Universal design...

Blackboard Ally

Blackboard Ally is a tool that automatically checks if teaching and learning resources are universally designed, in accordance with WCAG2.0 standards. It provides guidance to educators and administrators on how to improve the accessibility of their content. Ally also allows students to access the content in alternative formats, such as audio or electronic braille.

Here you can read about what Ally is and how you can start using it. Starting in the autumn of 2020, Ally is automatically available in all Blackboard courses. Log on to Blackboard here.

Topic page: Universal design of digital learning resources

Norsk versjon: Blackboard Ally

Ally for lecturers

Ally helps you as a teacher see how accessible your content is. Ally provides guidance and tips to improve the accessibility of your uploaded resources. You receive feedback on the accessibility of content and a step-by-step help on how to increase the accessibility of it. Ally doesn't change how your course looks or any of the resources automatically.

Read more about Ally for lecturers on Blackboard's help pages.

Accessability scores

Ally checks the accessibility of your uploaded teaching and learning resources. Each item gets a result that consists of a score and a colored target that reflects the score.

Ally checks the following formats:

  • PDF files
  • Microsoft Word files
  • Microsoft PowerPoint files
  • OpenOffice/LibreOffice files
  • Uploaded HTML files
  • Picture files (JPG, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BPM and TIFF)
  • YouTube videos
  • WYSIWYG/VTBE content


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.

Picture of the accessibility score rating in Ally. Picture of how Ally indicates your accessibility score.

How to improve your score

Once you have your results you can start improving them. Find a content item and select the Accessibility Result indicator to see the Teacher Feedback panel.

Read more about accessability scores on Blackboard's help pages.

Picture of how Ally helps you improve your score Picture of Ally's step-by-step help to improve accessibility.

Ally for administators

Ally gives administrators the option to see how accessible their study programmes, courses or institute is with its Ally report feature. The Ally report provides insight into and understanding of the results. It also lets you track the accessibility development over time. The report gives you areas that can be improved and a plan of action to make courses more accessible.

See all of the Ally resources for administators from Blackboard here.

Ally report

In the administrator panel under Tools and Utilities, select Ally Report.

How to read the report

Ally’s institution report includes Overview and Courses tabs so that you can get the big picture as well as specific details about the accessibility of your subject group’s digital course content.

  • The Overview tab shows accessibility details for your institute or your set of digital courses’ content in Blackboard.
  • The Courses tab shows you details on the average accessibility score for individual courses. You can sort this view by term.

Read more about how to use the Ally report on Blackboard's help pages

Picture of an example Ally report Picture of the user interface for the Ally report

Ally for students

For students Ally gives them the option to download files in their courses in alternative formats. Everyone can benefit from using alternative formats.

Read more about Ally for students on Blackboards help pages.

Alternative formats

The alternative formats that are available:

  • Electronic braille – BRF version for use with a refreshable Braille display or other Braille reading device.
  • Audio – a MP3 version for listening to.
  • OCR PDF - OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition. The OCR PDF alternatives are created when the original file is PDF of an image. OCR technology analyses the document and converts the image into searchable text.
  • Tagged PDF - A Tagged PDF alternative uses tags and elements, such as blockquote, paragraph, and headings, to add meaning to a page. It aids screen reader users with good content structure.
  • HTML – semantic HTML is veiwed in a browser and gives a device-friendly reading experience.
  • ePub – For use as an ibook on an ipad or other mobile device.
  • BeeLine Reader – a format that can increase reading speed and enhance focus. This format benefits students with dyslexia, ADHD, low vision, and anybody who may have difficulty with visual tracking or focus.

Watch a video on Ally's alternative formates from Blackboard

Read about the advantages of the alternative formats and about who can benefit from them here.

How to download alternative formats

To download an alternative format you need to click on the "A" symbol to the right of an uploaded file.

Picture about how to access an alternative format Picture of the alternative format overview

Ally resources

Blackboard's resources for Ally are very imformative and are fully translated into many languages, including English and Norwegian.

During the autumn 2020 semester all lecturers will be given the oppotunity to take part in a course on Ally and universal design of digital teaching materials.


For more help or to give feedback about this page please contact the Section for teaching, learning and digital services (SLD) via NTNU Hjelp.