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Community Champion

Support for a blind instructor

We have an interesting challenge this term. Whereas we’ve successfully supported sight impaired students taking online courses, we’ve never had the challenge of a sight impaired instructor. He’s been asked to teach an online course. Going through relatively basic functions (setting up modules, adding content, etc.) has proven to be challenging and very time consuming for this person – even with JAWS. Has anyone dealt with this challenge and can offer some suggestions? I’m anticipating issues with setting up quizzes, grading, and other functions we take for granted. I thought if perhaps I can locate other sight impaired faculty that he might be able to contact for advice and assistance.

BTW, I asked a disability list serve for suggestions and they pounced on Canvas being the problem. Is that true?

17 Replies
Community Champion

One of my ADA contacts provided this information:


Contact Terrill Thomson. He is involved with the ATHEN/CANVAS Accessibility Working Group. ATHEN is the Access Technology Higher Education Network. They have been working with Instructure for the last year or so to improve the accessibility of Canvas. From what Terrill indicated to me, much improvement has been made, but there are a few problems still to be fixed. Terrill is very knowledgeable in access technology and will give you solid information. His contact information is:
  Terrill Thompson
  Technology Accessibility Specialist
  DO-IT, Accessible Technology Services
  UW Information Technology
  University of Washington

I have had the pleasure of meeting Terrill several times and he recently provide professional development for our state system's eLearning Council. Great guy and incredibly knowledgeable!

Community Participant

Building on Kelley's point, the instructor can create their course in Word (or however they work best) and someone in the college can transfer that content into Canvas, based on the instructor's direction. College's are required to make accomodations and it would be simple to provide that kind of help. After all Canvas is just a tool to present the instructor's content. If the help provided is an Instructional Designer, they would be able to work with the instructor to make the best use of Canvas. Just like with sighted users, experience makes the process easier. As time progresses this instructor will need less and less assistance.

Great additional comments, Mark!

Even if my college did not provide this accommodation, I would work with that faculty this way. This represents the most effective work-flow for all involved.

Community Champion


Has your instructor been working better in Canvas? I'm working with a TA who is also having issues, and I was hoping to hear success stories from other universities. I was wondering if there were any tips, best practices, or insider knowledges that they would be willing to share with a relatively-new Canvas user using adaptive technologies.


LEA SUSAN ENGLE, Training & Outreach Coordinator - Canvas

The University of Texas at Austin

Community Champion

As it turns out, he is not. I was hoping he would.

Community Contributor

Thanks for opening this thread. We have a vision impaired student starting in the fall and this has been very helpful. We are just starting to research this and I'll post what we find out as well.

Community Participant

I am a JAWS user. I am creating my first course in Canvas but I've taken around thirty courses using Canvas.

Canvas is super accessible. I can create pages, move them around in modules, use the RCE, build quizzes, place images, adjust the layout, upload and manage course files etc. etc. But I am an advanced user of my screen readers. 

Does your blind instructor navigate other websites without difficulty, Facebook, Amazon, ebay? If not, then the problem isn't Canvas because Canvas is a lot easier than they are and many blind folks live on the sites mentioned here. 

The problem is that JAWS is even more sophisticated than Word. It has five cursors and three navigation modes. You need to know when to use which mode when, what cursor is active and how to use another one if that one isn't working in your situation. Navigating the web is a bigger challenge than almost any other task you might tackle with a screen reader.

Before tackling anything web-based the user should go through all the JAWS basic training especially their free Surf's Up training.

Their Training site has everything your person needs. If you are planning to help him, you too need to do the Surf's up training they freely offer.