Looking for the latest release information? Check out the Ally release notes feed.

Ally 1.37 | Release to production 25 December 2019

New features, Updated features

Usage Reports

Ally 1.37 introduces the ability to download an Ally Usage report directly from the institutional report. An additional Usage tab is now available in the institutional report, allowing for a date range to be selected and the usage report for that date range to be downloaded as an Excel file.

A usage report contains the following usage data about the alternative formats:

  • How often has the alternative formats modal been triggered?
  • How many alternative formats have been triggered?
  • How often has triggering the alternative formats model led to an alternative format download?
  • How often has each alternative format type been downloaded?
  • In how many courses have alternative formats been downloaded?
  • In which courses have alternative formats been downloaded (and how many per course)?
  • What is the evolution of the alternative format modal triggers and alternative format downloads over time (by week)?

Usage reports also contain the following usage data about the instructor feedback:

  • How often has the instructor feedback been triggered?
  • How many content improvements have been made directly through the instructor feedback?
  • How often has triggering the instructor feedback led to an immediate improvement of the content item through the instructor feedback?
  • In how many courses have improvements been made through the instructor feedback?
  • In which courses have improvements been made through the instructor feedback (and how many per course)?
  • What is the evolution of the instructor feedback triggers and instructor feedback improvements over time (by week)?

Lastly, usage reports also include a Data tab that contains the full list of raw usage events that have been captured, and can be used to create additional custom visualizations.

More on the Usage report 

Note that making the usage data graphs available directly in the institutional report UI is part of a future roadmap item.

 

Feature Flags

Blackboard Ally is increasingly moving to feature flags as part of its development approach, allowing institutions to decide when to opt in or out of a particular feature. To help support this, a new Features tab is now available in the Ally Configuration UI. This Features tab lists all of the optional features that are available for your integration.

Examples of available optional features are the Translated Version alternative format, the ability to launch the instructor feedback from the institutional report, and so on. They can easily be enabled or disabled at any point in time, and more optional features will be added over time.

More on how to customize Ally features

Ally for Websites Alternative Formats

The Ally for Websites integration now allows for specific HTML elements to be excluded from the alternative formats. Excluding an element can be achieved by adding the `data-ally-exclude` attribute to the element.

Next to Ally already limiting the content of the alternative formats to the `<main>` element or the element containing the `role=”main”` attribute, this new attribute provides some additional control on which page elements should be included or excluded from the generated alternative formats.

Ally 1.37 bug fixes and improvements

  • The accessibility check for the presence of headings in Tagged PDFs has been expanded to also recognize `H` tags as a valid heading.
  • Implemented several usability improvements in the Configuration UI based on the feedback from usability testing sessions.
  • Improved the Print View in the instructor feedback to not include icons that are not relevant when printing the instructor feedback guidance.
  • Fixed several bugs in the content preview component of the instructor feedback that occurred when closing and re-opening the instructor feedback for the same content item without refreshing the page.
  • Fixed a bug that occasionally caused updates to image descriptions through the instructor feedback to fail.
  • Fixed a bug in the Blackboard Learn integration that occasionally caused the alternative formats for content in a Learning Module to not be available.
  • Fixed a bug in the Blackboard Learn integration that would occasionally cause the Ally accessibility indicator to overlap with the file name.
  • Added support for courses with non-standard URLs because of their institutional hierarchy association in the Blackboard Learn integration.

Ally 1.36 | Release to production 2 December 2019

New features, Updated features

Ally for Websites content feedback

The Ally content feedback component is now available for Ally for Websites. In the Ally for Websites accessibility report, the score indicators for PDFs, Word documents, PowerPoint documents and Images can be clicked to launch the feedback component, which contains information about:

  • What accessibility issues have been identified in the content item
  • A preview of the content item and highlights that show where specific issues can be found in the document
  • Documentation on what each issue means
  • Detailed guidance on how to fix an issue
  • A link to where the content can be found on the website

This feedback component will make it much easier for content creators to understand how accessible a content item is, what its issues are and how it can be made more accessible.

More on how to use the feedback to improve your content

D2L Brightspace institutional hierarchy

The D2L Brightspace integration has been expanded to include the institutional hierarchy information for a course under the Department id and Department name columns in the courses.csv CSV export in the institutional report. This institutional hierarchy information is based on the `Department` organizational units that have been configured within Brightspace. This enables the calculation of the Ally score for each department in the institutional hierarchy through a tool like Excel, and serves as part of the foundational work to support native reporting by institutional hierarchy in the institutional report as part of our roadmap.

This feature requires an additional permission for the Ally API user. This can be configured under `Security > Roles and Permissions` by enabling the `Course Management Info` > `See Course Info: Enable for Course Offering` permission for the Ally API user.

Library reference

A Library Reference could already be provided by instructors for scanned documents and untagged PDFs as a way to provide additional metadata for files where the instructor doesn’t have access to an original and has no other means of improving the accessibility of the file. Ally 1.36 introduces the ability for instructors to provide a Library Reference for all other PDFs.

Ally 1.36 bug fixes and improvements

  • Improved the hover and focus styles of the Ally for Websites alternative formats button.
  • Improved the Moodle integration to automatically accept the user policy for the Ally API user.
  • Images embedded in the header or footer of a Word document are now excluded from the alternative description check.
  • Fixed a bug that caused specific instructor feedback guidance fragments to not be translated correctly.
  • Improved the handling of replacing a file with a different file type through the Ally instructor feedback.

Ally 1.35 | Release to production 5 September 2019

New Features, Updated Features

BeeLine Reader alternative format pilot

We are launching a pilot for a new alternative format, the BeeLine Reader alternative format. BeeLine Reader is a tool that we came across during last year’s Accessing Higher Ground conference, and is aimed at making on-screen reading faster and easier. To achieve this, it uses an eye-guiding color gradient to help pull the reader’s eyes from one line to the next, and reported benefits include increased reading speed and enhanced focus. The tool can benefit students with dyslexia, ADHD and low vision, as well as providing a better reading experience for all students. More information about BeeLine Reader can be found on the BeeLine Reader website.

As part of this pilot, we are looking for 25 institutions that are interested in enabling the BeeLine Reader alternative format in their Blackboard Ally integration for the next 6 months. There is no charge associated to this pilot, and feedback will be collected at the end of the pilot to help us understand 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.

Course accessibility report tracking

Blackboard Ally 1.35 introduces detailed usage tracking for the course accessibility report. These events are tracked:

  • Launching the course accessibility report
  • Opening the instructor feedback through the course accessibility report
  • The different available navigation and filter actions

This usage data will also be made available in Ally usage reports going forward.

All usage data is anonymized, and therefore no usage reporting can be provided for individual instructors or students.

Ally 1.35 bug fixes and improvements

  • Fixed a bug that caused the English account for the audio alternative format to be American English instead of British English for institutions in Europe.
  • Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration that caused an unexpected outline to show around the alternative formats dropdown icon.
  • Improved the quality of the HTML alternative format by automatically removing empty divs and spans.

Ally 1.34 | Release to production 10 August 2019

New Features, Updated Features

Course accessibility report

Blackboard Ally 1.34 introduces the instructor-facing course accessibility report. This report is intended to act as a complement to the existing accessibility indicators, and provides an accessibility summary and overview at the course level.

The report shows the overall course accessibility score, the distribution of course content by content type and the list of all issues that have been identified in the course. The instructor can then easily see which content items in their course have been flagged with an issue, and is able to jump directly into the instructor feedback from the report.

The course accessibility report also provides some help with prioritization, and will show different options such “Content that’s easiest to fix” and “Content with most severe issues” depending on the content in the course. The instructor feedback can again be triggered for each item, which should make working through the remediation of multiple items quite a bit faster.

Next to this, the course accessibility report also provides a list of all the content that can be found in the course, including the ability to sort by severity, issue name, number of issues identified and accessibility score.

The course accessibility report has been implemented as a standard LTI tool, so institutions can therefore decide themselves when to make this report available to instructors. The following steps should be followed for enabling the course accessibility report in your LMS instance:


Ally 1.33 | Release to production 2 July 2019

New Features, Updated Features

D2L BrightSpace integration

We are extremely proud to announce that Blackboard Ally is now available for D2L BrightSpace. Ally is seamlessly integrated into the D2L BrightSpace interface and provides the same functionality as the other Ally for LMS integrations, with alternative formats and instructor feedback being available for uploaded files such as PDF, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and Images.

