Blackboard Ally: Getting started with alternative accessible formats

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The University of Reading is committed to providing you with the best learning experience possible. With this in mind, we have activated the Blackboard Ally tool in your courses. The Ally Alternative Black and white blackboard ally icon displayed next to items where an alternative format is availableFormats icon (an ‘A’ beside a downward facing arrow) will be visible next to content items or attached files in your courses.

Ally is an add-on to Blackboard, which makes digital course content more accessible to all students. You will be able to download your course content in the format that fits best with your learning needs or preferred ways of working. PDF, HTML, ePUB, audio files, BeeLine Reader, and Immersive Reader are now available as options for most content items.

Watch the short video guides below (40 secs & 2 mins respectively) to learn about alternative accessible content formats.


Ally File Transformer: Blackboard has made its “Ally File Transformer” tool currently available for free. You can use this tool to convert any files to an accessible format.

Step by step guide starts here:

Follow these three steps to download your course content in various alternative formats:

1. Find a file

Log into your course and find the file you want.

2. Open the file menu

Click on the Alternative formats button to open the alternative format window.

screenshot of the Blackboard Ally alternative formats button

This screenshot shows the Blackboard Ally icon which gives you access to alternative formats

3. Choose a format

Choose the format, or formats, that best suit your learning needs from the available list of alternative formats and click “Download”.

Screen Shot of Alternative Format choices.

Immersive Reader

Immersive Reader has recently been added to the list of alternative formats available via Ally, it allows students to:

  • Change font size and text spacing
  • Change the contrast between the text and the background colour
  • Learn spelling and grammar by splitting words into syllables
  • Highlight verbs, nouns, adjectives, and sub-clauses
  • View a picture dictionary
  • Increase reading speed with line focus
  • Convert text-to-speech (both male and female voices)
  • Translate content in real-time

For more information see the Blackboard guide on Alternative Formats – Immersive Reader

Video (2 mins): Immersive Reader 

Beeline Reader

BeeLine Reader makes reading on-screen easier, faster, and more enjoyable. It uses an eye-guiding colour gradient to ‘pull’ your eyes through long blocks of text. This helps you read more effectively and maintain your focus better. This new display format has been honoured by the United Nations and is used by readers in 120 countries around the world!

BeeLine Reader is a good option if

  • You read a lot on screen and wish you could read more easily and quickly.
  • You read on your commute and find reading in this environment difficult.
  • You have a lot of material to read and find your eyes get tired.
  • You read late at night, when your eyes are tired.
  • You want to be able to read the content faster.
  • You experience dyslexia, ADHD, or low vision.
  • You have difficulty with visual tracking or focus.


An example of a BeeLine Reader Alternative Format in Blackboard.

Tip: Which format should I use? You might not see every alternative format in your list of choices to download. The formats generated depend on the original file uploaded by your instructor or course convener. For more information on formats available, as well as what each format offers, please visit this page on the Blackboard help site: More on alternative formats (opens in a new window).

Interactive tutorial: The Best File Formats. This interactive resource is designed to teach you about how you can use the best file types for you to help you power through your work and show you clever time-saving ways you can work quicker, more efficiently and accessibly.

Need help? Should you have any questions or experience issues while using ALLY please contact CQSD TEL by logging a ticket through the DTS Self Service Portal.

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