Collaborate Closed Captioning

Blackboard Collaborate does not currently have the automatic closed captioning feature, however, there is the opportunity to make an attendee a captioner. Captioners type what is being said during a session. Other attendees can view what is being typed in real time. You can have multiple captioners for multiple languages. More on live closed captioning.

Google Chrome can also provide users with automatic captions of videos that they watch, including Blackboard Collaborate sessions, however, they do not caption you as the user (your own speech is not detected, only incoming audio speech).  Google provide instructions on how to turn automatic captions on within their Chrome Help site.

What is Blackboard Ally?

Blackboard Ally (or simply just ‘Ally’) is a tool which allows you to download alternative formats for common documents to make learning resources more accessible. Files uploaded to Blackboard are automatically given an Ally icon (looks like an ‘A’ with an arrow next to it) to the right of the file name, clicking on this opens the option to download the following different formats:

  • Tagged PDF – structured 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
  • BeeLine Reader – making reading on screen easier and faster with colour gradients

On Blackboard courses where you are an Instructor, you will also see an indicator to the left of the file name which shows how accessible the document is, and clicking on this makes suggestions for how to improve the document for all users. Students do not see these indicators in their view.

screen image showing how the Ally tool displays to instructors against content uploaded to Blackboard

Digital Accessibility

What is Digital Accessibility?

“Digital accessibility is the ability of a website, mobile application or electronic document to be easily navigated and understood by a wide range of users, including those users who have visual, auditory, motor or cognitive disabilities”

Source: https://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/digital-accessibility

Why is Accessibility Important?

1 in 5 people in the UK have a disability – this could be visual, hearing, motor or cognitive (affecting memory and thinking).
All users will have different needs at different times and in different circumstances e.g. location, health, equipment.

Key Principles

  • PERCEIVABLE e.g: text alternative, closed captions
  • OPERABLE e.g: Keyboard accessible
  • UNDERSTANDABLE e.g: Text should be organised with headings
  • ROBUST e.g: that works with assistive technology

Quick Start Accessibility Checklist

  • Blackboard Consistency – Don’t be tempted to change the menu.
    All module Blackboards built on the ‘standardised’ template have a link to Productivity tools, this link will guide staff and students to the range of productivity software packages on University PCs and also for the use at home.
  • Blackboard accessibility options.
    Within the Blackboard Global Navigation menu under settings there is guidance for changing Text size and High Contrast.
  • Materials should be available at least 48 hours in advance.
    Providing module information in advance helps all students understand what is expected of them, especially students with cognitive impairments and it allows all students to plan.
  • Meaningful file and folder names which include descriptions.
    This is helpful to all students not just those students using screen reading software.
  • Use of colour.
    Use colours that have correct contrast, i.e. dark text on light background, and avoid using patterned backgrounds.  Avoid yellow-blue or red-green combinations or using font colour alone to convey meaning.
  • Alt text for images.
    Include alternative text for any images, pictures or graphs that are essential to the learning .  Try to keep the description short but meaningful.
  • Avoid using underlined text.
    Do not use underline to emphasise words as this is indicative of a weblink on line.

Blackboard Ally Course Accessibility Report

As a complement to the indicator icon Ally provides a course accessibility report which includes Overview and Content tabs.  These provide either an overall picture as well as specific details about the accessibility of your digital course content.

Overview –shows the accessibility score for the course, course content grouped by content type, and a list of all issues identified in the course.

Screen image of the accessibility overview page

Content – shows you the content with accessibility issues.

Screen image showing the 'Content' displayed when the Ally report is generated and the Content tab is selected.

Choose what to fix first

The report can be used to help you decide what to fix first.  For example, content with most severe issues first or start with content that is easiest to fix.

Screen image showing the 'what to choose first to fix' boxes that are displayed when the Ally report is generated.

Remaining Issues

Issues are listed in order of priority from severe to minor.  Those at the top of the list should be addressed first.  Ally looks at the number of students impacted, how often the issue occurs, and the accessibility score to determine the priority.

  • Severe: These issues are the greatest risk to accessibility and require the most attention.
  • Major These issues impact accessibility, and while not severe, require attention.
  • Minor: These issues should be considered for a better accessibility score.

Viewing your Module Accessibility Report

Every Blackboard course has an ‘Accessbility Report’ available in the Control Panel > Course Tools area of its menu. Clicking on the link will open the report where you can see a wider picture of the course content, make accessibility fixes, and narrow by severity. More information about using the Ally Accessibility Report.

Blackboard Ally Indicators

For instructors Ally provides a small coloured icon next to any uploaded content giving an indication of how accessible it is.

Students do NOT see this indicator icon.

screen image showing how the Ally tool displays to instructors against content uploaded to Blackboard
Screen image of the Blackboard Ally meter icon representing the different levels of accessibility.

Selecting the indicator icon provides feedback followed by step-by-step instructions on how the uploaded resource can be improved to make them more accessible.

Screenimage of the feedback and step-by-step instructions given by Ally.

This option is also available on the text editor when creating an item in a Blackboard module. See Accessibility in the Text Editor using Ally.

The Ally Indicator for the standard text editor, highlighted to the top right of the editor when creating content.

Blackboard Ally Alternative Formats

Blackboard has a new feature which will help your students get the most from their course resources, and help you make your Blackboard space inclusive for all.

Blackboard Ally automatically converts course resources into a variety of formats, from HTML and e-book for reading on mobile devices, to Electronic Braille for the visually impaired, and audio for learning on the go.

Files uploaded to Blackboard are automatically given an Ally icon (looks like an ‘A’ with an arrow next to it) to the right of the file name, clicking on this opens the option to download the following different formats:

Screen image of the Blackboard Ally alternative formats options.

Blackboard Ally

Blackboard Ally banner

Blackboard Ally (or simply just ‘Ally’) is a tool which allows you to download alternative formats for common documents to make learning resources more accessible. Files uploaded to Blackboard* are automatically given an Ally icon (looks like an ‘A‘ with an arrow next to it) to the right of the file name, clicking on this opens the alternative format download options.

* currently available in 2021-22, 2020-21 and 2019-20 Blackboard courses, for items created using the in-built text editor and for files uploaded as PDF, Word, PowerPoint, OpenOffice/LibreOffice, and HTML.

The Public sector bodies (websites and mobile applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018