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Digital accessibility guide

Explore how to create, design and structure your content to ensure that is is accessible to your students.

What is Anthology Ally?

Ally is a tool available across all Moodle modules to make all learning content more accessible to all students. Ally helps lecturers by merging into the existing workflow of Moodle by enabling these alternative formats automatically, as well as providing accessibility feedback and assistance on individual resources and overall modules to lecturers. 

Why are we using Anthology Ally?

Ally provides immediate feedback on where accessibility challenges are in each resource and across modules. It makes it immediately clear where accessibility needs to be improved with step-by-step guidance on how to fix accessibility issues.

Benefits to our community:

  • Increases awareness of accessibility and inclusion
  • Makes digital content more accessible and discoverable
  • Provides students with a choice of formats to meet their specific needs
  • Develops staff digital and remediation skills
  • Promotes good working practices and an inclusive learning culture

How does Anthology Ally work?

Common file types that are uploaded to Moodle modules will automatically be assessed by Ally and receive an accessibility score viewable only to enrolled lecturers on the module. These accessibility scores are created by checking the resource against each of the requirements of UK legislation for web accessibility relevant to higher education and then also given a weight based on how much of an accessibility challenge an issue may pose to education.

The accessibility score assesses the way content is conveyed to students, not the quality of the content itself. For example, a low accessibility score for a resource may be because it is a scanned PDF of a photocopied book, not because the book itself or content therein is of pedagogical low quality. 

These accessibility scores include:

  • Explaining which specific issues are the easiest to improve, with step-by-step guidance
  • Explaining which specific issues are the most important and impactful to improve, with step-by-step guidance
  • A weighted aggregate score for the whole module to identify successes and areas for improvement across the module

Alternative formats

Ally features a tool that converts files into alternative formats. These alternative formats are created automatically and do not require any extra actions from lecturers. They benefit all students by offering a choice of how to engage with resources, such as:

  • The ability to adjust text, font, and background
  • A preference for listening with an adjustable playback speed
  • A preference for reading, highlighting, bookmarking and notetaking
  • Mobile device adaptive/responsive

What alternative formats are available?

Students are able to choose from a range of alternative formats according to their preferences. 

The tool can convert the following file formats:

  • Word
  • PowerPoint
  • PDF

The formats you can convert the above file formats into are:

  • OCR PDFs can be created if the original content is a PDF of an image. It needs to be clear enough for Ally to read using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, which then converts the image into searchable text.
  • Tagged PDFs can be created from Word documents and PowerPoint presentations. They use tags and elements such as headings to create good content structure, which can aid screen reader users.
  • HTML files can be created from Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and PDFs. They are best viewed using a browser and adapts to the user’s device. 
  • ePub files can be created from Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, PDFs, and HTML files (including labels) to be read on e-reading software and applications such as Thorium and iBooks. ePubs allow font size adjustments, highlighting content and taking notes.
  • Electronic Braille files can be created from Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, PDFs and HTML files (including labels). These files require specific software to then be used. 
  • Audio/MP3 files can be created from Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, PDFs and HTML files (including labels). Audio files cannot currently be created for resources over 100,000 characters/around 30 pages. 
  • BeeLine Reader is an alternative format that changes text into different colour combinations to assist with dyslexia and ADHD. BeeLine files can be created from Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, PDFs and HTML files (including labels).
  • Immersive Reader is an online alternative format that enhances the reading experience, increasing the readability of the content. 

You can read what our Student Digital Assistants thought of alternative formats in their Alternative Formats post on the Learning at City blog.

Top tips for lecturers

While digital accessibility encompasses a number of different aspects, some key ideas to improve the accessibility of Moodle resources include:

  • Scanned PDFs are usually the least accessible resource type and will hugely impact accessibility scores. If you need to add a scanned PDF, contact the library first. They may have an e-book version, an online version or can create their own accessible scanned version. The library can also advise on the copyright considerations of using scanned resources.
  • In Word documents and PDFs, use:
    • Headings and titles
    • Font size of at least 12point
    • Ensure sufficient contrast between text and background
  • If linking to or embedding YouTube videos, check whether they have automatic closed captioning enabled.
  • Instructor access to the Ally site includes guidance on improving the accessibility of individual resources as well as overviews about category types such as all of a module's Word documents, etc. 

Read about Professor Rachael-Anne Knight's experience beginning to use Ally for her Moodle modules, and how she prepared for the academic year 2022-23. 

Frequently asked questions

Usually as images, requiring alt text to be accessible.

City has consulted with copyright specialists, and we understand that making copies in an alternative format using Ally is covered by what the law permits for educational purposes, or by what relevant licences permit. This might be desirable for ease of accessibility, for example. These copies should not be shared with anyone else; they are for personal use only.

If you have queries regarding copyright at City, University of London please contact the Copyright Librarian, Stephen Penton,

Staff might be worried about meeting a certain accessibility score on their modules.

Ally helpfully guides users on how to create more accessible content and learn how to remediate their resources. However, there are certain accessibility issues that it currently does not check for yet, or some accessibility issues may need a fix on a wider scale. This could be the case if your resource is produced using a template or it belongs to a 3rd party. Therefore, while it is a powerful tool, it should not be taken as the single source of truth for the accessibility of your course content. It may not be possible to have 100% accessibility score on some resources, but anything above 90% is excellent.

You may wish to flag to your students known accessibility issues you cannot remediate yet to manage expectations while you consider alternative solutions.

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