IT Connect
Information technology tools and resources at the UW

Ally accessibility tool for Canvas: FAQs for Instructors

Ally, provided by Blackboard, generates alternative formats of course files that you upload—such as text that is readable by a screen reader, electronic braille, or audio—that students can download and use to support their learning. Ally also delivers guidance to improve accessibility of your course content. Learn more about Blackboard Ally.

 

I’m seeing some new, colorful “dial” icons next to my course files in Canvas.  What are they?

These icons are from Ally, a tool provided by Blackboard that integrates with the UW’s Canvas learning management system. Ally automatically checks course content and files uploaded by instructors, and provides feedback to instructors about the accessibility of resources with respect to students with disabilities. Click on any of these icons to get additional help on improving the accessibility of your course materials. Research shows that improving the accessibility of course materials benefits all students, not only those with disabilities.

The UW has deployed Ally in Canvas courses in to help instructors understand and fix course accessibility problems proactively. The Ally score icons will improve as accessibility issues are fixed.

Many of my files in Canvas are displaying Ally red-dial icons. Do I need to do anything?

Ally displays score icons that represent either “low”, “medium”, “high”, or “perfect” accessibility scores. Red icons indicate a “low” score. Click the icon to get help improving the accessibility score for that item.

Is there help available to make my files more accessible?

See the UW Accessible Technology website, particularly the section on document accessibility.

In addition, UW Accessible Technology Services provides help to faculty, students and staff across all three UW campuses on making their technology resources more accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities. Send your request to help@uw.edu. Additional information is available on the Getting Help with Accessibility web page.

What happens if I don’t fix the file issues identified by Ally?

The university has a legal obligation to make course materials accessible to students with disabilities. If a student with a disability enrolls in your course, you will need to fix all accessibility issues in all resources used in the course, perhaps with the assistance of the office of Disability Resources for Students, which can be difficult to do in a timely manner. Therefore, it is good to address at least common accessibility issues (e.g., by captioning videos) as you design your course.

The UW has deployed Ally in Canvas courses in to help instructors understand and fix course accessibility problems proactively. The Ally score icons will improve as accessibility issues are fixed.

What tools are required to fix my files?

Many authoring tools, including Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, have the ability to create accessible documents. The best way to fix inaccessible files is to address the problems within the original source document. Follow the prompts within Ally to learn more about how to do this.

If the document is in PDF format and its original source document is unavailable (e.g., if the PDF was scanned or obtained from a third party), fixing its accessibility will require Adobe Acrobat Pro. For additional information on accessibility of various document types, see the UW Accessible Technology website, particularly the section on document accessibility.

Does the UW have an accessibility policy?

Yes. See the UW Policy on IT Accessibility.

I think Ally broke something in my course and/or one of my files. What should I do?

Please report the problem with as much detail as possible via help@uw.edu.

I know my documents are accessible. Why are the Ally scores low?

Ally scores content based on the W3 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, a standard measure of accessibility. There are limits to how well accessibility can be measured with an automated tool, but in our tests Ally has been highly reliable at identifying the issues it’s measuring. That said, UW-IT is working closely with Ally developers to help them improve the product, so if you feel you’ve found inaccuracies in Ally’s scoring, please share the details with as much detail as possible via help@uw.edu.

The alternative format(s) Ally creates aren’t usable. What can I do?

Ally uses machine intelligence to convert resources into alternative formats. While alternative formats are a valuable supplement to standard course file formats for students, the formats have their limits. The conversion is only as good as the quality of the original file. If the file is difficult to analyze, there may be errors. That said, UW-IT is working closely with Ally developers to help them improve the product, so if you are uploading high quality files that you feel it should be better able to convert, please report this with as much detail as possible via help@uw.edu.

Ally is reporting that my PDF files need accessibility improvements. My department refuses to fund Adobe Acrobat Pro or any other software. What are my options?

Accessibility problems with PDF files can often be fixed within the original source document (e.g., using Microsoft Word). However, if the original source documents are unavailable (e.g., if the PDF was scanned or obtained from a third party), fixing its accessibility will indeed require Adobe Acrobat Pro. Please contact help@uw.edu to explain your dilemma, and UW-IT Accessible Technology Services can work with you to identify solutions.

Ally reports that I have a lot of documents that require accessibility improvements. I don’t have time to fix all of the documents. What are my options?

UW Accessible Technology Services can work with you and your department to help identify strategies for converting all of the documents immediately or prioritizing them for conversion over a period of time.
Please contact help@uw.edu to arrange a consultation.