One of the biggest and most unacceptable problems that face students with disabilities is the lack of access to digital course content. All colleges and universities now require some form of participation on a digital platform. The amount of work that a student must perform on these digital platforms varies from school to school, and professor to professor. In some classes, a student might have to access the course syllabus, assignments, worksheets, downloads, and they might even have to submit course work and consult online with their professors using these digital platforms. It is shocking how many students with disabilities have been denied access to a proper education on account of these platforms not being accessible.
Blackboard, one of the larger providers of digital content in higher education, is finally tackling this issue. They have developed a program called, Blackboard Ally, which takes digital content and makes it accessible within minutes. Students no longer must go through the long and often fruitless process of trying to get their professor to make their material accessible to a student with a special need. The software also generates a report that informs the professor and the school of what changes need to be made to content so that it will be accessible in the future.
From the Developer
Traditionally the conversation around accessibility stopped at platforms without a solution for tackling the content that lived within those systems. Today with Blackboard Ally, we can offer a solution that automatically checks course content for accessibility issues and uses this information to focus on these key areas of support:
• Alternative Accessible Versions – Blackboard AllyTM automatically generates alternative accessible versions for course content and makes these available to all users within the course within minutes.
• Instructor feedback – Blackboard AllyTM provides the instructor with feedback about the accessibility of their course content and guidance on how to fix accessibility issues that arise.
• Institutional Reporting – Blackboard AllyTM provides an institution wide course content accessibility report that allows for deeper insight and understanding into how the institution is performing or evolving.
With Blackboard AllyTM, we have a team of people focused on improving access to content everywhere, not just here at Blackboard. The Ally team is dedicated to ensuring every student has access to content in formats that work best for them without having to wait days or even weeks for alternatives to be made available. The comprehensive toolset within Blackboard AllyTM is a key step in the journey towards a changing mindset around digital course content.