Piloting Blackboard Ally: Faculty Perspectives

Handouts Media

Presented at 3:15pm (50 min) in Waverly on Thursday, November 21, 2019.



  • Christa Miller, Associate Director of Services for Students with Disabilities, Virginia Tech

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


Blackboard Ally is advertised as a tool capable of technical accessibility checks of ALL content in a learning management system (LMS). Virginia Tech pilot tested Ally to determine if it could support faculty in the design and deployment of accessible course material. This session provides lessons learned, faculty feedback, and future plans.


During 2018-2019, Virginia Tech pilot tested Blackboard Ally within the Canvas LMS. Leveraging existing financial structures, we purchased a 2000 seat pilot license to determine if and how Ally could move the accessibility needle on our campus. Our proposal emphasized how the institutional report could provide much needed data to inform our professional development and outreach efforts. We also emphasized the availability of real-time alternative text regardless of accommodation support to push our office's Universal Design for Learning initiative forward.

During our pilot, we targeted existing accessibility allies to be faculty participants. We then provided one-on-one training and monthly check-ins to monitor progress. In this session, we share our faculty participants' opinions of Ally as well as the relative accessibility of their content before and after Ally. We also share our findings related to real-time alternative text and our plans for the future.


  1. Inviting existing accessibility allies increases motivation and persistence
  2. Defining what critical gap the tool fills improves administrative buy-in
  3. Making a minimum ask and stretch ask improves financial support

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Accessible Educational Materials, Alternate Format, Teaching about Accessibility in Curriculum, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Christa Miller

Christa Miller is currently the Associate Director for Services for Students with Disabilities at Virginia Tech (VT). She has a BS Electrical Engineering (2008) and MS Industrial Systems Engineering (2012) both from VT. She started working in VT's Assistive Technologies group in 2006 as a student employee teaching students how to use assistive and accessible technologies. From 2010 to 2015, she transcribed STEM materials into Braille, and then transitioned into teaching instructors to create accessible educational materials by design.

For the last several years, she's helped VT grow their digital accessibility footprint by helping to establish the centralized captioning fund, building up the campus' Accessibility Network, creating training on PDF accessibility, and leading cohorts of individuals preparing for the IAAP CPACC Certification.

Christa is an active member of regional and national disability and accessibility organizations (AHEAD in VA, AHEAD, ATHEN, and Accessing Higher Ground). When she has the opportunity, her research interests include accessibility in STEM courses and Universal Design for Learning.