Doug Holton

How to Fix and Prevent Accessibility Issues in Your Canvas Course

Blog Post created by Doug Holton on May 8, 2018

Here is a handout with tips for addressing accessibility issues in a Canvas course after the fact or before the fact.  Feel free to adapt it to your school, and please comment if you have suggestions/edits for improving this document.  There is a Google doc version tailored for our school at

How to Fix Accessibility Issues in Your Canvas Course

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  1. Student Support - The course should include information about the office for student disability services and how students with disabilities may receive accommodations
  2. Software - Check the accessibility of all tools and software used in the course
  3. Web Pages - Check Canvas content with the Canvas accessibility checker (and/or UDOIT or Ally if available)
  4. Web Links - Check that all your links are up to date and have descriptive text
  5. Images - In addition to checking that all images have alt text:
    • Keep image files small (ideally under 500kb). Use a photo editor to resize
    • Complex figures should have rich descriptions and be usable in black and white
    • Images that do not provide content should be marked as decorative
  6. Videos - all videos and audio should have correct captions or transcripts
  7. Files - All files and documents should be checked for accessibility
  8. Math - All math equations and formulas should have alt text or MathML representations
  9. Alternative Formats - A separate accessible version of content should be made available when there is no other way to make it accessible
  10. Assignments & Quizzes - All assignments and online activities should have clear expectations to help students understand how to do them and why they are doing them
  11. Student View - Check the course in student view for broken or inaccessible functionality
  12. Mobile Compatibility - Check the course for usability in the Canvas Student app


How to Prevent Accessibility Issues in Your Canvas Course


  1. Modules - Use the modules page as the primary place where you build and organize your course.  Think of it as the table of contents or outline or to-do list for your course. If you have a reading or assignment or discussion for a particular week or unit, add it to the module for that week or unit.  This way, everything associated with that week or unit will be more visible to you and your students. You can see in a glance if something is not available or unpublished that shouldn’t be, or if a requirement was not set, and so forth.  See How do I add a module?  and How do I add assignment types, pages, and files as module items?
  2. Don’t Copy & Paste – Don’t copy from other courses or websites or documents into Canvas.  If you do, the text will copy over just fine (although it may mess up the text styles and fonts), but images will not copy over like they would when copying and pasting into a Word document.  Images have to be downloaded from the other site (right click on the image and choose ‘save image as’), and then you can upload and insert the image into Canvas, entering alt text when doing so.  When copying content from another Canvas course, use the course import tool to ensure all images and links are fixed.  Use the link validator to check for any broken images or links.
  3. Images – When inserting an image, always remember to set the alt text with a description of what is in the image for screen readers.  If you want to embed a very large image, reduce its file size with a photo editor first. See: How do I embed images from Canvas into the Rich Content Editor?
  4. Tables – Minimize your use of tables, but when you do use them, set a caption and header row or column in the table properties. Do not set the width of a table or table cell to a fixed value, use percentages instead.  Reduce the number of columns for readability on mobile devices. See How do I insert a table using the Rich Content Editor?
  5. Text Color - You should not use color or font size alone to distinguish text or convey importance. See How do I add and modify text in the Rich Content Editor?   Check that color contrast is sufficient using this Color Contrast Checker from WebAIM.
  6. VideosSpeak clearly when recording videos and audio so that automatic captions will be more accurate and save you time with making any corrections.  Also check that in the Canvas Student app the video can play full-screen.  On Youtube, click the share button to copy the embed code for a video and then insert the embed code in your page.
  7. Documents - Use the built-in Accessibility Checker when creating Word documents.
  8. Math - Use the Canvas Math Editor or WIRIS app to generate equations and formulas.
  9. Assignments - Use rubrics and transparent assignment templates and techniques.