Navigating Canvas with JAWS


Navigating Canvas with JAWS


JAWS is a commonly used accessibility screen reader and is one of the screen readers supported for use with Canvas. This post will discuss some basics of using JAWS with Canvas.


Navigating through Canvas you can use JAWS shortcuts to locate, bypass, and select without having to move through all individual elements like any other website.  

Here is a link to a guide for JAWS shortcuts:


Page Regions


The Canvas website layout has a few landmarks/regions that make up the page layout.

In a course, you will have the following regions:


  • Skip to Content: The first element on any Canvas page that a screen reader user will hit is the “Skip to Content” link.  This bypasses all of the navigation items on the page.
  • Global Navigation: This is a list of links to access your account settings, courses, calendar, inbox and help menu.  Link to Global Navigation Canvas Guide
  • Course Navigation: This is a list of links to access different course areas like Assignments, Discussions, Modules, Grades, Course Settings, etc.  Link to Course Navigation Canvas Guide
  • Breadcrumbs List:  Shows where you are in a course
  • Main Content: After the Course Navigation you’re at the main content of your course link.  If you’ve just entered a course, the main content section will be your course’s home page.
  • Complementary Region (If there is any):  Complimentary content.  

Navigation Between Courses


If you’re trying to get to a specific course and you’re at your main dashboard, you can do as follows to get to a specific course:

  • Press “R” twice (this moves through regions of the page with JAWS), this will get you to the global navigation region. 
  • Use the down arrow until you hit “Courses” and press Enter.  This puts you in the courses tray (you will reach a close button first which closes the tray, then the tray heading <H2>, and then your list of courses). 
  • Use the up/down arrows to navigate your list of courses until you find the correct one and press enter.


Navigation Within Courses


Once you’re in the course, if you press “R”, the first region is the skip to content region (if you press enter, it will skip all of the global/course navigation and take you to the main region of the page).  If you do not use the skip to content link and press "R" again and this is your Global Navigation Region which JAWS will read how many navigation items there are, Press "R" again, you get the Breadcrumbs Navigation Region, this will show you exactly where you are in the course, Press "R" again, you get to the Course Navigation Region (List of links to areas of your course).  Once you get to the region you’re looking for, you can use the up/down arrows to navigate the buttons/links in that region.


Example:  If you want to get directly to your course modules from anywhere in a course, you can do the following:

  • Press “R” 4 times (this should get you to the courses navigation region)
  • Press “Down Arrow” until it reads Modules and press enter.  This will take you to the modules index page of your course
  • If you press “H” (this moves through Headings of the page with JAWS), it will take you to the <H1> on the page (every Canvas page has an <H1> at the top of the main content region).  If you press the “Down Arrow”, it will move you through all the elements of your Course Modules List.  This is where you can add modules, add module items, edit any existing modules, etc.