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Ally 1.36 | Release to production 2 December 2019
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.
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.
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 1.35.7 | Release to production 11 November 2019
Ally 1.35.7 bug fixes and improvements
- Fixed a bug that prevented the “This document is scanned and not OCRd” and “This document is scanned but OCRd” issues from showing in the course accessibility report.
Ally 1.35.6 | Release to production 7 November 2019
Blackboard Learn Ultra integration
The Blackboard Learn Ultra integration has been improved to show the alternative formats and instructor feedback indicators for attachments in Ultra documents and tests.
Additional improvements, such as showing the alternative formats and instructor feedback indicators in the Course Outline, are scheduled to be included in the February Learn SaaS release.
Ally 1.35.6 bug fixes and improvements
- Fixed a bug that occasionally caused uploading a fixed version through the instructor feedback to fail.
- Fixed a bug that caused the “Request Help” email feature to show when it was not enabled in the Ally Configuration UI.
- Fixed a bug in the D2L Brightspace integration that caused clicking a file in the course accessibility report to result in a 404.
- Fixed a bug in the Blackboard Learn integration that prevented the more prominent Alternative Formats icon from showing in Learning Modules.
- Fixed a bug that caused the parsing of certain documents containing long ISBN numbers to fail.
Ally 1.35.5 | Release to production 29 October 2019
Ally 1.35.5 bug fixes and improvements
- Implemented several usability improvements in the instructor-facing course accessibility report.
- Fixed a bug in the Ally for Websites crawler that prevented certain `robots.txt` files from being parsed correctly.
Ally 1.35.4 | Release to production 21 October 2019
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 1.35.3 | Release to production 4 October 2019
Ally 1.35.3 bug fixes and improvements
- Fixed a bug that caused the institutional report and course accessibility report to not load in IE11
- Fixed a bug in the Blackboard Learn Ultra integration that caused a link to an Ultra document in the course accessibility report to redirect to the original course view instead of the Ultra course view
- Improved the accessibility of the severity icons in the course accessibility report
Ally 1.35.2 | Release to production 26 September 2019
Ally 1.35.2 bug fixes and improvements
- Improved the Canvas integration to better support linked files in WYSIWYG content that was originally created in a different LMS
- Implemented support for tables embedded in tables as part of the document preview and highlighting feature in the instructor feedback
- Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration that prevented the alternative formats and instructor feedback from showing for linked files in the Syllabus tool
Ally 1.35.1 | Release to production 19 September 2019
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 1.35 | Release to production 5 September 2019
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 1.34.2 | Release to production 23 August 2019
Course accessibility report
Fixed a bug in the course accessibility report that ensures that instructors aren’t able to access the report in courses for which Ally has been disabled through the Ally Configuration UI.
Ally 1.34.2 bug fixes and improvements
- Re-introduced Alternative Formats in the content menu in the Content Collection page for the Blackboard Learn integration. Note that this option is only available for content that’s attached in the course and visible to students.
Ally 1.34.1 | Release to production 22 August 2019
D2L Brightspace student count
Ally 1.34.1 fixes a bug in the D2L Brightspace integration that caused the student count for a course to always be “0” in the institutional report. This fix does require an additional permission for the Blackboard Ally REST role though.
The following steps should be followed to configure this:
- Go to Security and Roles and Permissions in the administrator menu.
- Add the following extra permissions under Users to the Blackboard Ally REST role:
- View User Enrollments
- Search For Student
If your institution uses a different / custom role for students, select “Search For ” instead.
Ally will only ever retrieve the student count, and not any individual enrollments or individual student information.
Ally 1.34.1 bug fixes & improvements
- Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration that caused the alternative format download icon to not be visible for files in the Announcements and Discussions tools.
Ally 1.34 | Release to production 10 August 2019
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 1.33.3 | Release to production 4 August 2019
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 1.33.2 | Release to production 24 July 2019
Ally 1.33.2 bug fixes and improvements
- Fixed a bug in the Blackboard Learn integration that caused the more prominent alternative formats icon to not be available to students on certain file attachments.
- Implemented a range of accessibility improvements in the alternative formats modal dialog.
Ally 1.33.1 | Release to production 15 July 2019
Ally 1.33.1 bug fixes and improvements
- The alternative format and instructor feedback usage tracking now also contains information about the role of the user (student, instructor or administrator)
Ally 1.33 | Release to production 2 July 2019
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- D2L BrightSpace: The Alternative Formats icon is available as a single click from the Table of Contents and the individual content pages.
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
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
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 1.30.1 | Release to production 22 May 2019
Ally 1.30.1 bug fixes and improvements
- Fixed a bug that caused special characters to not be pronounced correctly in the Audio alternative format.
- Fixed a bug that caused the Audio alternative format for certain Norwegian Bokmål documents to be generated in English.
- Improved the handling of unexpected REST API and institutional load balancer responses.
Ally 1.30 | Release to production 18 May 2019
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.
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
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 1.29.1 | Release to production 16 April 2019
- Fixed a bug that prevented the ePub alternative format from generating correctly for HTML files using UTF-16 LE encoding.
- Implemented several stability improvements in the Ally for Websites crawler.
- Ally accessibility indicators are now easier to click on mobile devices.
- Improved the HTML alternative format to beautify the HTML code output, like line breaks and indentation, making it easier to manually alter the generated alternative format.
Ally 1.29 | Release to production 11 April 2019
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
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
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.
Ally 1.27.1 | Release to production 10 March 2019
Ally 1.27.1 bug fixes and improvements
- Introduced a more descriptive name for the currently selected accessibility issue in the help request emails.
- Improved performance of the YouTube video caption accessibility check.
Ally integration available for the Ultra Course View
Starting with this release, Blackboard Ally integrates with the Ultra Course View. Ally provides detailed accessibility reports for content uploaded to Blackboard Learn. The integration is available to institutions who license Ally.
In the Ultra Course View, instructors have access to Ally’s accessibility scores and feedback, including tutorials on how to make common file types more accessible to learners of all abilities. Students can view and download course content in alternative accessible formats.
In a future release, we’ll show the file’s accessibility score on the Course Content page so instructors can quickly prioritize items to edit.