Improving Accessibility

With the support of Provost Holloway, the Academic Technologies Advisory Board, the Accessibility Resource Center, the Center for Digital Learning, and UNM Online, we are pleased to provide an accessibility tool called Ally for use in all UNM Learn courses.

Alternative Formats Benefit Everyone

Sample of the ally icon in the student view.Your class is full of diverse students with unique learning abilities. Ally provides a menu students can use to generate alternative formats from your PDFs, Word docs and PowerPoint presentations on the fly. Providing them with more accessible original content means they can choose formats that work best for them such as HTML for improved reading on mobile phones, Electronic Braille for students who use braille readers and audio for listening and learning on the go.

Instructors - Using Ally

The Ally tool scans files and evaluates how accessible they are.

In the instructor view, as you are building your course, Ally scans the files linked within the course and flags them for potential accessibility issues. Note: The Ally score indicators are not visible to students—just to instructors and course assistants. 

Click the Ally score indicator that appears next to the file (usually on the left) to view your feedback. You can then follow the guidance to correct accessibility issues in your original file.  To be clear, Ally does not affect your course files directly or make changes for you:  it helps you modify your course materials. Improvements you make to your original files will improve the effectiveness of the alternative formats provided to students.

Blackboard Documentation - Ally for Instructors

UNM Learn Training Schedule - The Center for Digital Learning offers online and in-person workshops on Enhancing Your Inclusive Teaching with UNM Learn. The Center also has weekly Open Labs where you can receive individualized help. 

Don’t let the Ally scores overwhelm you. Remember you don’t have to fix everything at once. Pick some higher impact items and improve those. As you have time and energy, continue to update things. Those little changes add up!

Some Helpful Things to Know:

  • Scores/reports are only for content that Ally checks within Learn (specific types of files) and do not include other content types such as tests and audio/video, nor do they include external content (publisher materials, e-books, etc).

    • What content does Ally Check?

              * PDF files
              * Microsoft® Word files
              * Microsoft® PowerPoint® files
              * OpenOffice/LibreOffice files
              * Uploaded HTML files
              * Images (e.g., PNGs, GIFs, JPGs etc.)

  • The course Accessibility Report (available under "Course Tools" on the left menu) shows an accessibility summary for the course. It can provide some help with prioritization and efficiencies for working through the remediation of multiple items. 

  • After adding new content, you must refresh the page to see the Ally score indicator. This can take up to several minutes depending on the size of the file. (Note: The score indicators are not visible to students.)
  • Your Course Files/Content Collection has a column titled "Accessibility" along with an Ally accessibility indicator for some files. Ally ONLY scans and provides accessible versions for files that are student-facing and linked in a Content Area.  If you upload a file to the Content Collection, but do not link it in the course (or upload a file and later delete the link), Ally will not scan that file, and will not provide an accessibility score. Thus, it is perfectly normal and expected to have several files in the Content Collection without a score indicator.  This is especially true for courses with unused content copied over from previous iterations of the course.
  • Ally only scans content uploaded by instructors and course assistants. It does not scan student submissions/uploaded documents.

  • Checking your work:  you can use "Go to Student View" to see how alternative formats appear for students. Both students and instructors can see the accessible versions of files in Content Areas by clicking the "Alternative formats" icon or the drop-down arrow for materials inside Learning Modules.

  • Student Help Document - Alternative formats:  Here is a URL you can post showing students how to access the alternative formats - 

  • The Ally tool continues to be developed and improved. It does not check for ALL possible accessibility issues, but more may be added over time. The Ally Accessibility Checklist contains a current list of the specific checks performed by Ally.


Additional Resources:

If you have any issues using the Ally tool, please reach out to UNM Learn Support.