Next to these different file types, the institutional report also contains the results of checking the following WYSIWYG content types for accessibility issues:

  • File topics
  • Quiz topics
  • External link topics
  • Discussion topics
  • Modules

It may take up to July 25 for the integration to be available in D2L BrightSpace production environments, depending on which monthly release wave the environment is on.

Student alternative formats

Alternative formats panel

Instructor accessibility score

Instructor feedback panel

Administrator institutional report

More prominent alternative formats

In the last year alone, students have downloaded more than 2 million alternative formats through Ally. This has been a great confirmation of the Universal Design for Learning principles that Ally was designed with and how improved accessibility and choice can benefit all learners. Therefore, we are making the “Alternative Format” option more prominent to allow students to more easily find the alternative formats and access them more quickly.

Given that these more prominent Alternative Format icons affect the main LMS UI, we are doing a soft release of this feature. Institutions that want to enable the more prominent alternative formats straight away can request this through a Behind The Blackboard ticket. On August 1, all institutions will automatically be moved to the more prominent alternative formats, although it is possible to request a later date as well through a Behind The Blackboard ticket.

This is an overview of how the more prominent alternative formats are displayed in the different LMSs:

  1. Blackboard Learn: The Alternative Formats icon has been removed from the content dropdown and is now available as a single click next to the original file name.
  2. Blackboard Open LMS and Moodle: The Alternative Formats icon replaces the “Download” dropdown and is available as a single click next to the original file name.
  3. Instructure Canvas: The dropdown icon next to the original file name has been made more prominent. There are multiple actions that can be taken on a file (e.g., preview), so the dropdown is still in place to group those various actions and prevent the screen from becoming too cluttered.
  4. D2L BrightSpace: The Alternative Formats icon is available as a single click from the Table of Contents and the individual content pages.

Usage tracking

Detailed usage tracking is now available for the Ally for Websites and Ally for Web Community Manager integrations. The following (anonymous) usage data is tracked for the alternative formats:

  • How often is the alternative formats modal opened?
  • How many alternative formats are downloaded?
  • What alternative format types are downloaded?
  • In which (sub)domains or sections have alternative formats been downloaded?

In the Ally for Web Community Manager integration, the following content creator feedback is tracked as well:

  • How often is the content creator feedback opened?
  • How many content items are improved through the content creator feedback?
  • In which sections have improvements been made through the content creator feedback?

Similar to the Ally for LMS integrations, a usage report can be requested through a Behind The Blackboard support ticket. As part of our 2019 roadmap, this data will be exposed directly in the Ally report as well.


Ally 1.32 | Release to production 27 June 2019

New Features, Updated Features

Institutional hierarchy

Ally 1.32 introduces the ability for Blackboard Ally to record the configured institutional hierarchy within the LMS. The institutional hierarchy information for each course is then included under the `Department id` and `Department name` columns in the `courses.csv` CSV export in the institutional report. This makes it straightforward to calculate the Ally score for each element in the institutional hierarchy (e.g., departments) in Excel, and serves as the foundational work to support native reporting by institutional hierarchy in the institutional report as part of our roadmap.

Note that this feature is currently only available for the Canvas integration. The Blackboard Learn, Moodle and Open LMS integrations require additional REST APIs and support for those integrations will be made available as those REST APIs are released.

Course copies and imports

In the last few weeks, there were several cases where we incurred delays in the processing of new course copies and imports. As part of this release, several infrastructure improvements have been rolled out that should remove these delays.

Note that a small delay between copying / importing a course and Ally processing the content inside of the course is still expected.

Ally 1.32 bug fixes and improvements

  • Fixed a bug in the Learn Ultra integration that occasionally prevented an image description set through the content editor from being recognized correctly.
  • The scanned document accessibility check has been improved for long documents.
  • Implemented several accessibility improvements in the Blackboard Ally for Websites alternative formats modal.
  • Improved the handling of Word and PowerPoint documents that are flagged as zip bombs.

Ally 1.31 | Release to production 18 June 2019

New Features, Updated Features

Configuration UI in Blackboard Learn

The Ally Configuration UI is now available in the Blackboard Learn Administrator Panel, providing easier access to the various Ally configuration options and the ability to enable/disable Ally for individual courses.

Note that this requires the Blackboard Learn SaaS 3700.3.0 release (released to production on June 6 2019). It will be available for self-hosted and managed hosted Blackboard Learn institutions as of the Blackboard Learn Q4 2019 release.

Also note that Blackboard Learn doesn’t always automatically pick up on this new link when upgrading to this release. If that’s the case, you can toggle the availability of the Ally Building Block to Off and then to On again. At that point, the Ally Configuration link will become available.

ePub alternative format

The ePub alternative format generation algorithm has been significantly improved. This results in a much smaller file size, and should greatly benefit mobile usage of the ePub alternative format.

Ally LTI Tools in Canvas

The Ally LTI cartridge for the Institutional Report and Configuration UI in the Canvas integration has been updated to ensure that these tools are no longer visible in areas where instructors can select known LTI tools (e.g., “external module” or “external tool submission type”). To utilize these new LTI cartridges, the existing Ally Institutional Report and Ally Configuration UI LTI tools need to be removed and re-added using the existing installation instructions.

Ally 1.31 bug fixes and improvements

  • Additional configuration options have been added to the Ally for Websites crawler to allow the frequency of the automated recrawls to be increased or decreased.
  • The months in the Ally Institutional Report have been fully localized.
  • The audio alternative format now distinguishes between ordered and unordered lists. Ordered lists will be announced as “Begin numbered list”, and unordered lists will be announced as “Begin bulleted list”.
  • Decorative images will no longer be announced in the audio alternative format.
  • Fixed a bug in the “This document has no headings” check for Word documents to prevent empty paragraphs from contributing to the minimum document length threshold.
  • Fixed a bug that caused the incorrect severity label to be used for certain issues in the institutional report CSV export.

Ally 1.30 | Release to production 18 May 2019

New Features

Ally for Websites Alternative Formats

Ally 1.30 introduces the availability of the Ally Alternative Formats for the Ally for Websites integration. This allows all website visitors to automatically access the website’s content in a range of different alternative formats such as ePub, Electronic Braille, Audio, Translated Version, OCRd PDF (for scanned documents), etc. Alternative formats are offered for the web pages themselves, as well as any content that’s linked from or embedded into those pages, such as PDFs, PowerPoint documents and Word documents.

Just like the Ally for Websites accessibility report, the Ally for Websites Alternative Formats are fully CMS agnostic, and only require that a JavaScript snippet is added to the page. As soon as that snippet has been added, the alternative formats will automatically become available for all visitors. There are 4 different ways in which the alternative formats can be exposed on a website, with differing degrees of prominence.

Alternative Formats large ribbon

Alternative Formats small ribbon

Alternative Formats footer

Custom element on your website

For web pages without any linked or embedded content such as PDFs, PowerPoint documents and Word documents, the alternative formats for the web page itself will be offered straight away. For pages with linked or embedded content, the visitor will be able to choose between the alternative formats for the current page and the alternative formats for each of the linked or embedded content items.

Ally 1.30 bug fixes and improvements

  • Fixed a bug in the Microsoft Word accessibility checklist that prevented Ally from flagging images without a description in a table.
  • Implemented several improvements to the Instructor Feedback guidance in the “Missing Headings” flow.

Ally 1.29.2 | Release to production 5 May 2019

New Features, Updated Features

Institutional report CSV export

An additional column has been added to the `courses.csv` institutional report CSV export that shows the date and time at which each course was last synchronized. This should correspond roughly with the last event Ally received for that course.

The CSV export for an individual course now also contains an additional column that shows when each content item in that course was checked for accessibility issues by Ally.

Web Community Manager institutional report

The section URL has been added to the list of available sections and the report for an individual section in the institutional report for the Web Community Manager integration.

Blackboard Ally for Websites accessibility report

The “By Month” view is now the default view when accessing the Blackboard Ally for Websites accessibility report.

