Butte College logo

Accessibility & Canvas: An Overview

“Accessible design is good design.  It benefits people who don’t have disabilities as well as people who do.  Accessibility is all about removing barriers and providing the benefits of technology for everyone.”
~ Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft

Accessibility iconIt is important to understand the basic tenets of accessibility as it pertains to educational technology. We highly recommend reading this short Accessibility Overview, provided by the CCC Accessibility Center.

Making content accessible should be a part of your normal workflow, and does not need to take a great deal of time.  Accessibility is best considered BEFORE you begin working on a course in Canvas.

Essential Resources:


Rich Content Editor In Canvas

TMI strongly encourages the use of the built-in Canvas Rich Content Editor found in almost every tool within Canvas (i.e. Pages, Announcements, Assignments, Quizzes, etc.) whenever possible, and minimizing the practice of uploading (and maintaining) externally created files (i.e. PDF, Word, etc.). The Rich Content Editor has many features for accommodating accessibility requirements. 

Files are generally more difficult to update and ensure accessibility compliance. 

Using the built-in content editor has several benefits:

  • edits are easy to make and saved immediately
  • easy resolution of most accessibility issues
  • no need to save a new PDF, and re-upload to Canvas
  • no need to keep track of “backup” documents, flash drives, etc.

Using the text editor within Canvas also allows for seamless resolution of the most common accessibility issues by using the Accessibility Checker.

Look for the Accessibility Checker feature in the bottom row of tools.











Read about Accessibility Within Canvas
“Ensuring an accessible and pleasant experience to all users, regardless of disability, is a key focus of Canvas. The Canvas platform was built using the most modern HTML and CSS technologies, and is committed to W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative and Section 508 guidelines.”

Use Alternative (Alt) Text for Images

It’s important to provide Alt text for all images used within Canvas. You can add Alt text when first inserting an image, or afterward. For simple images, alt text should be a concise and relevant description of the image. Sometimes a decision tree can help you decide what kind of alt text you need to provide. More info…

For complex images such as infographics, in addition to adding a succinct description as alternative text, add a link to a longer text description of the image. More info…

Use Heading Styles

Using good heading structure helps people without eyesight to understand how the document is organized. Screen reader and Braille users can also jump between headings, which makes navigation much more efficient than if there are no headings. Making text larger and bold does not make it a heading. 

Headings should follow a basic outline, using the “Heading 1” style for the main heading, and “Heading 2” for sub-headings. If there are additional levels of headings, using “Heading 3”, “Heading 4”, etc. See below:

Content Editor heading menu GIF

Use Lists

Lists should be created using built-in tools for ordered (numbered) and unordered (bulleted) lists. Without using these tools, a list is not really a list, which makes the content more difficult for screen reader users to fully understand. See below:

Content Editor list GIF

Use Meaningful Labels

When you copy/paste a web link to a Page, Assignment, etc., often the result is a long and cryptic sequence of text. Consider the below examples. Which would you prefer to use? They both go the same place!

Typing out a clear and meaningful label, and then using the link button in the Rich Content Editor of Canvas, gives your web links a much more professional and friendlier appeal, as well as informing the user what they can expect. 

Instructor Accessibility Guide (PopeTech)

PopeTech logoThe CCC Accessibility Center has made an additional accessibility checking tool available in Canvas for all CCC’s. The Instructor Accessibility Guide is an accessibility evaluation tool for Canvas content created in the Rich Content Editor (RCE).

Read more…

Allowing Extra Time for Quizzes

moderate quiz screenshotIt is important to understand how to provide extra time on Quizzes for students needing such an accomodation. Instructors can add extra time to existing Canvas quizzes for specific students utilizing the Moderate Quiz feature. See: Allow Extra Time for Quizzes (DSPS Accommodation)

Why is this important? Review the following use case: Notice of Noncompliance – Office of Civil Rights Letter 

Accessible Documents

There may be some scenarios where you choose not to use the text editor in Canvas. If you do choose to use your own documents in Canvas, it’s crucial to ensure they’re accessible BEFORE they are uploaded.

Making text larger and bold does not make it a heading. In order to convert text to a heading in Microsoft Word, you must use the built-in Heading styles like “Heading 1” and “Heading 2”, available under Styles in the Home tab of the “ribbon” (toolbar) in Microsoft Office programs (i.e. Word, PowerPoint, etc.).

Please see the following tutorials for the most common tools used in document creation, provided courtesy of the California Community Colleges (CCC) Accessibility Center. 

More Info:

While we are not accessibility experts, we can attempt to assist you in the remediation of your documents if they are to be used within Canvas. Request an appointment with TMI.

The District’s IT Services & Support department also provides resources for the creation of accessible documents in Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat.

Accessible Video (Captioning)

Creating your own video content to establish your instructional presence is typically the norm these days, and the best way to have your videos made available in Canvas AND be captioned automatically has never been easier. It is important to note that instructors should always review auto-generated captions for accuracy.

TMI highly recommends the use of Canvas Studio or TechConnect Cloud (3C Media) within Canvas.


Canvas Studio logoCanvas Studio
Canvas Studio is a video creation and engagement tool that allows instructors and students to actively create and collaborate through video and audio media. Studio is built into Canvas, and also allows instructors to easily review and edit auto-generated captions.  It is available in several course tools, and can be used for a variety of purposes, including a simple presentation, interactive assessment, collaborative discussion, and more.  Video can be recorded from a webcam or a screen capture (or both!) or uploaded as an existing file. Canvas Studio has unlimited storage for hosted videos.

For more information about Canvas Studio, please visit our Canvas Studio Resource page.


TechConnect Cloud

TechConnect Cloud (3C Media)
TechConnect Cloud is a CCC service that takes the hassle out of trying to figure out where to host your created instructional videos. This is a great alternative to using YouTube or making your own captioning files. After your video is uploaded, you should review the auto-generated captions and edit as needed. TechConnect Cloud is free to use and has unlimited storage for all CCC faculty use.

For more information about TechConnect Cloud services, please visit www.3cmediasolutions.org


General Assistance with Accessibility

CCC Accessibility CenterThere are a great many resources available to faculty in learning about accessibility compliance. The CCC Accessibility Center offers on-campus trainings, self-paced courses, and biannual workshops for all CCC employees. Read more…

Perhaps one of the best resources for getting help with accessibility challenges is the CCC Accessibility Center Help Desk. Get answers and information regarding web accessibility issues common to California Community Colleges. Ask questions about websites, online videos, web applications, or mobile app accessibility to get a response from accessibility subject matter experts!

Visit the CCC Accessibility Center Help Desk

2 thoughts on “Accessibility & Canvas: An Overview”

  1. It was good to hear that I could suggest that the student check with DSPS office to get more help than I might provide.


Leave a Comment

Table of Contents