Canvas Support Page: Accessibility and Screen Readers in 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 508guidelines. The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, or VPAT, is a tool that administrators and decision-makers can use to evaluate Canvas’ conformance with the accessibility standards under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. View more information about the Canvas Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. General accessibility design guidelines can be found in the General Design Guidelines for Accessibility lesson (accessibility document).
Screen Readers and Browsers
Canvas officially supports the following screen reader and browser combinations:
- Macintosh: VoiceOver (latest version for Safari)
- PC: JAWS (latest version for Internet Explorer 11; we currently do not support the Edge browser for accessibility)
- PC: NVDA (latest version for Firefox)
- There is no screen reader support for Canvas in Chrome
Official browser support means that these browsers are actively tested against Canvas code. Canvas may be able to be used in any other browser or screen reader not listed, but official support is not provided. Learn more about supported Canvas browsers.
Canvas Navigation with a Screen Reader
Canvas makes extensive use of ARIA landmark regions. Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) defines ways to make web content and web applications more accessible to people with disabilities. Therefore, the best way to get around in Canvas is to navigate via regions. Within regions, Canvas uses HTML headings, so navigating between headings can be helpful.
When using a screen reader, the Canvas page navigation menu is as follows:
1. Main navigation
2. Context navigation
3. Breadcrumbs navigation
4. Main region
5. Complimentary information
6. Content information
Canvas-wide Accessibility Components
Canvas contains several unifying accessibility features that can be found on various pages in Canvas.
Moving Content within Canvas
Wherever drag and drop is used to reorder components, the Move-to option is also available and allows both screen readers and keyboard users to move Canvas content. The Move-to option is available in the following features:
- Course Navigation
By pressing the comma key, users can view a pop-up window with shortcuts for keyboard navigation. Keyboard shortcuts are available on the following Canvas pages:
- Assignments Index Page
- Course Settings: Navigation Tab
- Discussion Threads
- Modules Index Page
Accessibility within Specific Canvas Features
Several areas within Canvas have been specifically improved for accessibility. Other features may be limited at this time. This section highlights several feature areas and accessibility behaviors.
Font Sizing. The Canvas interface uses rem sizing for fonts so any typography will meet the following: it will zoom when the browser is zoomed, and it will scale if a custom browser sized font is chosen or set from a browser’s setting.Rich Content Editor. The Rich Content Editor supports multiple accessibility features for easy creation of accessible content:
- The Rich Content Editor includes an accessibility tool that checks common accessibility errors within the editor. This tool can help you design course content while considering accessibility attributes and is located in the Rich Content Editor menu bar. Learn how to use the Accessibility Checker in the Rich Content Editor.
- Alt text should be added when embedding external images. Learn how to embed images from the web in the Rich Content Editor.
- Closed captions should be embedded for videos uploaded to Canvas. Learn how to create or upload captions for videos within Canvas.
- Headings for table columns and rows can be changed in either the Rich Content Editor or the HTML Editor view.
- Learn how to create accessible tables in the Rich Content editor (accessibility document).
- Learn how to edit content in the HTML editor.
Calendar. The Calendar supports Agenda View, which lists all assignments and events in a list or agenda format. Learn how to access the Calendar Agenda View.
Quizzes. Quizzes allows instructors to moderate a quiz for individuals requiring more time or who need multiple attempts. Learn how to grant extra time or attempts in a quiz.
Gradebook. Both the default (assignment) Gradebook and the Learning Mastery Gradebook support an individual view, where instructors can view assignments and grades for one student at a time. Learn more about individual view in the Gradebook and Learning Mastery Gradebook.
- High Contrast UI: When enabled, this feature offers higher contrast in buttons, tabs, and other areas throughout Canvas.
- Underline Links: When enabled, this feature underlines hyperlinks in navigation menus, the Dashboard, and page sidebars.
Chat tool. The Chat Tool has an option to enable audio notifications when new messages are posted.
SpeedGrader/DocViewer/Annotations. Students can now access annotations and comments with a screen reader, including information about the annotation type, author name, comment, and any reply comments at the end of the document. Please see blog post for more information.
Accessibility of Third-party (LTI) Integrations
Canvas offers many optional LTI app integrations as part of our commitment to open education. When we review new integration tools, accessibility features are always an important consideration. Unfortunately, as integrations are created by third-party developers and offered to Canvas clients as an optional service, we cannot always ensure that these integrations meet the same standards that we hold core Canvas to. Therefore, if an institution wants to incorporate an integration where additional features may be required, we recommend the institution contact the developer directly with any specific concerns.
Some integrations are non-optional hosted services within Canvas. Any accessibility issues for Canvas-hosted services should be submitted as a help ticket via the institution’s support process. We are open to suggestions for new integrations and have an area in the Canvas Help Forums forums for feature requests.
Additional Accessibility Resources
SALSA. Styled & Accessible Learning Service Agreements (SALSA) is an alternative to the default Syllabus in Canvas. Salsa is an open source web application being developed at Utah State University.
UDOIT. The Universal Design Online content Inspection Tool, or UDOIT (pronounced, “You Do It”) enables faculty to identify accessibility issues in their Canvas course content. It will scan a course, generate a report, and provide resources on how to address common accessibility issues. It was created by the Center for Distributed Learning (CDL) at the University of Central Florida (UCF).
Significant contributions to this guide were made by:
- John Raible: Instructional Designer for the Center for Distributed Learning at the University of Central Florida
- Nancy Swenson: Instructional Designer for the Center for Distributed Learning at the University of Central Florida
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