Ally 1.29.2 bug fixes and improvements

  • Fixed a bug in the Spanish Audio alternative format that caused certain characters to be pronounced incorrectly.
  • Implemented several improvements to the instructor feedback flow for malformed documents.
  • Improved the French translation of the institutional report.
  • Fixed a bug in the processing of OLE2 Word documents without a defined `styledescription`.
  • Improved the synchronization of Moodle courses when unable to process an individual content item in that course.

Ally 1.29 | Release to production 11 April 2019

New Features, Updated Features

PowerPoint alternative formats

The alternative formats for PowerPoint documents have been improved significantly, especially benefiting the responsive HTML, ePub, Audio and Tagged PDF alternative formats. A number of improvements have been implemented, making the alternative formats for PowerPoint files cleaner and higher quality:

  • Background and slide template images are no longer included in the alternative formats
  • Improved handling of lists and sub-lists
  • Improved handling and extraction of images
  • Fixed a bug where the alternative description for an image wouldn’t always move over to the alternative formats

Course synchronization

A full course resynchronization will now be run automatically every week for each Ally integration. This provides the following benefits:

  • Automatically remove deleted courses from the Ally Configuration UI and Ally Institutional Report
  • Automatically update term associations for courses
  • Automatically update other course metadata, such as the course name, number of enrollments, etc.
  • Automatically include courses without content in the Ally Configuration UI

Ally 1.29 bug fixes and improvements

  • Improved the accessibility check that checks for text in an image and whether that text has a contrast issue
  • Implemented several wording improvements to the instructor feedback guidance
  • Implemented several localization improvements in the Ally institutional report (display of percentages, numbers, etc.)
  • Improved the handling of unsupported file types when uploading a new version through the instructor feedback

Ally 1.28 | Release to production 6 April 2019

New Features, Updated Features

Ally for Websites scoring

The Ally for Websites accessibility scoring in the institutional report has been reworked significantly to include all pages and content that’s available at a particular point in time. While the Ally for LMS By Month and By Academic Year reporting is based on the content that was added / updated during that month / year, the Ally for Websites By Month and By Year scoring is based on all content that was available during that month / year.

This provides an overall accessibility score across the entire website, making it very easy to identify how a website is currently performing. This is in line with accessibility regulations that require all website content to be accessible, and is slightly different than the Ally for LMS integration that contains lots of “unused” content from previous terms / years.

This means that the starting point for an Ally for Websites accessibility report will always be the current month and year (based on everything available on the website during the initial scan), with additional months and years added to the report as time goes by. This provides an exact measure of how the accessibility score across the entire website is evolving over time and makes it easier to identify when significant regressions were introduced and/or significant improvements were made.

More on the Ally for websites report


Ally 1.27 | Release to production 1 March 2019

New Features, Updated Features, Moodle Integration

Additional Moodle content types

Ally 1.27 introduces the ability to check a number of additional Moodle WYSIWYG content types for accessibility issues, and includes these results in the institutional report.

Support for the following Moodle WYSIWYG content types has been added:

  • Book
  • Book chapter
  • Lesson
  • Lesson page
  • Page content
  • Page introduction
  • Syllabus

This functionality is available for all institutions using Blackboard OpenLMS or self-hosted Moodle institutions using Moodle 3.5 or above and the latest version of the Ally Moodle plugins

https://github.com/blackboard-open-source/moodle-tool_ally

https://github.com/blackboard-open-source/moodle-filter_ally

https://github.com/blackboard-open-source/moodle-report_allylti

Configuration UI in Moodle

The Ally Configuration UI can now be accessed directly through the Moodle administrator interface. The Configuration UI is available through Site administration > Plugins > Admin Tools > Ally configuration.

This feature also requires the latest versions of the Ally Moodle plugins.

Ally 1.27 bug fixes and improvements

  • Added a “Url” column to the course CSV export in the Blackboard Learn and Canvas integrations that contains the download/access URL for each content item.
  • Added a “Url” column to the domains CSV export in the Ally for Websites integration that contains the download/access URL for each web page and content item.
  • Fixed a bug that caused the “Send” button to show in the alternative format “Help” screen when the help request feature was disabled.
  • Fixed a bug in the Learn integration that prevented courses containing content items with blank titles from synchronizing correctly.
  • Implemented several improvements to the list recognition algorithm used for the alternative formats.
  • The Ally for Websites crawler has been extended to make the maximum crawl depth configurable at the institutional level.
  • Improved the Canvas integration to show the alternative formats for links containing a “span” tag.

Ally 1.26 | Release to production 14 February 2019

New Features, Updated Features

Request help

As a follow-up from the configurable help content introduced in Ally 1.23, it is now possible to allow students and instructors to request help from the Ally alternative formats modal and the instructor feedback panel. With this feature, we’re intending to provide an easy bridge between Ally and resources/processes available at the institution already, as well as allowing Ally to be connected to a helpdesk system.

An email address for alternative format help requests can be configured in the Ally Configuration UI. When alternative format help is requested, an email containing the help request and details about the current course, content item and user will be sent to this address. Similarly, an email address can be configured for instructor feedback help requests through the Configuration UI.

The Ally API user for the Blackboard Learn integration needs to be given the "Administrator Panel (Users) > Users" or "system.user.view" permission to allow Ally to include the student name and email address in the help request email. The Ally API user for the Moodle integration needs to be given the “moodle/user:viewalldetails” permission to allow Ally to include the student name and email address in the help request email.

More on configuring Ally help settings

Institutional report improvements

Ally 1.26 introduces several institutional report usability improvements:

  • The comparison with the previous term/month/academic year in “Total courses”, “Total content created” and “Overall accessibility score” has been made clearer.
  • The total number of items with an issue in the “Accessibility issues” list has been made clearer.
  • “Document” has been renamed to “Word document” in the “Total content created” chart.

Ally 1.26 bug fixes and improvements

  • Fixed a bug that caused the highlights for tables without headings to show on the incorrect page in the content preview.
  • Implemented visual improvements for downloading the original file in the Instructor Feedback.
  • The accessibility issue type is now tracked as part of the usage data when clicking the accessibility indicator.
  • Implemented several accessibility improvements in the Instructor Feedback.
  • The accessibility indicator can no longer be copied and pasted into the WYSIWYG editor in the Blackboard Learn and Canvas integrations.
  • Fixed a bug in the Blackboard Learn integration that caused the accessibility indicator for a link to overlap with the preceding text in certain cases.
  • Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration that prevented embedded images from being processed when copying a page from a different course.
  • Fixed a bug that caused the CSV export for a courses with special characters in the course name to fail.

Ally 1.25 | Release to production 4 February 2019

New Features, Updated Features, WCM Integration, Blackboard Learn Integration

Alternative Formats for Web Community Manager

The Ally Alternative Formats are now available for the Web Community Manager integration. Documents embedded in Web Community Manager will show an Alternative Formats icon, giving access to the following Alternative Formats for anyone visiting the website:

  • OCR’d version (for scanned documents)
  • Tagged PDF (for Word, Powerpoint and OpenOffice/LibreOffice files)
  • Mobile-friendly HTML
  • Audio
  • ePub
  • Electronic Braille
  • Translated Version

This should now be available for all Web Community Manager schools that have Ally integrated.

Content Feedback for Web Community Manager

The Ally content creator feedback is now also available for the Web Community Manager integration. When accessing the Ally accessibility report for a site or section, the accessibility indicator for individual content items can be clicked to launch the Ally feedback. This also includes the “Preview” functionality that was made available as part of the Ally 1.24 release. Fixes can be provided directly through the Ally feedback and will be posted back into Web Community Manager.

This should now be available for all Web Community Manager schools that have Ally integrated.

Ally 1.25 bug fixes and improvements

  • Fixed a bug in the Blackboard Learn integration that would occasionally cause the Alternative Formats dropdown to not be visible to students.

Ally 1.24 | Release to production 28 January 2019

New Features, Updated Features

Previews and highlights

The instructor feedback will now show in-browser previews for PDFs, Word documents and PowerPoint documents. These previews are then used to identify where in the document specific accessibility issues can be found. Highlights are currently provided for these items:

  • Images without an appropriate alternative description
  • Text fragments with insufficient contrast
  • Tables without table headings

The instructor feedback for other accessibility issues will just show the content preview without highlights.

This feature should make it significantly easier to identify issues in a document, and should help cut down remediation time dramatically.

