Creating Accessible Course Content with Canvas LMS

Last modified 11/16/2023

Canvas is user-friendly and intuative providing educators and learners with a range of powerful tools and features to make teaching and learning more engaging, interactive, and effective.

Accessibility is an essential aspect of Canvas, as it ensures all learners, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, have equal access to educational content and resources. 

Tips for Canvas

To help you make your Canvas courses more accessible, here are some helpful hints. By following these guidelines, you can create a more inclusive and accessible learning environment in your Canvas courses, and ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.

Add descriptive text to your hyperlinks to convey the purpose of the link. Avoid using long complicated URLs or generic text such as "click here."

Add or update Hyperlinks

Add Alt Text to Images

Ensure all images have alternative text (alt text) that describes the content or function of the image.

Add or update alt text for images

Writing Alt Text for Images

Structure Headings and Subheadings

Use headings and subheadings to create a logical nested order for your content and improve navigation for screen reader users.

Modify Heading Text in Canvas

Learn how to structure your headings

Provide Transcripts or Captions for Audio and Video Content

Transcripts and captions for audio and videos help ensure the content is accessible to a wider audience, including those with disabilities.

Captioning Videos

Generating Audio Transcripts

Canvas Studio

Uploading Caption files into Canvas Studio

Transferring Videos from Stream to Canvas Studio

Use High Contrasting Colors

Using high-contrast colors between text and background improves readability for learners with visual impairments.

Changing Color of Text

Choosing Color

Assign Table Header Cells

Format your tables by assigning row and column header cells appropriate to the table's content.

Editing Tables In Canvas

Structuring Tables

Show Table Caption

Adding a caption to a table helps provide information students can use to find, navigate to and understand the its purpose. Provide a title or short summary of the table's purpose.

Add a Caption to a Table in Canvas

Use Simple, Clear Language

Keep your language simple and clear so it is easy to read and understand. When possible, avoid using jargon or complex terminology.

Adding Text in Canvas

Check for Keyboard Access

Make sure all interactive elements, such as forms and quizzes, are keyboard accessible, and can be navigated without a mouse. This includes 3rd party applications and Learning Tool Integrations (LTI).

Canvas Keyboard Shortcuts

Learn more about LTIs available in Canvas

Canvas' Accessibility Checker

Canvas' Accessibility Checker is available in Canvas’ Rich Content Editor. This tool allows you to run quick accessibility checks on your content within the Rich Content Editor. Remember, the accessibility checker does not check for all issues or any content you link to from other sources.

Here is a list of components commonly verified by the Canvas Accessibility Checker:

  • Adjacent links: Adjacent links with the same URL should be a single link. This rule verifies link errors where the link text may include spaces and break the link into multiple links.
  • Heading paragraphs: Headings should not contain more than 120 characters.
  • Image alt text: Images should include an alt attribute describing the image content.
  • Image alt filename: Image filenames should not be used as the alt attribute describing the image content. Currently, files uploaded directly to Canvas create a redirect that does not properly verify image filenames.
  • Image alt length: Alt attribute text is recommended to contain fewer than 120 characters.
  • Large text contrast: Text larger than 18pt (or bold 14pt) should display a minimum contrast ratio of 3:1.
  • Lists: Lists should be formatted as lists.
  • Sequential headings: Heading levels should not be skipped (e.g. H2 to H4). However, the tool does not check if the first header starts with H2 or whether the headings are sequential with the rest of the content in the page. Tables do not begin with H1, which is designated for the page title.
  • Small text contrast: Text smaller than 18pt (or bold 14pt) should display a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1.
  • Table captions: Tables should include a caption describing the contents of the table.
  • Table header scope: Table headers should specify scope and the appropriate structure.
  • Table header: Tables should include at least one header.

For more information, refer to the Canvas Accessibility Checker help guide.

Assistive Technology Resources

If you use assistive technologies for creating content and/or accessing content here are resources for using Canvas. 

Get Help with Canvas

Center for Integrated Professional Development

The Center for Integrated Professional Development offers support for instructors creating course content in Canvas.

Student Access and Accommodation Services (SAAS)

SAAS can help you with questions regarding students who have reasonable accommodation(s) for a documented disability and/or medical/mental health condition.

Technology Support Center

The Illinois State Technology Support Center (TSC) can help you with general support information about Canvas and Canvas Learning Tools Integrations (LTI).