What Is It?
Ally is a software that integrates into the learning management system Moodle, and focuses on making digital course content more accessible. Ally helps build a more inclusive learning environment and improve the student experience. All content uploaded to Moodle is analyzed, checked against WCAG 2.1 accessibility standards, and creates accessible alternative formats such as audio, ePub and electronic braille. Afterwards, Ally provides how-to guides to improve the accessibility of each item uploaded.
Why is this useful?
In a recent study, only 4.5 percent of 1,857 accessibility educators consider themselves ‘experts’ on the subject, while 66.1 percent claim to have some understanding,’ and 10.7% say they are ‘not knowledgeable’ (Shinohara et al. 2018). In the United States, roughly 11 percent of students pursuing higher education have at least one disability (Skomsvold 2014), and it was reported in a 2018 European Student Survey (Hauschildt, Gwosc, and Vögtle 2018) that 18 percent of higher education students have a disability or chronic sickness. The results of these studies suggest that training and tools are needed for faculty to help them create accessible digital content. Ally will take the guessing game out of not knowing if your content is properly accessible. Ally will check all content uploaded to Moodle, and even check resource links to make sure they are still working correctly. As Carleton continues with making the IDE plan operational, Ally helps take a step in the right direction with IDE in mind and aligns with Carleton’s IDE Goal 3, “Establish and sustain the resources and practices necessary to provide an equitable environment for all students, staff, and faculty to thrive.” In addition, Moodle with the help of Ally will align with Section508, which states, all federal agencies, and those who receive federal funding, by law are required to develop, maintain and use information and communication technologies that are public-facing to be accessible for people with disabilities.
How to Get Started?
Carleton has launched its pilot in Fall2022. Academic Technologists enable Ally at the course level on request. Then faculty can start using the tool, checking how their uploaded content and content that is directly in Moodle (e.g., Moodle Pages) connects to Ally’s checkpoints (but no content that is linked to via hyperlink). Students, by clicking on the black A, will gain access to alternative file formats that allow for listening to content, reading with different font colors for easier focus, and other specialized options. Supported file formats include pdf, MIcrosoft Word and Powerpoint, OpenOffice/LibreOffice files, uploaded HTML, image files (jpg, jpeg, gif, png, bmp, tiff).
Hauschildt, Kristina, Christoph Gwosc, and Eva Maria Vögtle. 2018. Social and Economic Conditions of Student Life in Europe: Eurostudent VI 2016-2018; Synopsis of Indicators.
Shinohara, Kristen, Saba Kawas, Andrew J. Ko, and Richard E. Ladner. 2018. “Who Teaches Accessibility? A Survey of US Computing Faculty.” Paper presented at the 49th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Skomsvold, Paul. 2014. Profile of Undergraduate Students: 2011-12. Web Tables. NCES 2015-167. National Center for Education Statistics.