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Ally for Canvas

What is Ally?

Ally is a tool that will help you to make digital learning content more accessible for students and is now fully integrated into Canvas. This is an exciting development as it will help your students get the most from their course resources, and help you make your Canvas course inclusive for all.
Many schools and colleagues have engaged in accessibility workshops over the last couple of years which has led to noticeable improvements in the accessibility of learning materials. Making Ally available to help identify common accessibility issues, and to develop support materials to further support colleagues, will build on this good practice and is one part of our approach to meeting the University's commitment to providing inclusive and accessible education opportunities for all students.


Ally in Canvas

Ally is an external tool integrated into Canvas that automatically checks course materials against WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards, and provides feedback on the accessibility of the content. It's important to note that it doesn't pass judgement on the quality of your course content, it's checking how well the content meets accessibility standards.  

In addition, a course report can be run to provide useful feedback on the accessibility of content across the entire module, giving you a really useful quick-glance at what issues need addressing.

Ally measures the accessibility of each file attached to your course and shows you at-a-glance how it scores. Scores range from Low to Perfect. The higher the score the fewer the issues. As well as identifying the issues, it tells you about why it is an issue, and how to fix it, even giving you space to upload a corrected version right on the page, which replaces the existing file.

Alternative Formats

A beneficial feature is that it also enables students to download accessible alternative formats of published module materials, without the need to create and upload these ourselves. These formats are made available with the original file, so students can find everything in one convenient location.

While the alternative formats are created for you, you can, if you want, disable alternative formats for any individual content item for whatever reason (a good example being translated versions of texts on foreign language courses).

Alternative formats made available by Ally are:

  • Tagged PDF;
  • HTML;
  • e-Pub;
  • Electronic braille;
  • Audio (text-to-speech conversion);
  • BeeLine Reader;

Course Accessibility Report

Note: Course here is the Canvas terminology - a Newcastle 'module'.

The course accessibility report acts as a complement to the existing accessibility indicators. It provides an accessibility summary and overview at the course level. 

The report shows instructors this useful information: 

  • Accessibility score for the course 
  • Distribution of course content by content type 
  • List of all issues identified in the course 

Instructors see their course content items that have issues. Instructors can then access the instructor feedback from the report to fix the issue. 

The report helps instructors determine priority, and gives options for order of fixing. For example, content with most severe issues first, or start with content that's easiest to fix. 

See our guide on Ally Analytics.

A Baseline Score for Canvas Courses

There is no baseline score for each course as any accessibility issues must be looked at in context.

Colleagues can use the course reports and individual content indicators to build up a picture of the accessibility of their course content and in many cases a few simple steps (such as using alt-text for images) can have a really big impact on the accessibility score.


Support and additional guidance

The toolkit provides further information about instructor feedback, an accessibility checklist, and takes you through some accessibility scenarios.

The online course provides you with the core skills and techniques for embedding accessibility into your teaching and learning practice.

The course includes information about Ally and other accessibility tools available at the University.

Ally Analytics guide provides information on Ally reports and accessibility scores.