Ally: supporting inclusive education


Ally: supporting inclusive education

Early in the development of the Flexible Education model it was decided to enhance our offering to disabled students, and mitigate some of the issues raised by online learning for those populations, by using the Ally plug-in for Moodle.

What does Ally do?

  1. Ally automatically checks Moodle course materials against international standards as part of the accessibility requirements for public sector bodies.  
  2. Provides guidance to teaching & professional services staff on how to improve accessibility of their Moodle course content.
  3. Provides students with alternative formats in which to download documents posted by teaching & professional services staff in Moodle, to increase accessibility and provide choice.
  4. Provides College with institution- and course-wide accessibility and engagement data.

What drives our use of Ally?

Accessible & inclusive learning content

The social model of disability suggests that the society or environment is disabling the individual rather than their impairment or difference.

Accessibility is about designing out any unnecessary barriers that make it harder to engage and take part in everyday activities. Being inclusive is about giving equal access and opportunities to everyone wherever possible.

In education this involves reducing and overcoming the barriers that might occur in digital content, teaching & learning activities, and assessments.  For example:

  • Students with a visual impairment can benefit from converting textual content to audio files or braille
  • Students with a specific learning difficulty can benefit from the range of alternative formats that can integrate with Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) funded assistive technology software

Providing accessible learning content can benefit all learners.  Examples include:

  • Providing Closed Captions for recorded lectures not only benefits those with aural impairments, but can assist all students - both home and international - with their comprehension of lecture content
  • Supporting text-to-audio conversion on demand while benefitting those with visual impairments can also support students with dyslexia, and the growing body of commuting students who may wish to listen to content en route to College

College strategy

Ally can help College meet various strategic aims, including the following:

  • Developing an inclusive education strategy to support the College Three Year Plan
  • Raising awareness of accessibility and build towards a sustainable change in behaviour regarding inclusivity and accessibility across the College
  • Responding to the current and future student demographic - improved support for disabled students, flexible, increased flexibility of learning materials, e.g. for commuting students


As an institution we are bound by numerous legal frameworks including the accessibility requirements for public bodies, the Equality Act (2010), and EU directives.

 The Equality Act

In relation to disabled people, the Equality Act (2010) institutes a duty for public and private sector organisations (including HEPs) to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in order to make sure that disabled people are not being disadvantaged.

This includes making changes to the organisation’s provisions or practices, its physical features, or providing auxiliary aids, if a disabled person would be disadvantaged without these adaptations or provisions. It also includes an anticipatory duty on organisations, meaning that some of these changes or provisions should be made in advance of a disabled person needing them, rather than as a reaction to someone having been disadvantaged.

 EU Directive on Accessibility of Websites and Mobile Applications 2018

Requires all EU member states to make sure their websites and mobile apps meet common accessibility standards.  The directive was transposed into the laws of each EU member state on 23 September 2018 and will continue within UK law.

 Office for Students

In order to charge higher level tuition fees, providers must submit plans to the OfS outlining how they will improve equality of opportunity for underrepresented groups – including disabled students – to access, succeed and progress from higher education.

The OfS monitors access and participations plans to make sure that the providers honour the commitments they make to students in these plans, and take action if they do not.

Disability does not feature directly in our APP targets but it is a category which we are supposed to monitor.


How does Ally support inclusive education?

Ally allows College to improve the accessibility of learning materials at RHUL to benefit a wide range of students and support academic and professional staff in meeting our legal duties.

For Students: Alternative Formats

Ally creates on-demand alternative formats from your original course files, and makes them available for download so that students can engage with course content in a way that works best for them.

Find out more about alternative formats in this short video.

The alternative formats provided by Ally, and their benefits to students
 Format / description Advantages
Tagged PDF
Structured PDF for improved use with assistive technology
Improved structure for navigation
Essential for screen readers
For viewing in the browser and on mobile devices
Customise your text
Adapts text to mobile screen sizes
For reading as an e-book on an iPad and other e-book readers
eBooks on tablets
Annotating and highlighting
Electronic Braille
BRF version for consumption on electronic braille displays
Read more quickly
Essential for visual impairments
MP3 version for listening (< 100,000 characters)
Listen and learn on the go
Engage different modalities
BeeLine Reader
Enhanced version for easier and faster on-screen reading
Read more effectively and maintain focus
Adds an eye-guiding color gradient to guide readers' eyes through long blocks of text

For Teaching Staff: Feedback & advice on accessibility of materials

Ally provides guidance to teachers on how to improve the accessibility of their Moodle course content.

Find out more about file accessibility in this short video.

Traffic light indicators of accessibility for each file in a Moodle course

Ally traffic light indicators for Moodle content

Each file is awarded an 'Accessibility score'


Detailed feedback & support

Clicking on the accessibility icon for a file helps identify and correct accessibility issues.  Ally will:

  • Display all the file's accessibility issues
  • Describe of the most important accessibility issue
  • Explain how the issue affects inclusive learning
  • Offer step-by-step assistance on how to fix the issue
  • Allow for editing of exisiting files and uploading of replacement files


Course-wide accessibility reports

  • Ally provides an overall course score and ways to quickly address course files at scale


For College: Moodle-wide, granular reporting on accessibility of courses

Ally provides an accessibility overview report which shows how digital course content in Moodle is performing by month, term, or academic year.  This can inform annual review, equality and diversity audits and compliance with the APP.

Reports include the following information:

  • Overall accessibility score - for Moodle
  • Total number of courses and content created
  • All accessibility issues found - sorted by severity
  • Which alternative formats are being used in Moodle - how often and in which courses
  • Engagement with course accessibility reports - and action arising from these



A non-exhaustive collection of FAQs.  We will add to this list as College develops its experience of using Ally in support of providing inclusive education.

When can I use Ally?

A handful of courses are piloting the use of Ally in Term 3 of the 20/21 academic year.  This will inform and prepare College for a fuller rollout of the service in the 21/22 academic year.  Please contact the E-Learning Team ( to find out more about the service and to arrange a demonstration and training.

Who should I contact with requests for advice and assistance with Ally?

Staff and students should contact the E-Learning Team ( to request advice and assistance with Ally.

Are there any videos to support staff & students in their use of Ally?

Yes.  The E-Learning Team has curated a YouTube playlist of short videos.



Can the playback speed of MP3 audio files be controlled?

Yes. Most players allow you to adjust playback speed. For example, Windows Media player, VIC, Audacity, and iTunes/Music.

Which devices & apps can I use to view ePub files?

The ePub alternative creates a digital publishing file that can be viewed on mobile devices. ePub files are reflowable. Reflowable means that the content displayed automatically adapts to the device it is viewed on.

Here are a few suggested apps for ePubs:


Ally Support


For students

Alternative formats (45 secs)

BeeLine reader (32 secs)

For teachers

Overview for teachers (1 min 28 secs)

About alternative formats (56 secs)

File accessibility (1 min 6 secs)


These videos are in the Ally support playlist


Contact the E-Learning Team ( to request advice and assistance with Ally.


You may wish to engage with our Moodle course: Accessible & Inclusive Digital Course Design





Moodle courses

Support videos

YouTube Channel

Social Media