Quotation Marks - Accessibility/QA

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Hi, I perform quality assurance checks for courses in my department. I have noticed that sometimes when text is copy/pasted from Word into Canvas, quotation marks end up looking like the "smart" quotation marks, instead of the default ones (which are straight/look like HTML). As a result, a course might have half of one type of quotation marks and half another kind. Does this make a difference accessibility-wise and/or do I need to concern myself with trying to fix this? 

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Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni


This is a great question. We do not recommend pasting content from Word into the Canvas Rich Content Editor. Word is a full-fledged word processing application with proprietary code that is not compatible with most web browser-based editors, including the Canvas RCE. When I was copying content from another source into a Canvas page, I always either highlighted all the text and used the Ix (clear formatting) button to remove all the formatting, or pasted just the text in the HTML Editor. I then did all the formatting in the Canvas RCE to ensure compliance with accessibility.

Another, perhaps faster, alternative is to use a code cleaner before pasting the content. These discussions about copying content from Word provide several solutions:

Solved: Need to clean formatting of extra   that are ...  

Solved: How can I convert an MS Word document into a Canva... 

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I totally agree here, @Stef_retired!  Even when I have saved/converted a Word document from O365 to PDF (so that the code is cleaner), I still run into those "smart" quotation marks and "smart" apostrophes.  I can usually identify where those are when looking at the color-coded HTML side of a content page, but it can be a pain to remove them.  Often, I will use something as simple as Windows Notepad to paste the text into that application, then do a quick "Replace" to replace those "smart" characters with the straight ones.  Then, I can paste the text back into the Canvas page.  It's not ideal, but it works.

And oh yes...use a HTML cleaner site...like the one I've linked to in my blog which Stefanie referenced.  🙂

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Community Champion

Hi @CAnderson20 

I'm not a legal expert, but I did deal with accessibility issues regularly in a previous job.  Unfortunately I can't find a great answer for you.  One site I found suggested you should use the smart quotes because it differentiates between reading aloud inch', foot" and "quotation marks".  If you follow what I did there. 

Another site suggested it also depends on what screen reader is used, as the haven't standardized how they read punctuation.  So, I suggest you work with your disability support office personnel, or anyone at your institution who might guide you in supporting students who would need this accommodation.   Probably what's most important is to be consistent. 

Accessible typography (apa.org)

Screen Readers: A Guide to Punctuation and Typographic Symbols (deque.com)

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