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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.

Coming soon!

Blackboard Ally is coming to Moodle at the start the academic year!

Blackboard Ally logo

What is Blackboard Ally?

Blackboard Ally is a software that that will be available across all Moodle modules to make all learning content more accessible to all students. Blackboard 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. 

How can Blackboard Ally improve resources?

All resources that are added to Moodle modules will automatically be assessed by Blackboard 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 (WACAG) 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

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 Blackboard 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. 


Q: My content consists of mathematical PDFs. I provide HTML alternatives using Markdown - is there a way to tell Ally that I know the PDF has issues but I have already produced my own alternative?

A: No. Even if you have an accessibility solution created, Blackboard Ally's score for the inaccessible resource will remain low. 

Q: How does Blackboard Ally assess the accessibility of infographics?

A: Usually as images, requiring alt-text to be accessible. 

Q: Are there copyright implications to Blackboard Ally creating alternative formats of resources that students can download?

A: Blackboard Ally does not store resources permanently, and in fact caches them for 30 days, which means that there is no alternative version being created permanently by Blackboard Ally. Additionally, City's library has a copyright librarian who ensures compliance around these issues. Finally, Blackboard Ally's Terms of Use for student downloads are:

“You can only download an alternative format if at least one of the following is true:

  • You own the copyright (e.g., it's your own work),
  • You have permission (e.g., a licence) from the copyright holder,
  • The copyright has expired,
  • You have a disability that permits the creation of accessible versions of copyrighted materials under applicable copyright law such as the Chafee Amendment in the United States (17 U.S. Code § 121) or the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, Section 31A in the United Kingdom, and you agree to abide by all limitations of such laws,
  • Any other copyright exceptions such as fair dealing or fair use apply,
  • Alternative formats are for personal use only and you may not copy, post or share the alternative format with others. You will be fully responsible for damages arising from your failure to comply with these terms.”

Further resources

Blackboard Ally has a number of guidance pages:

Coming Soon - Alternative formats

Blackboard Ally automatically processes all files added to a Moodle module and creates alternative formats for students to view the materials in. These alternative formats are created automatically by Blackboard Ally, and do not require any extra actions from lecturers. Lecturers can disable any alternative format options for a particular resource using the "edit" function.

The first time a particular alternative format is selected for a resource, it may take a few minutes to be ready, but will subsequently be ready automatically. Students can choose from a range of alternative formats according to their preferences:

  • OCR PDFS can be created if scanned PDFs that are clear enough for Blackboard Ally to read.
  • Tagged PDFs (accessible PDFs that require no additional software/apps to read) can be created from Word documents and PowerPoint presentations.
  • Epub files can be created from Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, PDFs and HTML files (including labels) to be read on e-reading software/apps like Apple Books or Thorium which also allow notes and highlighting.
  • BeeLine 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).
  • HTML format can be created from Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and PDFs
  • Audio/mp4 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. 
  • 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.