News and Information

Blackboard Ally for NYU LMS (Brightspace)

Ally is an integration within NYU LMS (Brightspace) which may be used by students to create alternative formats of course materials created or uploaded into NYU Brightspace course sites and by instructors to gauge the accessibility of their course content.


Ally for Students provides the option to download alternative content formats of materials such as PDF files, Microsoft Word files, Microsoft Powerpoint files, OpenOffice/LibreOffice files, uploaded HTML files, and content created using the NYU Brightspace text editor. Alternative formats include: OCR files, tagged PDF, mobile-friendly HTML, audio, ePub, Electronic Braille, and BeeLine Reader.


Ally for Instructors provides a feedback score for all uploaded content and shares guidance for improving content accessibility.

Ally can read the following content file types and formats: PDF files, Microsoft Word files, Microsoft PowerPoint files, OpenOffice/LibreOffice files, HTML files, Image files (jpg, jpeg, gif, png, bmp, tiff), WYSIWYG editors, YouTube (only uncaptioned and auto captioned videos will be flagged).

Features include an Instructor Report to give instructors an overview of the accessibility of content in their NYU Brightspace course site. The report will identify issues by severity and the number of items impacted. Also, the Accessibility Score gives each piece of content a score, and links to step-by-step instructions about how to improve content accessibility.

In addition to instructions presented through the Instructor Feedback Panel, Ally also provides guidelines on the following common accessibility issues:

Review additional information on the Blackboard Ally for LMS Help for Instructors site.

Adobe PDF

The Great PDF Cleanup

In February of 2021, the NYU Digital Accessibility (DA) team commenced The Great PDF Cleanup initiative to ensure our diverse community of learners - as well as the public - can successfully engage with the PDFs housed on public NYU websites. As per our website accessibility policy, all content, including PDFs, must be compliant with our adopted accessibility standards.

The DA team contracted with a vendor to run a scan on all NYU websites in order to determine the accessibility state of PDFs currently linked from public web pages. These reports were shared with our school and administrative unit accessibility liaisons to provide them with the opportunity to take inventory of PDF documents and identify which of the active, public-facing PDFs should still be available.

We are grateful to our school and administrative unit liaisons for partnering with us to clean up inaccessible content. Schools have so far committed to removing or remediating 60% of the thousands of documents found. This number is expected to increase over the next academic year.

Next time you consider creating a PDF from a document, ask yourself, "Should this document be a PDF?". Learn how you can perform your own PDF content audit.

Save the Date: Upcoming Conferences

Deque Accessibility Workshop - September 14-15, 2021

The Smashing Conference, a conference for people who design and build for the web, is offering a free, 2-day, online workshop called A Better Way To Find, Fix, And Prevent Accessibility Issues, led by members of our accessibility training partner, Deque.

This workshop is geared towards Front-End Developers, UX Engineers, Designers, and those in more hybrid dev/design roles who are interested in a solid introduction to accessibility testing. Topics will include an overview of common accessibility issues, information on key testing techniques (automated, guided & manual), and an introduction into fixing the most common accessibility issues. Attendees will need a computer with an up-to-date copy of Chrome and their favorite text editor.

The 2-day workshop will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, September 14-15, 2021, from 12:00 PM to 2:30 PM (ET). Registration is free. Visit the workshop website to view the program schedule.

Inclusive Design 24 - September 23, 2021

The Inclusive Design 24 (#id24) conference, a free 24-hour online event celebrating inclusive design, will take place on September 23, 2021. The inspiration behind Inclusive Design 24 was to bring together the global community to share knowledge and ideas without the difficulties of attending a traditional conference.

Session titles include, "Beyond 99 Red Balloons - A Pragmatic guide to alternative text," "Giving Voices Equity: Inclusive Teams Create Inclusive Products," and "Now it is easy to add captions to videos on the web."

All sessions are streamed live and publicly on the Inclusive Design 24 YouTube channel. Live captions for each session will be available.

Learn more about the Inclusive Design 24 conference.



Apple launched a new service in May 2021, called SignTime. This enables customers to communicate with AppleCare and Retail Customer Care by using American Sign Language (ASL) in the US, British Sign Language (BSL) in the UK, or French Sign Language (LSF) in France, right in their web browsers.

Customers visiting Apple Store locations can also use SignTime to remotely access a sign language interpreter without booking ahead of time. SignTime will initially launch in the US, UK, and France, with plans to expand to additional countries in the future.

Learn more about new accessibility improvements built into Apple products and applications.


Google recently joined forces with the The Guardian newspaper and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), a U.K.-based sight loss charity, to launch Auditorial, an experimental, ultra-accessible online storytelling experience created to showcase the possibilities of accessible stories for blind and low-vision audiences.

The site was launched on May 20, 2021 in celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), the annual worldwide event that started in 2012 to raise awareness and promote thought leadership around digital accessibility.

Auditorial demonstrates how accessible online experiences can be created without compromising on creative flair. The user is able to adjust various settings such as color, contrast, background noise, and movement of content. The team from The Guardian shared that the project is "an example of what can be done when inclusive design and thinking are at the forefront from the start." David Clarke, Director of Services for RNIB, said: "Auditorial is an example of how accessible online storytelling can be rich and engaging for everyone. By using simple accessibility functions and design features, the website proves that inclusive design doesn’t have to limit creativity."


In April 2021, Microsoft introduced a variety of new "accessible by design" features and advances in Microsoft 365. For example:

  • A new background accessibility checker will provide a prompt to fix accessibility issues in content across the core Office apps and Outlook will nudge users to correct accessibility issues.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Microsoft Word will detect and convert to heading styles crucial for blind and low-vision readers.
  • A new Excel navigation pane designed for screen readers will help people easily discover and navigate objects in a spreadsheet.
  • New LinkedIn features that include auto-captioning for LinkedIn Live broadcasts, captions for enterprise content and dark mode later this year.

Learn more about Microsoft's next steps to expand accessibility in technology, the workforce and workplace.

Tip of the Month

Create More Accessible Data Visualizations

Charts, graphs, and maps use visuals to convey complex images to users. For blind, colorblind, and low vision users, or individuals with cognitive disabilities, data visualizations can present accessibility issues. In addition, if your graphs or charts are too complicated, your audience may lose interest.

Using the following tips, you can design compelling data visualizations while also ensuring you convey information that is easier to understand, and can be used by the widest audience possible.

Practical Steps


  • Use best practices when adding a pie chart: When using pie charts, keep it simple - don't include more than 5-7 slices. Make sure to add clear labels for each element.
  • Remove the noise: Keep things as simple as possible by avoiding extra graphics that will distract from the data.
  • Consider the data-ink ratio: Make sure to prioritize what's important. Do not remove essential data to simplify or beautify the chart.
  • Use insights as chart titles: The audience expects visualizations to tell them instantly what is happening. By replacing descriptive titles with meaningful insights, the user gains immediate value at first glance.
  • Use labels to clarify, not clutter: Labels and titles should help the users interpret the data, but too many can make it hard to understand trends and decipher meaning.
  • Add comparisons: By drawing relationships between elements, the data becomes meaningful.

[Adapted from How to design data visualizations that are actually valuable by Angelica Gutierrez]

Additional Resources

Resources and Training

Designer, Developer, and UI/UX Resources


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