Missing text description

Text contrast

Scanned PDF

Ally 1.24 bug fixes and improvements

  • Fixed a bug in the Ally for Websites integration that caused the CSV export for an individual (sub)domain to fail.
  • Hidden heading tags are now excluded from HTML accessibility checks.
  • Fixed a bug that caused headings to not be identified correctly in certain Word documents exported from Google Docs.
  • Fixed a bug that caused the language to be misidentified for Word documents that only contain tables.
  • Fixed a bug that caused a small number of “.docx” documents to be identified as “Malformed”.
  • Fixed an encoding issue that prevented certain HTML files exported from Word from being processed correctly.

Ally 1.23.4 | Release to production 11 December 2018

New Features, Updated Features

Learn Ultra image descriptions

The Learn Ultra integration update automatically applies alternative descriptions for images set directly through the LMS as an alternative description for other uses of the image in the course. The automated process is reflected accordingly in the institutional report and applies automatically to all new images and all new and updated WYSIWYG content.

Bug fixes and improvements

  • Fixed an issue to make the Help link in the alternative formats available for the Ally for WCM integration.

Ally 1.23.3 | Release to production 4 December 2018

New Features, Updated Features

Instructor Help

Following the introduction of configurable help content for the alternative formats modal in Ally 1.23, Ally 1.23.3 brings the ability to configure custom help messaging for the Ally instructor feedback. This provides institutions an opportunity to point instructors to additional institutional documentation, contact information, and so on. The custom instructor help content can be configured through the Ally Configuration UI, and is available throughout the instructor feedback experience.

Instructor experience

Canvas administrators

Following the User Group poll, the Canvas administrator behavior has been made configurable. By default, administrators will only be able to see Ally in courses that have Ally enabled in the configuration UI. However, there is also an option to opt in to administrators being able to see Ally in all courses they can manage, regardless of their setting in the configuration UI (i.e., previous Canvas administrator behavior).

Please create a Behind The Blackboard support ticket if you want to opt into the ability for Canvas administrators to always see Ally in all courses. Institutions that indicated in the poll that they rely on this feature have already been enabled.

Institutional report and Configuration UI performance

Ally 1.23.3 introduces an underlying technology change that significantly speeds up the listing and searching for courses in the institutional report and configuration UI. This is also an important step toward allowing more complex querying and sorting in the institutional report going forward.

Ally 1.23.3 bug fixes and improvements

  • Show the correct title in the institutional report for WYSIWYG content in the Learn Ultra integration.
  • Improved the recognition of the primary content language for PDF, Word and Powerpoint documents.

Ally 1.23 | Release to production 14 November 2018

New Features, Updated Features

Student Help

Ally 1.23 introduces the ability to configure a custom student help message that will be displayed in the Alternative Formats modal. This custom help message can be used to point students to existing institutional documentation, share contact information, and so on. The custom help content can be configured in the Ally Configuration UI, and uses the Markdown format to help provide a structured (and accessible) message.

When no custom message has been configured, the Help link points to a default Ally documentation page that explains how and when the different alternative formats can be used.

This is the first of several help features. Upcoming releases will include the ability to configure custom help content for instructors and the ability for students and instructors to reach out for help from Ally.

Student experience

Ally 1.23 bug fixes and improvements

  • The course enrollment number displayed in the institutional report no longer includes disabled enrollments for Blackboard Learn institutions.
  • Implemented several improvements to the language detection for Microsoft Office documents.
  • Fixed a bug that would cause the Please enter an image description error message to flash when marking an image as decorative in the instructor feedback.
  • Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration that would prevent the window from growing sufficiently when opening the content preview.

Ally 1.22 | Release to production 5 November 2018

New Features, Updated Features

Ally for Blackboard Learn Ultra

Ally is now available for Blackboard Learn courses using the Ultra experience. While content from Learn Ultra courses was already present in the institutional report, it is now possible to download alternative formats and receive instructor feedback for content within Ultra courses.

Note that this is Milestone 1 of the Ally integration for Learn Ultra, and this will be followed by additional functionality such as the ability to see accessibility indicators in the “Course Outline” and alternative formats in additional areas.

Ally 1.22 accessibility improvements

A range of additional accessibility improvements have been introduced:

  • Ensure that keyboard focus is set to the previously selected element when closing the Alternative Formats modal.
  • Fixed several contrast issues in the Alternative Formats modal.
  • Improvements to preventing background from receiving keyboard focus when opening the Alternative Formats modal.

Ally 1.22 bug fixes and improvements

  • Allow for a library reference to be submitted without a URL in the instructor feedback for scanned and untagged PDFs.
  • Fixed an image that didn’t load correctly in the “How to write a good description” documentation for images.
  • Improvements to the recognition of scanned documents that have been OCRd.

Ally 1.21 | Release to production 22 October 2018

New Features, Updated Features

Instructor feedback in institutional report

It is now possible to access the instructor feedback and fix accessibility issues directly from the institutional report. Administrators, disability services, and instructional designers can now improve content items from a single place. This is also foundational work for the upcoming instructor-facing course report.

Go to the institutional report in your LMS. From the Accessibility issues table, find a specific content item in a course with an accessibility issue. Select the content item's accessibility score indicator to open the feedback panel.

More on the accessibility score and instructor feedback panel

This feature is disabled by default. Submit a request on Behind The Blackboard to have it turned on.

This feature is only available when accessing the institutional report from the LMS and not when using the direct access URL.

Image descriptions

The Blackboard Learn and Canvas integrations have been updated to pick up on alternative descriptions for images set directly through the LMS (i.e,. WYSIWYG editor) and automatically apply these as a fallback alternative description for other uses of the image in the course (e.g., Content Collection, Files Tool). This will also be reflected accordingly in the institutional report.

This functionality will be applied automatically to all new images and all new/updated WYSIWYG content.

This functionality will also be introduced for the Moodle and Blackboard Open LMS integrations in a future Ally release, which will also require an upgrade to the Ally Moodle plugin.

Image description instructor feedback

Based on usability testing feedback, “alternative description” has been renamed to “image description” in the instructor feedback to help instructors better understand the purpose of the description.

At the same, an additional panel has been added to the “How to write a good description" guidance on what to avoid when writing an image description.

Ally 1.21 accessibility improvements

Building on the accessibility improvements that were introduced in Ally 1.20.1, this release contains a number of additional accessibility improvements:

  • Improved keyboard accessibility for the carousel component in the instructor feedback, allowing for a content panel to receive focus by pressing the space bar.
  • Improved keyboard focus when navigating to the next page of instructions in the instructor feedback.
  • Improved screen reader accessibility for optional form fields when entering a library reference for a scanned or untagged PDF.

Ally 1.20 | Release to production 11 October 2018

New Features, Updated Features

Contrast issues guidance

A full new Instructor Feedback guidance flow has been added for documents (PDFs, Word and Powerpoint) that contain text with insufficient contrast. This contains documentation on why this is important, different types of contrast issues and step-by-step guidance on how text with insufficient contrast can be fixed.

Microsoft® Office 2013 and 365 guidance

The Instructor Feedback guidance has been expanded in several areas to also include documentation for Microsoft Office 2013 and Microsoft Office 365.

Images Without Alternative Descriptions guidance

As part of the Ally 1.19 release, the Ally accessibility checklist was updated to support the new ways in which alternative descriptions for images can be provided in Office 365, as well as how images can be marked as decorative.

Ally 1.20 contains fully updated Instructor Feedback guidance to reflect these Office 365 improvements.

Institutional Report CSV export

The institutional report CSV export functionality has been improved to only include columns for the content types that are relevant for the current Learning Management System or Content Management System.

Ally 1.20 Big fixes and improvements

  • Improved how links are announced in the Audio alternative format.
  • Fixed a bug that caused the incorrect course score to show in the “Courses” list in the institutional report. The actual course report already always showed the correct course score.
  • Fixed a bug that prevented tagged PDFs with multiple root “Document” tags from generating correct alternative formats.
  • Improved the stability of the accessibility check that verifies whether embedded YouTubeTM videos have been captioned.

A special note from Product Management

Continuous Delivery v1.19 | Release to Production 28 August, 2018

We are developing our teaching and learning products toward the greater good of a holistic, next generation digital learning environment through the lens of three critical, unifying product themes: academic effectiveness, learner engagement, and education insight. By focusing on these themes, we will unify the development of our products to empower excellence in teaching and learning, inspire genuine interest, attention, and interaction in the learning process, and enable continuous improvement through accurate and deep understanding of the teaching and learning process.

