Alternative formats benefit everyone

Many schools today, both physical and digital, are integrated with students with diverse needs. Alternative formats provide greater opportunity for everyone to access the information they need in the way they need or want it.

With alternative formats all students can meet the same learning objectives using resources that are built to target the needs of the individual student. For example, Blackboard Ally creates audio and electronic braille alternatives for students with visual impairments.

Alternative formats aren't just for a select group of students. Alternative formats benefit everyone. For example, your students may be prone to eye strain, or maybe they are an auditory learner. They can listen to an audio format of the file you uploaded instead. Or use the HTML or ePub formats for easier reading on a mobile device.

More on the different alternative formats and their benefits

Instructors don’t need to do anything. Ally creates the alternative formats for you.


Find the available alternative formats

After files are attached to a website, Ally creates alternative formats of the file based on the original. For example, if the original file is a PDF, Ally creates audio, electronic braille, and ePub formats of the same content. These formats are made available with the original file so everything is in one convenient location.

The alternative formats created depend on the original file type. If you don't see an option to download alternative formats, Ally isn’t enabled for that website or the file is not a supported content type.

Find a file on the website. Select the menu beside it and select Alternative formats. Choose the version that is best for your needs!


What alternative formats does Ally generate?

What alternative formats does Ally generate?

Ally provides alternative formats for these file types:

  • PDF files
  • Microsoft® Word files
  • Microsoft® Powerpoint® files
  • OpenOffice/LibreOffice files
  • Uploaded HTML files

These alternative formats can be generated:

  • OCR’d version (for scanned documents)
  • Tagged PDF (currently for Word, Powerpoint and OpenOffice/LibreOffice files)
  • Mobile-friendly HTML
  • Audio
  • ePub
  • Electronic Braille
  • Translated Version
    • Translated Version is disabled by default. Administrators can submit a support case to have it enabled.
  • BeeLine Reader

    We are currently running a pilot of the BeeLine Reader version. The pilot will run for the next few months and will be used to collect feedback about how to best integrate this capability into Blackboard Ally going forward To apply for this pilot, please fill out the BeeLine Reader Alternative Format Pilot request form.

More on alternative formats

What does the instructor need to do to generate alternative accessible formats for a content item?

Nothing. Ally automatically picks up on any existing or new materials, runs it through the accessibility checklist, and makes the alternative accessible versions available to both the student and the instructor.

Is there a file size limit?

No, there is no file size limit. There may be cases where the algorithm fails to generate alternative accessible formats for certain large files, but Ally doesn’t enforce a maximum file size.

How does Ally handle password protected content?

Ally detects password-protected content, gives them a 0% accessibility score and provides guidance to help remove the password through the instructor feedback. Ally does not generate any alternative formats for password protected content, as we can’t get access to the actual content.

Can I disable alternative formats?

Not at this time.