Getting Started with Ally for Instructors

Table of contents

Ally overview and features

Ally is an ELMS-Canvas tool designed to improve usability and accessibility for teaching and learning that is available in all ELMS-Canvas courses at the University of Maryland. Ally automatically scans original content and performs several steps to make it more accessible. Ally provides accessibility features for both students and instructors. For more information, see the Introduction to Ally video.


Ally feature for students

Alternative formats for documents

This feature is automatically enabled in all courses, and there is nothing you need to do to make it available for your students. Students simply select the Download Alternative Formats icon wherever they see it to download the content in a different, more accessible format. 

Providing students with more accessible original content means they can choose the formats that work best for them, such as HTML for improved reading on mobile phones, electronic Braille for those who are blind or visually impaired, or audio for learning on the go. Learn more about Alternative Formats for Students.

Ally creates alternative formats of the original content you add to your course, such as:

The alternative formats created depend on the original content type. If you don't see an option to download alternative formats, the file is not a supported content type. The Alternative Formats available for students to download include mp3 (audio file), electronic braille, HTML, ePub, and BeeLine reader.


Ally features for instructors

Accessibility score indicators for files

The Ally accessibility score indicator for files is automatically available in your ELMS-Canvas course. The score indicator icons are only visible to instructors.

Ally measures the accessibility of each file attached to a course and shows you at-a-glance how it scores. Scores range from Low to Perfect. The higher the score, the fewer the issues.

The icons represent the following:
Low: The file is not accessible and needs immediate attention.
Medium: The file is somewhat accessible and could use improvement. 
High: The file is accessible but could be improved.
Perfect: The file is accessible. No improvement is needed.

For files with Low to High scores, Ally shows you the issues and gives step-by-step guidance on how to fix them:

  1. Find a file and select the Accessibility score.
  2. Follow the directions provided and go step-by-step to address accessibility issues.
  3. Select All Issues to see every issue in the file and decide which issues to fix first.
  4. Select All issues if you want to see how much each fix will improve the accessibility of the file.


Ally course accessibility report

Instructors need to enable the Ally Course Accessibility Report in their courses.. This report acts as a complement to the existing accessibility indicators and provides an accessibility summary and overview at the course level.


Enable the course accessibility report in your course

  1. Access your course space and select Settings from the Navigation menu.
  2. Select the Navigation tab.
  3. Scroll to the bottom half of the page to locate the item titled Ally Course Accessibility Report.
  4. Select the three dots, and then choose Enable from the dialog box.
  5. Select the Save button.
  6. Confirm that Ally Course Accessibility Report now appears in the Navigation menu (this is not visible to students).


Access the report and improve the accessibility score

The Ally Course Accessibility Report provides an accessibility summary and overview for instructors at the course level, including:

It is important to remember that the Ally Course Accessibility Report is generated by AI. There can be both false positives and false negatives included in the total score. The goal of using this report is to improve the overall score, which will mean improved accessibility, with the beginning score as the baseline.

  1. Access your course space and select Ally Course Accessibility Report from the Navigation menu.
  2. The report dashboard is displayed, including Overview and Content tabs.
    • The Overview tab shows the accessibility score for the course, course content grouped by content type, and a list of all issues identified in the course
    • The Content tab shows you the content with accessibility issues.


Choose what to fix first

Use the report to help you decide what to fix first. Choose between Content with the easiest issues to fix and Fix low-scoring content. The number of pieces of content you'll be fixing is indicated for each choice. When you are ready to begin, select Start.

Ally displays a list of items in the category you chose, with the number of issues and the accessibility score for each piece of content. 

Select the name of an item from the list to work on, and the Instructor Feedback Panel is displayed. Follow the guidance to improve the accessibility of this item. In the example below, you would either add an image description or mark the image as decorative. If you are unclear on which option to follow, learn more by selecting from the buttons labeled What this means  and How to write a good description.


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