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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 1.35.4 | Release to production 21 October 2019

Updated Features

Ally for Websites crawler

The Ally for Websites crawler now incorporates the `Disallow` statements in a website’s `robots.txt` file. This helps prevent the crawler from getting stuck in infinite crawling loops on specific types of content such as search pages, calendar applications, and so on.

Ally 1.35.4 bug fixes and improvements

  • Automatically retry the generation of an alternative format that failed to generate previously when the same alternative format is requested again.
  • Implemented several improvements to help speed up the rendering of document previews for PDF documents, Word documents and PowerPoint documents in the instructor feedback.
  • Improved the handling of Moodle API errors.

Ally 1.35.1 | Release to production 19 September 2019

Updated Features

Canvas Blueprint Courses

The Ally 1.35.1 release introduces support for Canvas Blueprint courses. Alternative descriptions for images and other accessibility metadata set through the Ally instructor feedback in the blueprint course will now be copied over correctly to any courses created from the blueprint.

Ally 1.35.1 bug fixes and improvements

  • Improved support for special characters and diacritics in the OCRd alternative format
  • Improved the display of the “large ribbon” for the Ally for Websites alternative formats to be smaller on a mobile device
  • Fixed a bug in the D2L Brightspace integration that caused the student enrollment count to not synchronize correctly for large courses
  • Added the “language” attribute to the ePub alternative format
  • Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration that occasionally caused the alternative formats modal to freeze the screen
  • Implemented several positioning improvements for the alternative formats icon and the accessibility indicator in the Moodle integration
  • Implemented several accessibility improvements in the alternative formats modal dialog

Ally 1.33.3 | Release to production 4 August 2019

Updated Features

Ally 1.33.3 bug fixes and improvements

  • Adjusted to styling of the more prominent alternative formats icon in the Canvas integration to make the icon slightly smaller and lighter
  • Added an indication of when the accessibility report for a course was last updated in the institutional report
  • Fixed a bug that occasionally caused the weekly Blackboard Ally for Websites recrawls to not automatically start
  • Improved the hover and focus styles in the alternative formats modal dialog for the Blackboard Ally for Websites integration
  • Improved the detection of HTML content with contrast issues

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 1.31 | 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 1.29.2 | 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 1.28 | 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 1.24 | 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 1.23.6 | Release to production 22 January 2019

Updated Features, Web Integration, WCM Integration

Audio alternative format

The audio alternative format is now also available in Polish, Catalan, American Spanish, Mexican Spanish and Colombian Spanish.

Institutional report CSV export

The “courses.csv” file in the institutional report CSV export now includes an additional column for the Course URL, containing a direct link to each course.

The CSV export for the Ally for Web Community Manager integration now also contains a Section URL column, and the CSV export for the Ally for Websites integration includes a Domain URL column.

Ally 1.23.6 bug fixes and improvements

  • Fixed a bug that prevented launching the instructor feedback from the institutional report for courses that don’t have Ally enabled in the Configuration UI.
  • Original files downloaded from the instructor feedback will now use the original file name.
  • Implemented several accessibility improvements in the Configuration UI.

Ally 1.23.5 | Release to production 5 January 2019

Updated Features

Institutional report term ordering

The ordering of terms in the Ally for LMS institutional report has been updated to sort terms that don’t have a configured start date by ascending term id. Terms with a configured start date still sort by that start date.

Bug fixes and improvements

  • Implemented several improvements in the detection of characters with contrast issues in PDFs.
  • Reduced the amount of space taken up by the accessibility indicator for images in the Moodle integration.
  • The default Portuguese accent for the audio alternative format has been set to Brazilian Portuguese for institutions hosted from North America.
  • Fixed a bug that could cause the total items with a particular accessibility issue to be slightly off in the institutional report for the WCM integration.

Ally 1.19.4 | Release to production 25 September 2018

Updated Features

Big fixes and improvements

  • Improved the Ally for WCM and Ally for Web integrations to always use a consistent viewport width when checking HTML pages for accessibility issues.
  • Further improved the wording of the Terms of Use for the alternative formats.
  • Introduced stability improvements to the YouTube caption accessibility check.