Release Notes for Ally - 2017

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 1.11.4 | Release to production 14 December, 2017

Updated Features, LMS Integrations

OCRd documents

The reporting for scanned and OCRd documents has been improved. The institutional report now lists both the scanned documents that have been OCRd, and the scanned documents that have not been OCRd.

Note that the institutional reports are currently being reprocessed to reflect these changes, and it may take up to 24 hours for this to be available in your institutional report.

Bug fixes

  • Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration that would cause the alternative formats to be available for locked content items.
  • Improved the positioning of the accessibility indicators for Blackboard Learn 9.1 Q2 2017 CU4 and above. The accessibility indicator positioning has also been improved in text-only mode for all Learn releases.

Ally 1.11.3 | Release to production 7 December, 2017

Updated Features, LMS Integrations

Improved list recognition

Several improvements have been made to how list are recognized and converted in the alternative formats, especially for lists created in Word or Powerpoint.

Bug fixes

  • Fixed a bug that prevented alternative descriptions for images from being present in the audio alternative format.
  • Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration that would cause the instructor feedback indicator to show up in certain scenarios for courses that don’t have Ally enabled.
  • Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration that would cause some jumping of the interface when hovering over an accessibility indicator.
  • Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration that would cause the Canvas content preview icon to disappear in Pages.

Ally 1.11.2 | Release to production 27 November 2017

Updated Features, Blackboard Learn Integration

Blackboard Learn Lesson Modules

A bug was fixed in the Blackboard Learn integration that caused the Ally instructor feedback indicators to not be available in the Lesson Modules.

Ally 1.11.1 | Release to production 21 November, 2017

Updated Features, LMS Integrations

Instructor feedback indicators

The instructor feedback indicators now show a tooltip with a summary of the item’s accessibility score. An additional “perfect” indicator has also been introduced, which is used when the item’s accessibility score is 100 percent. These improvements are aimed at increasing instructor engagement with the indicators and making them more obvious.

Canadian French

Ally is now also available in Canadian French. Availability includes the Ally interface, as well as the alternative formats (including the audio format).

OCR documents

OCRd documents are no longer marked as just scanned. Instead, the document will be flagged as OCRd and additional instructor feedback will be shown. The accessibility score of OCRd documents will be discounted by roughly 33 percent, as OCRd documents can still be difficult to read.

Improved scanned document recognition

Several improvements have been made to the recognition of scanned documents, including those with narrow or uncommon margins.

Moodle theme support

A number of improvements have been made to allow Ally to support a larger amount of Moodle themes, including the “express” theme.

Bug fixes

  • There was a bug that caused the institutional report to not always reflect alternative text that was provided for images through the instructor feedback. This issue has now been resolved, and the institutional report should be showing the up-to-date scores.
  • Fixed a bug where downloading a content item from the institutional report would cause the item to be downloaded inside of the institutional report frame, making it difficult to get back to the report. The content item will now always download in a different tab/window.
  • Fixed a bug in the Moodle integration where Ally wasn't be able to process content items uploaded by users that are no longer in the system.
  • Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration where images wrapped in a link to a different content item would not be displayed. The image will now be shown, and there will be an accessibility indicator for both the image and the linked content item.

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 1.10.2 | Release to production 5 October, 2017

Updated Features

HTML accessibility checks

The speed at which Ally can check for accessibility issues in HTML content has been significantly improved, resulting in faster scoring for HTML files.

Improved file processor

Several improvements have been made to the file processor to reduce the number of files that can’t be processed successfully.

Bug fixes

  • Seizure inducing images are now also shielded in the Ally mobile view.
  • We fixed an issue that caused the columns in the Canvas files tool to be slightly misaligned.
  • Items added as an “Image” type within Learn no longer have a redundant second accessibility indicator.

Ally 1.10.1 | Release to production 26 September, 2017

Updated Features

Course CSV Export

Next to the existing CSV export capabilities in the institutional report, you can now export the data for an individual course as a CSV file.

This CSV export contains an entry for each content item in the course, including:

  • Item name
  • Item type
  • Accessibility score
  • Identified accessibility issues and score breakdown

Custom heading styles

The Ally accessibility checklist has been updated to also recognize custom heading styles as valid headings in Microsoft Word documents.

Accessibility indicator improvements

The Blackboard Learn 9.1 integration has been expanded to show accessibility indicators for images in a number of additional areas, including when embedded inside of the content editor.

