Online Courses - Blackboard and Ally

​​Universal Design refers to broad-spectrum ideas meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to older people, people without disabilities, and people with disabilities. 7 Principles of UD

  • Include a welcoming access statement.
  • Be flexible and provide alternatives.
  • Provide simple, consistent navigation.
  • Choose communication and testing tools carefully.
  • Use color with care.
  • Make sure text is readable and high contrast.
  • Provide accessible document formats.
  • Describe graphics and visual elements with text.
  • Caption videos and transcribe audio clips.
  • Rethink, redesign PowerPoint presentations.
  • Use descriptive links rather than “Click Here”

Blackboard Menu

  • Use the default menu provided for you in Blackboard.
  • Do not alter the menu color, font or style.
  • Do not add or remove items from the menu.
  • Consistent, simple navigation is a key part of ADA compliance.


ReadSpeaker allows the text on the page to be read out loud to you.

  1. The Read Speaker icon appears in the bottom left hand corner of your window when logged in to Blackboard.
  2. ​Click on the ReadSpeaker icon for instructions or click Listen to get started.​

Screenshot showing a red arrow indicating the location of the ReadSpeaker icon.

Ally (Blackboard’s ADA Compliance Tool)

Ally is a tool within Blackboard that provides the instructor with feedback about the accessibility of their course content and guidance on how to fix accessibility issues that arise.

Alternative Accessible Versions:  

Blackboard Ally automatically generates alternative accessible versions for course content and makes these available to all users(instructors AND students) within the course within minutes.

1. Click on the drop down menu next to any document and choose Alternative formats. (Note: Students only see the Alternative formats option.)

Instructor view of accessing alternative formats

Instructor View of Accessing Alternatve Formats

Student view of accessing alternative formats

Student View of accessing alternative formats

2. From the options provided, choose any or all formats.

Alternative Formats to Choose From

Text version of the list of format options

Tagged PDF: Structural PDF for improved use with assistive technology

HTML: For viewing in the browser and on mobile devices

ePub: For reading as an e-book on an iPad and other e-book readers

Electronic braille: BRF version for consumption on electronic braille displays

Audio: MP3 version for listening



What is an alt tag/alt text/alternative description?
Alt tags, or alt text, is the descriptive data included with website images. Alt tags provide a clear text alternative of the image for screen reader users.  It makes it easier to connect the image to its context and allows students with visual impairments to perceive the image. Descriptions should be brief and convey the full meaning of the image. They should not be the same as the file name as this is often not descriptive enough.

Blackboard Ally will indicate when an image in your course is missing a description and provide the tool to fix it.

1. Click on the red Blackboard Ally indicator to improve its accessibility score.

Example of a Blackboard Ally indicator:

Example of a Blackboard Ally indicator - Bicycle. Accessibility score: Low Click to Improve 

2. Add an alternative description for the image.

Screenshot of Blackboard Ally's tool to add alternative description to images:

 Accessibility score for bike.jpeg 25% This image is missing an alternative description. What this means button. How to write a good description button.

Tips for writing good alt tags for images

  • Describe the image as specifically as possible. Alt text is, first and foremost, designed to provide text explanations of images for users who are unable to see them.
  • Keep it (relatively) short. The most popular screen readers cut off alt text at around 125 characters, so it's advisable to keep it to that character count or less.
  • Don't include "image of," "picture of," etc. in your alt text. It's already assumed your alt text is referring to an image, so there's no need to specify it.   
  • Examples of good alt tags

Blackboard Ally provides indicators to alert instructors to documents within their courses that may have accessibility issues.

1. Click on the red or orange Blackboard Ally indicator to improve its accessibility score.

Example of red and orange Blackboard Ally indicators:

Image of screen that shows a red, green and yellow indiactor next to each item listed 

2.  The Blackboard Ally window that appears will describe what needs to be fixed in the document. Changes to the document must be made outside of Blackboard, but can be easily re-uploaded using the Ally tool.

Screenshot of Blackboard Ally’s tool to fix documents with accessibility issues:

Accessibility score for: 5th Introduction to Business Homework Assignment Ch 12 Spring 16.docx. Indicator shows 32%. This document contains images that are missing an alternative description. What this means button. How to add descriptions button. Drop file to upload or Browse button.