Blackboard Ally Communication Toolkit

While Blackboard Ally is a powerful tool, it is only effective if students know about it and how to use it. To help you communicate with your students about using Ally's alternative formats, we have put together this "Communication Toolkit". 

  1. An example email message/Announcement that you can tweak and send to your students
  2. An optional statement to include in your syllabi about Ally
  3. Links to guides and tutorials for students about Ally, which you can add to your Blackboard course

One way you can communicate with your students about Blackboard Ally is by sending them an email that describes it and explains the benefits of alternative formats. Here is a sample message that you could send as an email/message or post as an announcement. Feel free to modify it!

Hello Students,

At NIU, we have adopted Blackboard Ally, a tool that makes your courses more accessible and flexible. One of the best features is that you are able to download alternative formats for many of the materials that I post to our Blackboard course. For example, if I have uploaded a PDF, you can download a version for an electronic braille reader. 

Alternative formats can benefit everyone, though, not just a select group of students. For example, you can download many files as an .mp3, which would help if you are multitasking, like while you are doing laundry or driving in the car! 

Alternative formats include tagged PDFs, HTML, ePub (eBook), electronic braille and audio (mp3) versions. You can also use the BeeLine Reader which uses color gradient to make reading on a screen easier and faster.

When alternative formats are available, you will see an "A" icon with an arrow. Click the "A" icon to see the alternative formats available. Choose the format you wish to download and click the Download button. Check out the help page on alternative formats to see what it looks like in Blackboard or watch a short video tutorial.

Not sure which format to use? Check out all the options.

While Blackboard Ally helps to make this course more accessible to all students, NIU has additional resources available if you need an accommodation. Contact the Disability Resource Center in Campus Life Building, Suite 180, at 815-753-1303, or

You may want to add this to your syllabi, to highlight the alternative formats and their benefits. This is completely optional, and you can revise it as appropriate for your course and students.

Alternative Formats in Blackboard

Blackboard offers Alternative Format options for many types of content in your courses. You can download course content in formats that work best for you, such as tagged PDFs (for screen readers), HTML, ePub (eBooks), electronic Braille, audio (mp3), and BeeLine reader versions. Download alternative formats by clicking the icon of an "A" with an arrow next to any item in our Blackboard course.

These alternative formats are not a substitute for accommodations. If you need an accommodation for this class, please contact the Disability Resource Center as soon as possible in the Campus Life Building, Suite 180, or at 815-753-1303 or

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