We currently expect all images that don’t have alternative text set directly through the LMS to have an accessibility indicator.

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 1.9.2 | Release to production 9 September, 2017

Updated Features

Tagged PDF Parsing

Several improvements have been made to Ally’s handling of tagged PDFs, especially those tagged through Adobe Acrobat Professional.

Institutional Report CSV Export

A bug was fixed that would occasionally cause the institutional report CSV export to fail, especially for institutions with lots of content.

Alternative Format Downloads

A bug has been fixed that would occasionally cause the alternative formats to be incorrectly downloaded on Firefox.

Ally 1.9.1 | Release to production 7 September, 2017

Updated Features

Audio Format Accents

The audio alternative format now uses the most appropriate accent based on the location of the Ally deployment. For example, a user in North America would receive a North American English accent, a user in Europe would receive a British English accent and a user in Australia would receive an Australian English accent for an English document.

Bug Fixes

  • Fixed an issue where the accessibility indicator would be displayed in Canvas when the instructor feedback was disabled for that course.
  • Ensure that the accessibility score for a document is consistently rounded to prevent indicator inconsistencies.

Ally 1.9 | Release to production 29 August 2017

Updated Features

Improved audio generation

The audio alternative format has been significantly improved. Items such as headings, lists and tables are now read in a more consistent and structured way.

Deleted files in institution report

Files that are deleted from courses are no longer displayed in the institutional report, making it easier to get an up-to-date overview of every course.

Localized deployments

The Ally deployments that reside outside of North America now also utilize non-US servers for 3rd party services that Ally relies on. This means that local deployments do not rely on US servers for any Ally functionality.

Bug Fixes

  • In Blackboard Learn, the instructor feedback icon is now displayed in the correct position for items with multiple attachments.
  • The accessible versions download option in Blackboard Open LMS is now localized.

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 1.6 | Release to production 29 June, 2017

Updated Features

Spanish language support

Ally now has full support for Spanish across all Learning Management System integrations.

Improved mobile support

Viewing the Semantic HTML format of a document on a mobile device has been improved. The experience for the audio format has also been improved. On mobile devices, the audio will now play in the browser, with the ability to download the MP3 file.

Alternative Accessible Formats

The average file size for generated Alternative Accessible Formats has been significantly reduced. This especially benefits documents that contain images.

Documents without a language

Several improvements have been made to Ally's detection of documents without a language, especially for Word (.docx) and Powerpoint (.pptx) files.

Bug fixes and improvements

  • Fixed a bug in the Canvas Modules tool where all accessibility indicators would be updated to the same state when improving a single item.
  • Fixed a parsing issue that was causing occasional failures while generating an audio format.
  • Various wording improvements were made in the Instructor Feedback workflows.
  • The name under which an Alternative Accessible Format is downloaded is now the same as the original file name.

Ally 1.5.0 | Release to production 17 June, 2017

Updated Features

Audio alternative version

The generation of the audio alternative accessible version was previously limited to 20,000 characters. This has now been increased to 100,000 characters.

We are working on further improvements to split up the audio alternative format into chapters, allowing us to accommodate any document size.

Institutional report enhancements

The institutional report now benefits from many behind-the-scenes technical improvements, including updating the report every 15 minutes.

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 1.3.1 | Release to production 26 May, 2017

Blackboard Learn Integration, Updated Features

Blackboard Learn support for Content Editor files

Ally is updated to support files attached in the Content Editor within Blackboard Learn. Presently this support is limited to certain content types such as “Item.” Instructors will see accessibility scores for these attachments, students can download more accessible alternative versions of those files, and administrators will be able to report on the collective accessibility of these additional files.

Institutional Report improvements

Courses that don't belong to a specific term are now included in the Institutional Report. They are available under a new Other courses option.

Bug Fixes

  • Fixed a bug where Ally would cause certain tools to be printed as an empty page in Canvas

Ally 1.3.0 | Release to production 16 May, 2017

Updated Features

Images in Alternative Formats

The Semantic HTML and ePub alternative accessible formats generated by Ally now include all extracted images and figures from the original document.

Bug fixes

  • Prevent the Syllabus page in Canvas from showing the accessibility indicator multiple times for the same content item.
  • Fixed an issue where the Grades tool in Canvas would sometimes not load correctly in Safari.

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.


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.