As we approach the end of our second week of the Canvas blog-a-thon, we have covered a fair few topics to get you set up and started in Canvas (and more still to follow):

So today, we want to take you through Blackboard Ally. This creates an accessibility report which you can run within your Canvas module and it gives a readout of how accessible everything is within the module. It looks at almost all content as a whole, i.e., pages, uploads, hyperlinks, etc.

Not only that, it tells you the content that could be improved and advice on how to improve it based on accessibility guidelines. Magic!

What does it not cover?

Third party Apps and embedded content such as videos living on video hosting platforms. Be mindful to supply subtitles/captions for video content. Also, remember to add what is/isn’t covered in your modules Accessibility Statement.

How do I run the Blackboard Ally Accessibility Report?

Simply look at your module navigation on the left hand side and select Accessibility Report (as seen below):

Canvas - Blackboard Ally Accessibility Report
Canvas – Blackboard Ally Accessibility Report

When this is selected, you see the accessibility score for the module. Here, you can see the score in this module is 76%. There’s a further breakdown of the report as can be seen in the pie/donut graphic. There’s 75 Canvas pages, 62 PDF documents, 62 presentations, 56 announcements, etc. (as can be seen below):

Canvas - Blackboard Ally Course Accessibility Score and breakdown
Canvas – Blackboard Ally Course Accessibility Score and breakdown

On the right hand side of the report, you can see there’s 76 easy issues which can be fixed and 36 items with low scoring content. Room for improvement.

When we click Start on the 76 items, everything is listed (as shown below):

Canvas - Blackboard Ally (Content with the easiest issues to fix)
Canvas – Blackboard Ally (Content with the easiest issues to fix)

As we can see, the example above has images (JPGs) and PowerPoints (PPTX). It will also list Word (Doc/Docx), PDFs and other file types within the Canvas File Storage area. You can see the JPG (no 1) has 1 issue and a score of 25%. Most likely, the image is missing ALT Text and this can be added in.

When issues are fixed, they reduce or fall off Blackboard Ally and the accessibility score will improve.

PDFs show up as ‘untagged’, what does that mean?

Simply, it’s documents or slides where Formatting Styles or Title boxes have not been used. These are considered unstructured documents and therefore untagged. Keep reading.

How do I fix my PPTX files?

Currently there is no facility for PowerPoints to be updated inside of Canvas. The file needs downloaded and run through the PowerPoint Accessibility Checker and tided up. Then re-upload them to the module. This will improve the accessibility score.

PowerPoint inaccessible content

The PPTX (no 2 from the Blackboard Ally Accessibility Tool) has 4 issues and is only 30% accessible. When we click the PPTX, we get a preview of the 4 issues by clicking All Issues (as seen below):

Canvas – Blackboard Ally issues

Here, we can see the PowerPoint does not have tagged headings. The author of this content has potentially not used title content holders or they have formatted headings using font size, bold, italic and/or underline. This is not good practice. When slides are saved to PDF format, it will result in an untagged PDF. Users of screen readers will need to go through content in a linear method to hear all the content. They can’t just listen to titles and the slides they want to. It’s not a time saver or user-friendly.

There does seem to be many visual items within this PPTX file and ALT Text descriptions are missing. Users of screen readers are left with gaps in their knowledge regards the visual content. They can’t see it and they don’t have a description of what the content is either. This is not good practice.

Tables are contained in some of the slides but table headers are missing and there’s issues with text/background contrast. For people with dyslexia, visual and/or colour impairments, contrast issues are failing them. It can be hard to read text with poor contrast.

How do I fix my Word files?

Currently there is no facility for Word to be updated inside of Canvas. The file needs downloaded and run through the Word Accessibility Checker and tided up. Then re-upload them to the module. This will improve the accessibility score.

MS Word inaccessible content

In this example, Blackboard Ally has raised an issue with a word document (as seen below):

Canvas - Blackboard Ally issues
Canvas – Blackboard Ally issues

In this instance, the author of this document has not considered Formatting Styles. All text is seen as body text. For users of screen readers, this means the content is linear and will require users to go through it all to find the relevant bit(s) and there’s no guarantee the content is useful.

Use Formatting Styles. Highlight headings and apply Heading 1. Make subheadings Heading 2 or Heading 3. These Formatting Styles can be modified to better suit your design and it structures the document whilst improving navigation.

The bottom line is; through using Formatting Styles, we’re tagging content. Screen readers will pick up Heading 1 / 2 / 3 or body text (paragraph). It also allows users of screen readers to ‘view’ the headings / subheadings and it provides a method of navigation within the document. It’s no longer linear, it’s structured / indexed. There’s an added benefit of saving time for screen reader users when it comes to learning or revising content.

Also, when the Word document is saved as a PDF, it’s then a tagged PDF. Searchable and navigable in a non-linear way.

Do click Accessibility Report. Also view your modules score and see what you can improve. It’s a good time of the year to review content ahead of the next teaching cycle. Accessibility is legislation. It’s not a ‘nice to do’, it’s a ‘must do’ and if we all take responsibility for the content we create, we improve the student experience. It’s inclusive and everyone has an equal opportunity in their learning.

Queen’s staff can view this Blackboard Ally training.

Next time

On Monday, we look at File Structure within Canvas. It’s good to be organised and there will be content uploaded which relates to teaching, assessment, activities, etc., we’ll consider this on Monday.

Please do join us then to learn more and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @MDBSelearn.


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