Comparison of Canvas Accessibility LTI Tools

Community Champion

The following is a blog post version of a presentation I gave at Instructurcon 2017 titled, “Mission Possible: Accessible Course Materials." Video available below, additional resources available at the bottom.

This video has been captioned. You can also download the transcript and follow the discussion on captioning conference videos here.  


I am confident that no one has all of this accessibility puzzle figured out, but if you take some time to get to know people in the Canvas Accessibility Community there are individuals with a lot of pieces of the puzzle.

At Utah State University (USU) we have been working on providing more inclusive online course experiences and ensure we are meeting the requirements of a recently approved campus Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Policy. Canvas does great work towards making the core functionality of Canvas accessibility. Here we are going to focus more on accessible content, the stuff added by an instructor or course designer.

If you are brand new to accessibility or a long-time disability advocate, right now is an incredible time to be a part of this discussion on inclusive educational experiences. Before we get into the what and how of accessibility let’s spend just a moment discussing the why of accessibility.

Why Accessibility?

There are increasingly legal reasons to care about accessibility. However, there is so much more to accessibility beyond consideration of any legal risk. Great accessibility means greater usability and more usable course materials are more learnable for all students. Making sure your content is accessible provides a more inclusive experience for students with disabilities, second language learners and other nontraditional learners. Everyone benefits from more accessible content.

The discussion used to be around why you would take the time and effort to make your content accessible. Increasingly it feels like that question is changing towhy on earth you wouldn’t make your online course materials accessible. Especially with the availability of some of the incredible tools we willlook at below.

Man with backpack on a trail starting on a journey

If you are new to accessibility and start to feel overwhelmed, take a deep breath and remember that accessibility is a journey. It is much more important to get started than to nail down your destination. There is always more to do when it comes to accessibility, but there is also always something you can do today to make your content more accessible.

HTML Content vs File Content

As we talk about course content I want to make sure we are on the same page. There is an important distinction with how these tools treat native HTML content and file content.

  1. HTML Content. When I talk about HTML content I am referring to content that is entered through the WYSIWYG editor that shows up natively in the browser.
  2. File Content. When I talk about file content I am referring to files uploaded to a course such as PDF, Word,or PowerPoint.
  3. Media. Media such as images and video can be present in both HTML and File content.

It is important that we consider both HTML content and File content when looking at accessibility.At Utah State we recently did a quick audit on the type of content in our courses for one semester and found that we had:

  • 101,160 pages of HTML content.
  • 171,433 uploaded files.

If you ignore either type of content a significant portions of your course experiences may not be accessible.

Overview of the Tools

Now let’s look at some tools. All of these tools are different and the goal is not to determine which tool is best but rather to share what each does to help you determine how they might support your accessibility goals.

Design Tools from CIDI Labs

Design Tools (also known as Kennethware) is a commercial product that provides a suite of tools to help with course development. It includes a set of tools to help course developers make their HTML content is accessible at a page level as it is developed.

UDOIT from the University of Central Florida

The Universal Design Online Content Inspection Tool checks the accessibility of your HTML content across a entire course. UDOIT is open source, you can download it today for free and all you have to pay for is the hosting.

Ally from Blackboard

Ally started out as a tool developed for Canvas but was purchased by Blackboard and how supports multiple learning management systems. Ally is a commercial product that looks at the accessibility of course files on a single page, across an entire course or across all of your courses.


General Features

Comparison of General Features of Each Tool
Design ToolsUDOITAlly
PricingCommercialOpen-source, Self-hostedCommercial
Type of Content CheckedHTML ContentHTML ContentFile Content (HTML Content Coming)
Scope of ChecksPage LevelCourse LevelInstitution, Course Level, Page Level

Specific Checks Done by Each Tool

Accessibility Checks Done by Each Tool
Design ToolsUDOITAlly
  • Heading Structure
  • Alt Text
  • Accessible Tables
  • Color Contrast
  • Descriptive Links
  • Heading Structure
  • Alt Text
  • Accessible Tables
  • Color Contrast
  • Descriptive Links
  • Video Captions (YouTube)
  • Heading Structure
  • Alt Text
  • Accessible Tables
  • Color Contrast
  • Descriptive Links
  • Untagged PDF
  • Scanned Documents
  • Document Langage
  • Missing Titles
  • Images that may induce seizures

That's it for now, feel free to look at the slides or watch the video for additional screenshots and explanations of how each tool works. If you have thoughts, feedback or experience with any of the tools please leave a comment below! 

Additional Resources

  1. Mission Possible: Accessible Course Materials PowerPoint Presentation
  2. Presentation Video in the Canvas Community (Thanks awilliams!)
  3. Canvas Accessibility Group (join and participate!)
  4. ATHEN Canvas Accessibility Working Group (Contact Terrill Thompson to join)
  5. Instructional Design Strategies to Make Content Accessible in Canvas by  @teraulbert ‌ from Instructurcon 2017


This post will be updated as new information becomes available.

Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

I can see the captions in your embedded video,  @christopher_phi .

Community Champion

Thanks stefaniesanders‌, the video does have automatic captions and they did a pretty good job, but it would be great if they were professionally captioned. One of the errors it made was referring to Ally in the captions as "a lie", probably not exactly the branding strategy Ally is going for 😃 

Community Champion

Thank you for sharing this! (And for taking the time to provide proper captions. I found a few likely homophone errors in the Amara captions, but it was overall a very comprehensible experience.)

One thing that I'd like to learn more about, and I'm wondering if you have any good resources for where I can go look, is content-specific best practices in image alt-text.

I'd particularly like to learn about best practices in captioning diagrams and figures in a mathematics context (primarily geometry content). I can think of lots of ways to describe most of the figures I use, but treading the differences between "telling users of alt-text what the picture looks like", "telling users of alt-text the information from the diagram they need to complete the task", and "giving users of alt-text an educationally-equivalent challenge to parsing the diagram for relevant versus irrelevant information" is a set of weeds I'm getting tired of exploring alone.

Community Champion

Thank you  @thompsli ‌. Of the three options above I think you are on the right track with thinking about educational equivalency. That said, describing complex math diagrams and figures can be tricky. Fortunately there are some great resources out there. 

Below are a few resources that will hopefully help: 

  1. Complex Images Tutorial
    The entire tutorial is great from the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative Group, but the Complex Images section is especially helpful. 
  2. Charts & Accessibility
    This page from Penn State has some great tips and alternatives for making your charts accessible. 
  3. Image Description Training Tool
    This page has a couple of resources from the Diagram Center, the Poet training tool goes through a number of examples, including complex images. 

Hopefully those help! 

Community Champion

Thanks! I'll give those a look.

Community Novice

Has anyone done something like this that includes the Canvas Accessibility Checker? 

I'm trying to determine if having Ally makes UDOIT and the Canvas Accessibility Checker largely redundant.

Community Champion

Hello  @erin_cox ‌, I don't know of a comparison that includes the Canvas Accessibility checker - but it is somewhat similar to Design tool in that it only checks HTML content on the page level - you can see a list of the items the Canvas Accessibility Checker looks for at 

Community Member

Greetings christopher_phi

This is great. 

Would you have current information on Ally and UDOIT? Cidi Labs UDOIT has more functionality in 2024 than what you shared in 2017. 

I am working on evaluating the current Ally vs UDOIT now and am having a hard time finding current data/information. 

What tool does your campus use? 

Thank you,