In the Ally 1.19 release, we focused our development and design on academic effectiveness and learner engagement. You’ll see below that we’ve also aligned our feature list into groups based on value and benefit to you and your users.

Universal design

  • Alternative formats update
  • Microsoft® Office update
  • Institutional Report update

Ally 1.19 | Release to production 28 August, 2018

New features, Updated features

Disable alternative formats

It is now possible for an instructor or administrator to disable the alternative formats for an individual content item within a course. This provides full flexibility over which content items should have alternative formats, and can be especially useful for content items that don’t have a license that allows the creation of alternative formats.

Students now also have to agree to the Terms of Use for the alternative formats before being able to download them.

Microsoft Office updates

Microsoft® Office recently introduced new functionality that simplifies how an alternative description for an image can be provided and allows for an image to be marked as decorative. Ally is fully compatible with this new functionality, and now also recognizes images that have been marked as decorative.

Institutional Report improvements

The historical “By Academic Year” and “By Month” views in the institutional report will now show whether an issue detected by Ally has since been fixed.

Bug fixes and improvements

  • Several irrelevant columns have been removed from the Ally for Websites CSV export.
  • Fixed a bug where an ePub alternative format may not load correctly because of special characters in the content.
  • Improved encoding detection for HTML content.
  • Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration where an instructor would not be able to upload an improved version of a content item through the Instructor Feedback because of a change in the Canvas API.
  • Fixed a bug where Ally would incorrectly pick up on invisible artifacts such as EMF, PICT and WMF files in Microsoft Office documents.

A special note from Product Management

Continuous Delivery v1.18 | Release to Production 22 August, 2018

We are developing our teaching and learning products toward the greater good of a holistic, next generation digital learning environment through the lens of three critical, unifying product themes: academic effectiveness, learner engagement, and education insight. By focusing on these themes, we will unify the development of our products to empower excellence in teaching and learning, inspire genuine interest, attention, and interaction in the learning process, and enable continuous improvement through accurate and deep understanding of the teaching and learning process.

In the Ally 1.18 release, we focused our development and design on academic effectiveness and learner engagement. You’ll see below that we’ve also aligned our feature list into groups based on value and benefit to you and your users.

Universal design

  • Moodle WYSIWYG content reporting
  • Audio alternative format update
  • Institutional Report updates

Ally 1.18 | Release to production 22 August, 2018

New features, Moodle Integration, Updated features

Moodle WYSIWYG content reporting

Ally 1.18 introduces the ability to check content created in the Moodle WYSIWYG editor for accessibility issues, and includes these results in the institutional report.

These Moodle WYSIWYG content types are currently supported:

  • Course summary
  • Section
  • Label
  • Forum description
  • Forum post (first in thread)
  • Glossary description
  • Glossary entry
  • Assignment

This functionality is available for all institutions using Blackboard Open LMS or self-hosted Moodle institutions using version 3.4.3 of the Ally Moodle plugin. WYSIWYG content reporting will automatically be enabled for institutions on these supported versions, and any courses with new activity should show the WYSIWYG content results in the institutional report.

Going forward, institutions upgrading the Moodle Ally plugin should create a support ticket to request that this functionality is enabled.

Audio Alternative format

In the audio alternative format, images without an alternative description that follow each other are grouped in a single “x images without an alternative format” to help remove some redundancy from the generated audio.

Institutional Report updates

Improvements made through the Ally Instructor Feedback are now reflected immediately in that course’s report within the Institutional Report. This removes the 15 minute delay that was previously present.

Bug fixes and improvements

  • Introduced several improvements to the contrast checking algorithm, especially in cases where individual punctuation marks were incorrectly generating contrast issues.
  • Fixed a bug that prevented Ally from successfully checking HTML files with older encoding (e.g., CP1252 instead of UTF-8) for accessibility issues.
  • Improved the Instructor Feedback to always provide an upload option, including when guidance is not yet available.
  • Fixed a bug that prevented the successful creation of the Electronic Braille Alternative Format for Croatian documents.
  • Fixed a bug in the Ally for Websites integration that removes the number of web pages from the reported number of files/attachments.

A special note from Product Management

Continuous Delivery v1.17 | Release to Production 2 August, 2018

We are developing our teaching and learning products toward the greater good of a holistic, next generation digital learning environment through the lens of three critical, unifying product themes: academic effectiveness, learner engagement, and education insight. By focusing on these themes, we will unify the development of our products to empower excellence in teaching and learning, inspire genuine interest, attention, and interaction in the learning process, and enable continuous improvement through accurate and deep understanding of the teaching and learning process.

In the Ally 1.17 release, we focused our development and design on academic effectiveness and learner engagement. You’ll see below that we’ve also aligned our feature list into groups based on value and benefit to you and your users.

Universal design

  • Blackboard Learn WYSIWYG content reporting

Ally 1.17 | Release to production 2 August, 2018

New features, Blackboard Learn Integration, Canvas Integration, Updated features, Web Community Manager Integration

Blackboard Learn WYSIWYG content reporting

Ally 1.17 introduces the ability to check content created in the Blackboard Learn WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor for accessibility issues, and includes these results in the institutional report. This allows Ally to review a significantly larger part of the Blackboard Learn content, and is a first step towards providing alternative formats and instructor feedback for this content.

These Blackboard Learn WYSIWYG content types are currently supported.

  • Content Item (Build Content > Create > Item)
  • Blank Page (Build Content > New Page > Blank Page)
  • Web Link (Build Content > Web Link)
  • Content Folder (Build Content > New Page > Content Folder)
  • Learning Module (Build Content > Create > Learning Module)
  • Lesson Plan (Build Content > Create > Lesson plan)
  • Module Page (Build Content > New Page > Module Page)
  • A link to a Forum (Tools > Discussion Board)

This functionality is available for all institutions using SaaS, the Q4 2017 CU4 release (or above) and the Q2 2018 CU1 release (or above). WYSIWIG content reporting will automatically be enabled for institutions on these supported versions, and any courses with new activity should show the WYSIWYG content results in the institutional report.

Going forward, institutions upgrading to a supported release should create a ticket to request that this functionality is enabled.

The ability to check for accessibility issues in Moodle WYSIWYG content will be included in one of our upcoming releases.

Canvas API token

Following changes in the Canvas permission system, it is now possible for the Canvas API token used by Ally to have fewer associated permissions than before.

As the "ACCOUNT PERMISSIONS - Manage account-level settings” permission is no longer required to retrieve the list of available terms, this permission can now be removed from the Ally API token.

These are the permissions required for a Canvas integration.

  • Courses - view list
  • Users - act as
  • Announcements - view
  • Assignments and Quizzes - add / edit / delete
  • Course Content - add / edit / delete
  • Course Content - view
  • Course Files - add / edit / delete
  • Discussions - moderate
  • Discussions - view
  • Pages - add / edit / delete

More on generating an Ally access token

Bug fixes and improvements

  • Fixed a bug that prevented the course report in the institutional report from automatically updating following a course copy.
  • Fixed a bug where paragraph text that spans multiple pages could be missing from the alternative formats.
  • Fixed a bug in the Web Community Manager integration that prevented some dynamically loaded content (through JavaScript) from being incorporated in the accessibility checks for a web page.
  • Fixed a bug in the Learn integration that caused a failure when setting the alternative description for an image embedded in a large Content Item (200KB+)

A special note from Product Management

Continuous Delivery v1.16.4 | Release to Production 21 June, 2018

We are developing our teaching and learning products toward the greater good of a holistic, next generation digital learning environment through the lens of three critical, unifying product themes: academic effectiveness, learner engagement, and education insight. By focusing on these themes, we will unify the development of our products to empower excellence in teaching and learning, inspire genuine interest, attention, and interaction in the learning process, and enable continuous improvement through accurate and deep understanding of the teaching and learning process.

In the Ally 1.16.4 release, we focused our development and design on academic effectiveness and learner engagement. You’ll see below that we’ve also aligned our feature list into groups based on value and benefit to you and your users.

