Creating Accessible Canvas Content

Creating accessible content includes simple and basic steps. The primary steps needed to create accessible documents are the same whether you are using Microsoft, Canvas, or Adobe.

  • Font: The font should be clean and easy to read. Sans serif fonts such as Arial, Tahoma, Calibri, Helvetica, and Verdana are preferred. Make sure the font is large enough that it can be read without assistance.
  • Appearance: Make sure there is a high contrast between the text and background. Standard requirements is typically 4.5:1 Also, create lots of white space to improve readability.
  • Color for emphasis: Related, one in 12 men are color blind (and 1 in 200 women). Information should never be conveyed only by color; for example, red font to emphasize a deadline. Use color-agnostic features such as bold or font size.
  • Built-in Functionality: Use built-in functions like columns, numbered and bulleted lists, page breaks, and indents. Also, check your work with Office’s built-in accessibility checker to highlight and fix potential issues.
  • Alternative text (alt-text) for images: Alt-text provides information about the picture for screen readers; for example, a picture of FDR might say “Franklin Roosevelt, surrounded by aides and photographers, signing the Lend-Lease Act into law in 1941.” You can add alt-text to an image by right-clicking, choosing “Format Picture” and adding your description.
  • Descriptive hyperlinks: Remember that screen readers will read the text of the link. Instead of hyperlinking “Click her to download the document” or “…” use descriptive words in the hyperlink, like “Click here to see a graph of enrollment over the last five years.”
  • Document Properties: Screen readers are multilingual. You can set your language in the document properties.
  • Descriptive Filename: Opening and closing files can be very difficult for some individuals. Make sure you have a descriptive file name such as “Potential Student Financial Aid Information” rather than “Doc1”

Additionally, here are some specific principles for Canvas:

  • Ally: Canvas has a built in feature called Ally that quickly lets you know whether your material is accessible. A green gauge lets you know that you have uploaded accessible material and the red circle lets you know that you have not. An orange circle usually means some parts are accessible and some are not. Additionally, Ally allows your students to click on any file and download it in an alternative format such as an mp3 to listen to on their phone.
  • ReadSpeaker: Students can have any page in Canvas read to them by simply clicking on the orange play button in the bottom right corner of the page.
  • Headings: Like Word, Canvas has specific heading features to use in order to enable screen readers to function correctly. Be sure you are aware of these and use them as you build content rather than bold text or other purely visual tools.
  • Alternative text: Use the features in Canvas to help you with alternative text.
  • Comprehensive view: This site from the University of Alabama at Little Rock has more information about building Canvas accessibility into your course.

Ally Overview Video