This presentation will consider how Blackboard Ally has allowed us to meaningfully engage multiple content authors and raise awareness of inclusive practice in Moodle against the backdrop of the rollout of the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations.
Blackboard Ally is a Moodle plugin that supports accessible document conversion; taking otherwise inaccessible electronic documents and adding key functionality in order to make them accessible to everyone. The integration of alternative formats functionality into learning and teaching processes delivers a number of collateral benefits for inclusive education. Fluid, retrospective optical character recognition (OCR) enables inaccessible documents to be converted very speedily to audio format that will read aloud documents on a range of portable devices, simultaneously addressing accessibility and learning style preferences. Document conversion capability can also support self-sufficiency as users are able to manipulate document styles to suit their preferences (magnification, font, colour changes, annotation) and support better compatibility of assistive technologies. In addition to ensuring basic Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Ally offers automatic semantic markup of documents (e.g. headings for navigation) to provide a solid basic level of accessibility. Ally is able to report on all content across Moodle in order to assess the overall accessibility of documents across the VLE.
The University of Kent was the first Moodle-based institution in the UK to adopt Blackboard Ally, and we are keen to share our experiences of this process. This represented a collaborative project between the University’s Student Support and Wellbeing team, the elearning team and Information Services.
Drawing findings from our pilot project, we will describe how Ally can quantify the current accessibility maturity of all key learning and teaching materials held within Moodle. In addition, we will discuss how Ally has helped us to broaden awareness of accessible content creation and identify opportunities for targeted training to support academic schools and administrative departments to improve the accessibility of all of their content.
We will present data from the first phase of the project along with feedback from academic staff and students and seek to discuss how Ally might be used as part of a suite of approaches to improve learning experiences and inclusivity for everyone.
We will discuss the logistics of this large-scale project and how we engaged with key stakeholders and academic Schools. In this session we will use examples from the project to offer practical advice on strategies to anticipate and avoid common barriers to information access and show how accessible documents can improve learning opportunities for all.
We will also contextualise the use of Ally within a broader suite of activities designed to mainstream inclusive practices, such as the Kent Inclusive Practices (KIPs) scheme and the universal delivery of assistive technologies as productivity tools (www.kent.ac.uk/tools). We will consider the significant copyright implications that this project posed and, in addition, we will offer advice on the organisational challenges faced when implementing digital technologies that may be perceived as adding to the academic and administrative workload.
Policy Connect. (2018). Accessible VLEs – Making the most of the new regulations. [Online]. Available at https://www.policyconnect.org.uk/appgat/research/accessible-vles-making-most-new-regulations. [Accessed 7 March, 2019].
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