Universal design

  • Institutional report improvements

A special note from Product Management

Continuous Delivery v1.16.3 | Release to Production 8 June, 2018

We are developing our teaching and learning products toward the greater good of a holistic, next generation digital learning environment through the lens of three critical, unifying product themes: academic effectiveness, learner engagement, and education insight. By focusing on these themes, we will unify the development of our products to empower excellence in teaching and learning, inspire genuine interest, attention, and interaction in the learning process, and enable continuous improvement through accurate and deep understanding of the teaching and learning process.

In the Ally 1.16.3 release, we focused our development and design on academic effectiveness and learner engagement. You’ll see below that we’ve also aligned our feature list into groups based on value and benefit to you and your users.

Universal design

  • Audio alternative format improvements

Ally 1.16.3 | Release to production 8 June, 2018

New features, Updated features

Audio alternative format

Several quality and usability improvements have been added to the audio alternative format, such as announcing the corresponding column and/or row heading for a table cell.

Bug fixes and improvements

  • Fixed a bug that would cause spaces to be missing in the alternative formats for specific PDFs.
  • Fixed a bug that caused headings in single slide PowerPoint presentations to not be recognized correctly.
  • Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration that prevented the instructor feedback indicator from showing when wrapped in an `<i>` or `<em>` element.
  • Implemented several accuracy improvements to the contrast accessibility check for PDF documents.

A special note from Product Management

Continuous Delivery v1.16 | Release to Production 8 May, 2018

We are developing our teaching and learning products toward the greater good of a holistic, next generation digital learning environment through the lens of three critical, unifying product themes: academic effectiveness, learner engagement, and education insight. By focusing on these themes, we will unify the development of our products to empower excellence in teaching and learning, inspire genuine interest, attention, and interaction in the learning process, and enable continuous improvement through accurate and deep understanding of the teaching and learning process.

In the Ally 1.16 release, we focused our development and design on academic effectiveness and learner engagement. You’ll see below that we’ve also aligned our feature list into groups based on value and benefit to you and your users.

Universal design

  • Configuration user interface
  • YouTubeTM caption checks
  • Usage tracking

Ally 1.16 | Release to production 8 May, 2018

New features, Updated features

Configuration user interface (UI)

Ally now includes a configuration UI that makes it possible to easily control the courses for which Ally is enabled, which should be especially helpful for institutions taking a more gradual roll-out approach. The following configuration options are provided:

  • See the list of courses for which Ally is currently enabled and disabled
  • Enable Ally for additional courses
  • Disable Ally for additional courses
  • Control whether Ally should automatically be enabled for new courses
  • Enable Ally for all courses at once
  • Disable Ally for all courses (just in case)

One of our technical consultants will be in touch in the next few days with instructions on how to access this configuration UI. Note that the configuration UI does not provide support for institutions that have a non-standard configuration.

More on Ally Configuration

YouTube caption checks

Ally 1.16 introduces the first of many planned steps to help increase its support for audio and video content. As part of this first step, we are now able to check HTML content (uploaded files and supported WYSIWYG content) for YouTube videos that don’t have any captions. Any videos that fail this accessibility check are then included in the institutional report. YouTube videos with auto-generated captioning are not considered to have valid captioning.

This new accessibility check does not yet contribute to the overall accessibility score. As part of a future release, these videos will be changing to top-level content items with their own accessibility scores.

Usage tracking

The detailed usage tracking introduced in the Ally 1.14 release has now also been enabled for institutions hosted from the European and Australian data centers.

Bug fixes and improvements

  • Fixed a bug that caused metadata provided through the Ally Instructor Feedback to not move over correctly when importing an existing Canvas course into a new one.
  • Files that are no longer used within a Learn course will no longer have an accessibility indicator in the Content Collection.
  • Fixed a bug that would cause the alternative format generation to fail for PDFs that contain images or paths with a 0px width or height.
  • Fixed a bug that caused the instructor feedback print view to be cut off after the first page.
  • Implemented several accessibility improvements within the Ally UI.
  • Introduced a number of improvements for determining and extracting the language of a document.
  • Introduced several updates to the Instructor Feedback guidance and screenshots.
  • Fixed a bug where Ally would throw a JavaScript error when a Portfolium item is included within a Learn Content Item.

Ally 1.15 | Release to production 27 April, 2018

New features, Updated features

Machine translated version

We are launching a trial for a new alternative format. This alternative format provides a machine translated version of the instructor’s original into a total of 50 different languages, and supports PDF, Word, Powerpoint and HTML documents.

The trial will run for the next few months and will be used to collect feedback about the use cases for the format and the quality of the translations. If you would like to be included in this trial, please contact [email protected]. For those of you that have already requested to participate, this additional alternative format will become available in the next 1-2 weeks.

Alternative format improvements

A set of improvements have been included in the alternative format generation algorithms, allowing them to pick up on content encoded into the `ActualText` properties of a tagged PDF. This should result in higher quality alternative formats, especially for PDFs that have been exported from PowerPoint documents.

Norwegian Bokmål support

Ally is now also available in Norwegian Bokmål. This includes the Ally interface, as well as the alternative formats.

Bug fixes and improvements

  • Fixed a regression that was causing a higher than expected number of failures in generating the HTML alternative format.
  • Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration that would cause the “Accessibility” column in the Files tool not to show when all content items in the folder had a 0% accessibility score.

A special note from Product Management

Continuous Delivery v1.15 | Release to Production 27 April, 2018

We are developing our teaching and learning products toward the greater good of a holistic, next generation digital learning environment through the lens of three critical, unifying product themes: academic effectiveness, learner engagement, and education insight. By focusing on these themes, we will unify the development of our products to empower excellence in teaching and learning, inspire genuine interest, attention, and interaction in the learning process, and enable continuous improvement through accurate and deep understanding of the teaching and learning process.

In the Ally 1.15 release, we focused our development and design on academic effectiveness and learner engagement. You’ll see below that we’ve also aligned our feature list into groups based on value and benefit to you and your users.

Universal design

  • Machine translated version
  • Alternative format improvements
  • Norwegian Bokmål support

Ally 1.14 | Release to production 25 March, 2018

New Features, Updated Features

In this Ally 1.14 release, we focused our development and design on academic effectiveness. You’ll see below that we’ve also aligned our feature list in to groups based on value and benefit to you and your users.

Universal design

  • All issues
  • Usage tracking

All issues

It is now possible to easily see the full list of accessibility issues that have been identified in a particular content item by selecting All issues in the instructor feedback. This also explains how much the accessibility score can be improved by fixing each issue and makes it easy to switch to a different feedback and guidance flow.

The list of all issues is also available when the instructor has completed fixing an issue and the list of remaining issues is presented.

Usage tracking

More detailed usage tracking is now available for the alternative formats:

  • How often is the alternative formats modal opened?
  • How many alternative formats are downloaded?
  • What format types are downloaded?
  • How many courses are the alternative formats used in?
  • How many unique students are using the alternative formats?

Detailed usage tracking has also been put in place for the instructor feedback:

  • How often was the instructor feedback opened?
  • What is the distribution by feedback flow type?
  • How many content items are improved through the instructor feedback?
  • How many alternative descriptions are provided through the instructor feedback?
  • How many images are marked as decorative through the instructor feedback?
  • How many library references are provided?

The collected data can currently be made available on request as a data export. This usage data will also be exposed directly in the institutional report as part of a future release.

Spike impact

Several processing and infrastructure improvements have been put in place to reduce the impact of a large number of content items and/or courses being created at once and the potential processing delays this could cause.

Bug fixes and improvements

  • Prevent the institutional CSV export from intermittently timing out and failing for institutions with a lot of LMS data.
  • Scanned documents that have been OCRd will no longer show "OCRd PDF” as an available alternative format.

A special note from Product Management

As we move into 2018, we are thinking about and developing our teaching and learning products toward the greater good of a holistic, next generation digital learning environment through the lens of three critical, unifying product themes: academic effectiveness, learner engagement, and education insight. By focusing on these themes, we will unify the development of our products to empower excellence in teaching and learning, inspire genuine interest, attention, and interaction in the learning process, and enable continuous improvement through accurate and deep understanding of the teaching and learning process.


Ally 1.13.2 | Release to production 27 February 2018

New Features, Updated Features

In this Ally 1.13.2 release, we focused our development and design on academic effectiveness. You’ll see below that we’ve also aligned our feature list in to groups based on value and benefit to you and your users.

