A learning management system like Canvas brings together many elements, all of which have the potential to create accessibility barriers for students. With Canvas content, it is important to consider consistency of layout and formatting within a course shell, including using features such as headings, descriptive links and alternative text as in any other type of document.

It’s even more important to consider accessibility when adding external content to a course. This includes types of quiz questions, electronic proctoring, interactive assignments, electronic textbooks, and uploaded documents such as PDFs, video or audio files.

Why Use Headings?

To learn more about why headings are important, please see our introduction to Headings.

Using Headings in Canvas

Use the Format drop-down menu to select heading levels within the text editor. In Canvas, Heading 2 is the highest level you can choose.

Also use the bullet and numbering options available from the formatting toolbar instead of manually typing lists.

Headings drop-down menu in Canvas text editor

What is Alternative Text?

To learn more about making images accessible, please see our introduction to Alternative Text.

Adding Alt Text in Canvas

Canvas provides a text box for entering alternate text at the same time that you upload an image. In the text editor, click on the Images icon or use the Insert menu to upload an image.

Canvas - Insert Image Menu

At the bottom of the Upload Image window, type the image description in the Alt Text box, then submit the image.

Canvas Upload Image window with alt text entry box

Video: Adding Alt Text in Canvas

What is Video Captioning?

To learn more about captions in general, please see our introduction to Captioning Videos.

Using Third-Party Tools to Provide Videos

Although you can always upload your own caption file to a video hosted within Canvas, we recommend using a third-party tool such as Echo360 or Kaltura to display videos in Canvas. The video players provided by both of these platforms have many more inclusive features than the built-in Canvas video player. These include:

  • Auto-captions
  • Interactive transcript displayed alongside the video
  • Transcript download

Manually Adding Captions to Canvas Videos

If you do use the built-in Canvas video player, you can manually upload a caption file for videos. The caption file must be in SRT or VTT format. These instructions assume that you already have the file ready to go. If you don't have a caption file, see Captioning Videos for options.

  • Click on the video in the Rich Content Editor to enlarge the video window. Hover over the CC icon to open the closed-caption options, then click on Upload subtitles.

Canvas video upload subtitles menu

  • Go to step 3, and click the drop-down menu to Choose a Language.
  • Click on Choose File to select the caption file, then click Open.
  • Once the file name shows up, you can click the Upload button.

Canvas Create/add subtitles menu, Step 3: choose a language and file to upload

Proctoring Tools

  • Proctoring solutions create potential access barriers for students with disabilities who use assistive technology. Students who have testing accommodations may need to use a different proctoring solution if their accommodation is not compatible. Be flexible with your testing requirements, and provide students with the ability to communicate any barriers they experience with assistive technology.
  • Substitute the Honor Pledge for proctoring software if accommodations cannot be made with the software.
  • For questions about testing accommodations with proctoring software, contact the Student Disability Center.

Canvas Quizzes

The quiz question types available in Canvas are mostly accessible to assistive technology. Some exceptions include:

  • Drag & drop: This feature is completely inaccessible and should be avoided
  • Dropdown choices are not recommended unless the list of options is very long

If a student reports that they are unable to take a quiz using their assistive technology, contact the Student Disability Center for guidance.

Extended Time

Extended time is a frequent accommodation for students with disabilities. Below are resources on how to add extra time to quizzes in Canvas.

Uploaded Files

Uploaded files such as Word documents, PowerPoint slides, and PDFs also need to be designed to interact well with technology to include assistive technology and mobile devices. These topics are covered in their own sections of this website.

UDOIT Accessibility Checker

UDOIT is a Canvas plugin that allows you to check for accessibility within an entire Canvas course and fix problems on the fly.

  • UDOIT provides a short description of how and why to fix issues that it discovers. If you are not sure how to resolve an issue after UDOIT's explanation, please use the contact form to request further help.
  • UDOIT is unable to scan inside of uploaded documents (e.g. Word, PDF, PPT). It is your responsibility to make sure any uploaded files are accessible.

Fixing a Sample Error with UDOIT

Click on the UDOIT link in your course navigation.

In course navigation, click the UDOIT link

On the UDOIT page, click "Scan this course."

Click Scan this Course

Once the results display, scroll down to a section that has errors, and expand the entry. Below is an example of an image without appropriate alternate text.

Click on "View the source of this issue" to see the image without having to go search for it in the course.

Click "View the source of this issue" to see source information

As you can see below, the alt text is the same as the filename. Filenames are often long strings of characters without meaning and don't explain the function of the image. It needs a short, meaningful description instead.

Click on "U FIX IT!" to fix the problem right here and now without having to navigate away.

View Issue Source shows which image does not have alt text along with the code. Click U FIX IT! to open a text box to fix

In this case, a text box appears where you can type the description and then submit it. The change is now saved.

Text entry box opens for adding alt text description without navigating away