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) to determine a rating. WCAG 2.0 AA is an international accessibility standard, and is frequently references in new legislation and legal requirements. For students, Bb Ally also converts files to several different formats of the original file so that students can select the best one that fits their needs.

What Do Faculty See?

Blackboard Ally gauges

We've received some questions about what faculty "see" when Ally is turned on in a Bb course. Faculty see a graphic symbol (a "gauge") adjacent to files that have been uploaded to Bb.   This gauge provides information regarding the degree to which the file meets accessibility guidelines. Associated with that gauge is contextual help information (a click-through) regarding how to fix the file so that it meets ADA guidelines.  Note that Bb Ally does not provide feedback on Bb "items" and other content that has been created within Bb using the internal html editor.

For detailed information, you can » view this brief video.

What Do Students See?

Students do not see that gauge or the help information. Students see the option to download files in more accessible formats (an OCR version for scanned documents, Tagged PDF version of Word, Powerpoint, and OpenOffice/LibreOffice files, Semantic HTML, ePub, Electronic braille). However, the accuracy (and accessibility) of these alternative formats is dependent upon the degree to which the original file meets accessibility guidelines.

For detailed information, you can » view this brief video.

Pilot Program Details

If you are interested in exploring Bb Ally, please contact Wendy Verrei-Berenback ( We are seeking feedback as to the ease of use for Bb Ally, the degree of helpfulness of the accessibility feedback, and the likelihood that testers will implement the suggested changes. Note: We are not requiring pilot testers to make their course 100% accessible. Our focus is on the tool - Bb Ally - not the individual course. We estimate that this will take 5 hours over the duration of the semester.

Please note that we can turn Ally on in any course space in which you are an instructor, such as a course from a previous semester. You do not have to test on a course that you are actively using. Your chosen course needs to contain files that you have uploaded - the greater the variety of file formats (i.e. pdf, pptx, docx), the more useful the course space is for testing purposes.

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