Universal design

  • Unified English Braille
  • Alternative format improvements
  • Nearly perfect files

Unified English Braille

For English documents, the Electronic Braille alternative format has been updated from the Contracted (grade 2) US English braille code to the Contracted (grade 2) Unified English Braille (UEB) braille code. Unified English Braille has become the standard braille code across all English dialects.

Alternative format improvements

Several improvements have been added to the alternative format generation algorithms. This includes improved list recognition and conversion, the removal of unnecessary HTML tags, the removal of unused elements, etc.

Nearly perfect files

Because of rounding, it was possible for files with a 99.x% accessibility score to show in the LMS as having a 100% accessibility score. To help make it clear that minor further improvements are possible, the score display has been updated to always round the score down.

Bug fixes and improvements

  • Fixed a bug in the score calculation that caused the accessibility score to be too low in certain cases.
  • Fixed a bug where Ally didn't correctly recognize that the correct language was set in certain PDFs.
  • Fixed a bug that caused the alternative formats to download icon to display incorrectly in Firefox.
  • Added several internationalization improvements for the French Ally translations.
  • Implemented various accessibility improvements in the Instructor Feedback.
  • Fixed a bug that prevented PDFs that include Type 3 fonts from receiving an accessibility score and indicator.

Ally 1.13.1 | Release to production 20 February, 2018

New Features, Updated Features, Learning Management System Integrations

In this Ally 1.13.1 release, we focused our development and design on academic effectiveness. You’ll see below that we’ve also aligned our feature list in to groups based on value and benefit to you and your users.

Universal design

  • Alternative formats
  • Blackboard Learn Learning Modules
  • Moodle and Blackboard Open LMS course copies
  • New courses

Alternative formats

The existing “Accessible versions” option has been renamed to “Alternative formats” to better represent the purpose of these alternative formats, as well as help encourage all students to explore and use these formats.

Blackboard Learn Learning Modules

Ally now supports posting alternative descriptions for images provided through the Ally instructor feedback back into the page source for the Blackboard Learn “Learning Modules” content type.

This means that all images in Learning Modules are now expected to have the Ally accessibility indicator.

Moodle and Blackboard Open LMS course copies

Ally now automatically processes the content in copied Moodle and Blackboard Open LMS courses.

Large Moodle and Blackboard Open LMS course copies can take several hours to complete, and Ally only scans the copied content items once the course copy has been fully completed.

New courses

In the last few weeks, there have been several cases where delays built up in the processing of new courses. Ally 1.13.1 contains several improvements that should greatly speed up the processing of new courses in the Learning Management System (LMS).

Bug fixes and improvements

  • Fixed a bug in the Blackboard Learn integration that prevented alternative descriptions for images to be saved through the instructor feedback in “Forums”.
  • Fixed a bug that prevented alternative descriptions for images containing a non-breaking space character from successfully saving.
  • Fixed a bug in the Instructure Canvas integration that occasionally caused the “Accessibility” column to show in the Files tool for courses that do not have Ally enabled.
  • Implemented a number of wording improvements in the descriptions for the available alternative formats.
  • A number of small accessibility improvements have been made in the course report within the institutional report.

Ally 1.13 | Release to production 12 February, 2018

New Features, Updated Features, Learning Management System Integrations

In this Ally 1.13 release, we focused our development and design on academic effectiveness. You’ll see below that we’ve also aligned our feature list in to groups based on value and benefit to you and your users.

Universal design for learning

Improved alternative formats

The conversion algorithms for the alternative formats have been updated and should bring a significant improvement in accuracy for documents with a higher accessibility score. This is achieved by incorporating more of the semantic information that’s present within the original document.

Improved instructor feedback for images

Several improvements have been introduced in the instructor feedback flow for images without an alternative description. This includes improved guidance and error messages for images with an invalid alternative description, an easier editing workflow for images that already have an alternative description, and so on.

Library reference information available to students

Students are now able to see library reference information in the alternative format modal. This library reference information can be provided by the instructor in the instructor feedback flow for scanned documents and untagged PDFs.

New language support

Ally is now available in these languages.

  • Polish
  • Norwegian
  • Catalan

Availability in these languages includes the Ally interface, as well as the alternative formats (including the audio format).

Heading check for WYSIWYG content

An additional accessibility check has been added for WYSIWYG content. This accessibility check verifies that the heading levels in the WYSIWYG content correctly follow the heading levels that are present in the Learning Management System (LMS) itself.

This check should now be part of the reported accessibility issues in the institutional report.

Decorative images

The Ally integration for Canvas has been updated to align with the new “Decorative image” functionality that was recently introduced in Canvas. This ensures that Ally is able to recognize images that have been marked as decorative in Canvas, as well as Canvas recognizing images that have been marked as decorative through Ally.

Bug fixes

  • Fixed a bug in the Blackboard Learn Original integration where the accessibility indicators for Content Items with multiple attachments wouldn’t display properly.
  • Fixed a bug in the Web Community Manager integration where courses with a space in the URL would not be checked for accessibility issues.
  • The CSV export in the institutional report will now correctly mark the HTML accessibility checks that succeeded as a “1”.
  • Prevent the “This image does not have an alternative description” issue from being listed in the institutional report for images that have been marked as decorative.

Ally 1.12.1 | Release to production 16 January, 2018

New Features, Updated Features, LMS Integrations

Alternative descriptions

Alternative descriptions for images provided through the Ally instructor feedback are now also pushed back into the source of the context in which the image is used.

For Blackboard Learn, this is currently available for:

  • Content Item
  • Web Link
  • Content Folder
  • Course Link
  • File

For Instructure Canvas, this is currently available for:

  • Page
  • Announcement
  • Assignment
  • Discussion Topic
  • Syllabus
  • Quiz

Additional areas will be added as new LMS REST APIs become available.

Course copy

Any metadata provided through the Ally instructor feedback that can not be pushed back into the LMS (e.g., library reference) will now automatically be copied over when a course is copied.

WYSIWYG content reporting

The WYSIWYG content reporting feature announced as part of Ally 1.12 (Ally 1.12 announcement) has now been enabled for all Instructure Canvas institutions.

Therefore, any new or updated WYSIWYG content will immediately be reflected in the institutional report. We will also be processing existing WYSIWYG content in existing courses in the background, but it’s expected that this will take several weeks to complete given the large number of items that need to be onboarded.

Instructor feedback wording improvements

Several wording improvements have been introduced in the various instructor feedback flows. These improvements cover the different languages in which Ally is available.


Ally 1.12 | Release to production 20 December, 2017

Updated Features, LMS Integrations, Web Community Manager Integration

Web Community Manager (WCM) integration

The Ally integration for Web Community Manager (WCM) is now available. WCM is distinct from Ally’s other integrations, as WCM is a content management system that is mostly used by K-12 schools and districts in the US.

In the first release of the Ally - Web Community Manager integration, Ally provides the ability to check the pages and embedded media in a WCM instance for accessibility issues, and generates an accessibility report similar to the LMS institutional report. Instructor feedback and alternative formats are on the roadmap for future releases.

More on Ally in Web Community Manager

WYSIWYG content reporting

Ally 1.12 introduces the ability to check content created in the LMS (through the text/WYSIWYG editor) for accessibility issues, and includes this data in the institutional report.

This allows Ally to review a significantly larger part of the LMS content, and is a first step towards providing alternative formats and instructor feedback for this content.

This feature is currently only available for Instructure Canvas. Blackboard Learn, Moodle, and Blackboard Open LMS require additional APIs and/or push notifications to support this feature. Those teams are working hard on this additional functionality, and we are hoping to enable WYSIWYG content reporting for Blackboard Learn, Moodle, and Blackboard Open LMS as soon as possible.

Additional language support

Ally is now available in these languages.

  • German
  • Italian
  • Turkish

Availability in these languages includes the Ally interface, as well as the alternative formats (including the audio format).

Ally 1.12 was originally going to include the ability to post alternative descriptions for images provided through the instructor feedback back into the LMS, and we have been working with all of you to make the required API permission updates. However, not all institutions have been able to make these permission changes in time. Therefore, the feature has not been enabled yet, as we didn’t want to introduce any risk over the holidays. The current plan is to enable this feature during the first week of January.

