Ally is a product for accessibility that is currently in the pilot stage at the University of Illinois (UIC). The pilot started in fall 2019 and included instructional designers from all colleges with one and certain faculty to test it out. The Ally system checks materials that are uploaded to Blackboard to ensure that they are accessible to all people. It uses machine learning algorithms to check uploaded documents and makes suggestions for how to improve them.
Here is an example of what instructors and instructional designers would see if this is fully implemented after the pilot period.
The odometer to the left of each item reflects the level of accessibility. Green means a document is accessible, while orange and red mean it is not accessible.
In this example, Ally tells us that the PowerPoint slide deck that was uploaded is missing descriptions for many images in the deck. The red box around the image helps the instructor or instructional designer to take action and provide a description.
The challenge once we implement it, is to figure out how workflows will need to change in order to ensure our materials are accessible. It will require faculty development as well as working closely with coordinators, as they are usually the ones uploading documents.
As of fall term 2020, the large-scale implementation is on hold at the University of Illinois at Chicago.