LTSE Online Teaching Tools Accessibility in LearnJCU

Accessibility in LearnJCU

Inclusive design with Blackboard (Bb) Ally

Bb Ally is a new tool available (2021) in LearnJCU that contributes to making subject content inclusive and flexible.

  • For students, it provides flexible learning options by enabling alternative formats on digital learning materials.
  • For lecturers, it provides accessibility scores against files and advice on how to improve those scores.

Bb Ally checks subject materials against WCAG 2.1 accessibility standards.

How to work with Bb Ally

Accessibility scoring works on the following file types that are uploaded to your LearnJCU subject site:

  • PDFs
  • MS Word
  • MS Powerpoint
  • HTML files (not links)
  • Images (JPG, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BPM, TIFF)
  • Ultra documents
  • Tests

Accessibility indicator from subject content
Image: Accessibility indicator from subject content

Please note: Students do not see the accessibility indicator, it is only available on the teaching side.


The common types of accessibility issues include:

  • contrast issues
  • missing alternative text
  • untagged PDFs
  • images without descriptions
  • missing titles
  • tables missing headings
  • missing language set

When clicking on the indicator you are shown an accessibility score gauge and provided with guidance on improving the score (note: students do not see this).

Scored files give a measure of overall accessibility.

Each issue has an indication of its impact and by clicking on the 'how to guide' you can roughly estimate the time it will take to fix the issue.  Use this information to prioritise your time and improve the accessibility of your files.

Bb Ally guidance on improving accessibility
Image: Bb Ally guidance on improving accessibility


Engage with your subject Bb Ally report to identify the main areas to prioritise your efforts.

You can access your subject report via the 'Books and Tools' tab in your subject site.  The course level report will provide you with an 'at-a-glance' impression and highlights the content that is easiest to fix and content that has the most significant accessibility issues.

Sample course accessibility report
Image: Sample course accessibility report


There are four accessibility indicators. These range from low to perfect.

Accessibility indicators
Image: Accessibility indicators

  • Low (0-33%): Needs help.  There are severe accessibility issues.

  • Medium (34-66%): A little better. The file is somewhat accessible and needs improvement.

  • High (67-99%): Almost there. The file is accessible but more improvements are possible.

  • Perfect (100%): Perfect.  Ally didn't identify any accessibility issues but further improvements may still be possible.

Students can access the alternative formats by clicking the 'alternative formats' indicator next to the file.  Students can also access alternative formats for Ultra Document pages (this is a new feature released on 27.10.20).

Student access to alternative content types for files
Image: Student access to alternative content types for files

Student access to alternative content types for Ultra document pages
Image: Student access to alternative content types for Ultra Document pages


The file can be converted into five (5) different formats:

  • HTML
    For viewing in the browser and on mobile device

  • 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
    Enhanced version for easier and faster on-screen reading


Try the BeeLine Reader

One of the Alternative Formats is BeeLine Reader, which we have found particularly useful. Give it a go.

BeeLine reader adds colour gradients, different font sizes and letter spacing to digital text to improve reading ability and focus.

Go to Beelinereader.com and select one of the apps, extensions, or converter options (e.g. Chrome).  Add the extension to your chosen browser.  Open a web page, click on the BeeLine extension and give it a go!→ Student experience of Alternative Formats

Any text or audio-visual material that was not created specifically for the subject should be placed into the Readings list. The system includes copyright management functions to manage the University’s use of third party materials.

Scanned PDFs uploaded directly to LearnJCU subject sites will likely be inaccessible for students.  An Optical Character Recognition (OCR) conversion is necessary in making scanned PDFs accessible for students.

If you want students to access a scanned document (e.g. a page from a text book), please ensure you upload this to the Readings portal and request digitisation from the Library team.

Video screencasts

Feel free to contact frances.cochrane1@jcu.edu.au if you have any questions about Bb Ally.

Accessibility of equations

Blackboard Ally may not convert text-based mathematics equations or chemical diagrams to alternative formats accurately.  The file may receive an Ally Accessibility Indicator score of green or 100%, however not all alternative formats may be accessible for students. As the alternative formats are machine-generated, the accuracy of the conversions may be compromised.

If you are using equations, please inform your students about this issue and advise students to access the original file. Blackboard are aware of this limitation and are working towards remediation.

Blackboard recommend producing mathematical equations in MathML in MS Word and use HTML as a delivery instead of files.  Avoid PDFs containing mathematical equations.  There is essentially no way for assistive technology to read mathematical equations within a PDF because PDFs do not currently support MathML.

For more detailed information, the University of York have developed a document on how to make equations more accessible.

If you are accessing alternative file formats for files that contain text-based mathematical equations or chemical diagrams, the alternative formats may be inaccessible or inaccurate.  This is a known issue and we are working with Blackboard to improve this accessibility.  Please ensure you access the original files and follow up with your subject coordinator if you require assistance with accessing the content in these type of files.