More on permission updates


Ally 1.11 | Release to production 19 October, 2017

Updated Features

Self-hosted Moodle integration

Ally is now fully available for self-hosted Moodle! The self-hosted Moodle integration has the same functionality as the other LMS integrations and is made available as a standard Moodle plugin. This integration is available for Moodle 3.2 and above.

This is fourth Learning Management System to support Ally, along with Blackboard Learn, Blackboard Open LMS, and Instructure Canvas.

Alternative format modal

The alternative accessible formats modal has been updated to provide a clearer description and possible uses for each alternative format.

Institutional report performance improvements

The loading times in the institutional report have been significantly decreased, especially for larger institutions. Listing the list of courses that have a specific issue, the list of items within a course with a specific issue, etc. should now be significantly faster.

Canvas administrators

Up until the 1.11 release, Canvas administrators would be unable to provide improvements through the Ally instructor feedback, as Ally would attempt to masquerade as those users and Canvas would (correctly) not allow this.

A fix for this limitation is now available, and will allow Canvas administrators to also provide improvements through the Ally instructor feedback.

Bug fixes

  • We fixed a bug in Learn where courses that do not have Ally enabled would show the placeholder used for the accessibility indicator, which unnecessarily altered the spacing within the content.
  • We fixed a bug in Learn where improved content items provided through the Ally instructor feedback would not have a meaningful name in the content collection. All items provided through the Ally instructor feedback will now have a meaningful name.

Ally 1.10 | Release to production 15 September, 2017

New Features, Updated Features

Additional language support

Ally was already available in US English, UK English, Spanish and Dutch. With the 1.10 release, Ally is now also available in these languages:

  • French
  • Danish
  • Portuguese
  • Brazilian Portuguese
  • Finnish
  • Swedish
  • Welsh

Availability in these languages includes the Ally interface, as well as the alternative formats (including the audio format).

Alternative formats for uploaded HTML files

Uploaded HTML files will now have alternative formats including audio, ePub, and electronic braille.

Institutional reporting for uploaded HTML files

Accessibility issues identified in uploaded HTML files are now included in the institutional report.

Improved list recognition

The accuracy of recognizing lists in documents has been improved. Therefore, more lists will be correctly converted to a semantic list in the alternative formats.

Bug fixes

In Blackboard Learn, the Ally indicator was incorrectly positioned when embedding content inside of the WYSIWYG editor. This has now been resolved and the indicator is now displayed in the correct position.


Ally 1.8.1 | Release to production 12 August, 2017

New Features, Updated Features

Stability Improvements

  • Improved parsing for Microsoft Word documents, reducing the number of Microsoft Word documents that could not be processed
  • Improved OCR stability for large scanned documents
  • Increased the number of Canvas user roles that can be interpreted

Term Changes

Ally will now automatically pick up on term changes for courses and will update the institutional report accordingly.

Integration Improvements

An additional set of underlying improvements have been made to help speed up the initial integration process and allow for faster processing of existing courses and content items.


Ally 1.8 | Release to production 21 July, 2017

New Features, Updated Features

CSV Export

Ally now provides a CSV export of the institutional report data. This includes a full export of the yearly overview, term overview, monthly overview and all course reports. This CSV export allows institutions to do custom reporting and programmatically extract the Ally institutional report data.

Audio Format Internationalization

The audio alternative format is now made available in a voice that reflects the language of the source document. The audio format can be generated in US English, UK English, Australian English, Dutch, Spanish, French, Danish, Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish, Welsh, German, Italian, Turkish and Norwegian.

Alternative Format Improvements

Various stability improvements have been made to the alternative format generation process, reducing the number of instances in which an alternative format fails to be generated.

Integration Improvements

A wide range of underlying improvements have been made to help speed up the initial integration process and allow for faster processing of existing courses and content items.


Ally 1.7 | Release to production 6 July 2017

New Features, Blackboard Open LMS Integration

Blackboard Open LMS integration

Ally is now fully available for Blackboard Open LMS! This is the third Learning Management System to support Ally, along with Blackboard Learn and Instructure Canvas.


Ally 1.4 | Release to production 5 June, 2017

New Features, Updated Features

Dutch language support

Ally now has full support for Dutch in all Learning Management Systems.

Braille Ready File (.brf)

Ally now supports Electronic Braille in the Braille Ready File (.brf) file format. This is a specialized digital text format used to create embossed braille or be read using a braille display. The .brf file format is available as one of the alternative accessible formats provided to students.

Scanned document recognition

Improved recognition for scanned documents, especially for Powerpoint presentations or PDFs exported from a Powerpoint presentation.

Bug fixes

  • Fixed a bug where an incorrect message was shown when adding a library reference to an untagged PDF.
  • Fixed a bug where upon selecting the Close button in the Instructor Feedback, the screen remains open rather than closing the sidebar.

Ally 1.2.0 | Release to production 9 May, 2017

New Features, Updated Features, Canvas Integration

UK English

Ally is now fully available in UK English for both the Blackboard Learn and Canvas integrations.

Canvas Tools

The Ally instructor feedback and alternative accessible formats are now also available in the Modules, Syllabus, and Assignments within Canvas. This extends support for Ally to all of the major native Canvas tools.

Errors

Ally now provides clearer error messages whenever an unexpected error occurs.

Institutional Report

The Courses view in the institutional report will now default to the current active term.

Bug fixes

  • Improved the placement of the accessibility score indicator in the Icon only and Text only views in Blackboard Learn.
  • Fixed a bug where a screen readers would not announce transitions between certain views in the report.
  • Fixed a bug where an item with a specific accessibility issue couldn’t always be downloaded from the institutional report in Blackboard Learn.

Ally 1.1 | Release to production 27 April, 2017

New Features, Updated Features

Administrator preview

It is now possible to enable the Ally alternative accessible formats and instructor feedback for administrators only, prior to enabling it for instructors and students. This option can help administrators to ensure proper configuration before turning the feature on for other users at the institution.

Accessibility improvements

A number of different accessibility improvements have been implemented:

  • Removed a keyboard trap in the alternative accessible formats overlay in Firefox
  • Improved form labels when entering a library reference for scanned or untagged PDFs
  • Improved focus control on form validation messages
  • Improved tab handling in the institutional report

Instructor feedback improvements

Various workflow and content improvements were implemented in the instructor feedback.

Bug fixes

  • We fixed a bug that would cause the institutional report to fail loading upon initial log in
  • We fixed an internationalization problem on the institutional report sign in page
  • In the Blackboard Learn integration, alternative descriptions provided through the Ally instructor feedback are now correctly incorporated when rendering the page

Ally 1.0 | Release to production 12 April, 2017

Blackboard Learn Integration, New Features, Updated Features

Blackboard Learn 9.1 Integration

Ally is now also available for Blackboard Learn 9.1. The Ally integration was included as a building block in the Blackboard Learn 9.1 Q2 release that was released this week.

Audio Alternative Format

The audio version is now available as an additional alternative format for all PDFs (including scanned), Word, Powerpoint and HTML files.

We would love to get your feedback about the quality of the voice.

Instructor Feedback: Malformed Content

An additional instructor feedback flow has been added for content that can potentially not be opened by all students.

Algorithm improvements

Several improvements have been made to the alternative accessible format generation algorithms. This includes automatically converting all links to clickable links, improved classification of figure text, improved classification of headings, etc.

Instructor Feedback: Headings

A set of new instructor feedback flows has been added for content that does not use headings appropriately.

Instructor Feedback: Tables

A new instructor feedback flow has been made available for content that contains tables without proper table headings.

Fixing multiple issues in a row

At the end of each instructor feedback flow, Ally will now show an appropriate success/failure message, and will provide a seamless way to start fixing the next most significant accessibility issue.

Synchronization improvements

Ally should now also automatically pick up on copied courses or any content that’s imported into a course. We have been working closely with Instructure to add Live Events support for this, and this should result in Ally and Canvas being in synch at all times.

Let us know if you encounter any content items that don’t have an Ally indicator or alternative formats, but should have them.

Accessibility improvements

Following an accessibility review of the Ally user interface by SSB Bart, several accessibility improvements have been implemented. This includes improved keyboard focus management in the instructor feedback, improved accessibility of the radio button labels in the alternative accessible formats modal, etc.