Canvas - Accessibility

Last Updated: 05/08/2020

Service Overview

Canvas is CU Boulder’s learning management system (LMS), and was first made available for student and faculty use in spring 2018. The accessibility of an individual’s experience in Canvas depends on two things: the accessibility of the platform itself, and the accessibility of the content placed in Canvas.

This page contains information about the accessibility of the Canvas platform and has links to documentation about Canvas content accessibility. Those who create and share content in Canvas have a responsibility to ensure that content is created and provided in a way that makes it accessible to everyone in the course. Additional resources to assist with creating accessible content and designing accessible courses are provided in the Information for Instructors section below.

Accessibility Topics

Information for Assistive Technology Users
Information for Instructors
Information for Instructors using Assistive Technology
Service Road Map & Accessibility Documentation
Get Help or Provide Feedback
Additional Resources

Canvas Accessibility Status

Canvas’s desktop site is generally accessible to student users. The instructor functions have not yet been tested, and the mobile apps have not yet been assessed for accessibility. Specific issues exist in areas like the Calendar, Files, the document viewer, and integrations like Kaltura and VoiceThread.

Statements on this page about the accessibility of Canvas are based on accessibility testing done in January and August 2018, and may no longer represent the current status of the software. The Conferences tool was tested in March 2020.

Information for Assistive Technology Users

Testing has been conducted on many aspects of Canvas; however, the platform undergoes frequent changes and the information contained below may no longer be accurate.

If you encounter issues in using Canvas, please report them to the IT Service Center at oithelp@colorado.edu or 303-735-4357.

Screen Reader / Keyboard-Only Users

The Canvas website provides tips for screen reader and keyboard-only users.

Please consult the Screen Readers and Browsers section of Canvas’s accessibility documentation to determine its current support for various screen reader and browser combinations.

Specific issues to note are as follows.

Document Viewer

  • Screen readers do not announce the occurrence of an annotation when reading through the document. Annotations are read at the end of the document, and it is not possible to determine non-visually which part of the text they are linked to.
  • JAWS users must hit Enter before they start typing when they want to leave a comment on an annotation, or else the focus shifts to the top of the page.
  • Screen magnifier users need to select the comment before zooming in to see which part of the text it is linked to. Otherwise, the dotted line linking the comment to the text disappears upon zoom.
  • If the annotated document is downloaded for review, it is recommended to use Adobe Acrobat for viewing the PDF, since the annotation comments may not be consistently displayed in generic PDF viewers.
  • Note: students using screen magnifiers must go into full-screen view in View Feedback to view the annotation comments.

Calendar

Screen reader users are recommended to use the Agenda calendar view due to inaccessible table structure in the Week and Month views.

Assignments

After submitting an assignment, screen reader users may not receive a notification alert indicating the status of their submission.
Workaround: The notification is located in the complementary region on the assignment submission page.

Files

The file tree is not easily navigable or consistently usable by screen reader users.
Workaround: If possible, access content through Modules rather than Files.

My Media and Kaltura Media Gallery

My Media and Kaltura Media Gallery are both part of the Canvas Kaltura integration. Please see the Kaltura accessibility page for more details about the accessibility of Kaltura.

Screen reader users may experience significant barriers in attempting to complete an in-video quiz in Kaltura Media Gallery. Faculty should avoid utilizing this tool.

Conferences

  • The Conferences tool in Canvas opens a web conferencing application called BigBlueButton. Basic features within BigBlueButton are relatively accessible, however screen reader navigation is tedious and there are several severe issues, noted below.
  • The Shared Notes feature is not accessible (according to BigBlueButton’s accessibility documentation).
  • The share your screen option is difficult to launch due to focus handling issues and misleading help text.
  • The button to toggle the webcam on or off is labeled “share webcam button” regardless of whether the webcam is turned on or off, making it difficult to determine whether your webcam is currently turned on or not.
  • Settings within the Options Menu cannot be navigated and modified as expected using the arrow keys.
    • Workaround: Tab into the Settings dialogue. Once inside the dialogue, arrow keys can be utilized to change settings.
  • Note: Keyboard shortcuts for BigBlueButton can be found under the Options Menu.

Office 365

Documents in the Office 365 integration will be rendered through the Office Online document viewer. Please visit the Office Online accessibility page for more details about best practices and any barriers.

Screen Magnifier Users

  • Users can enable high contrast mode under Account > Settings > Feature Options. Some interface elements may fail color contrast requirements when this mode is not enabled.
  • Some aspects of Canvas’s column-based layout may be displaced at higher browser zoom settings, resulting in a confusing layout to read.
  • When navigating through Modules, note that the “Next” and “Previous” buttons are located at the bottom right and bottom left of the page, respectively. They may be difficult to locate initially when using a magnifier.
  • Many control elements, such as settings menus or notification toggles, are located on the far right side of the page from the element they modify.
  • Many notifications, such as the successful submission of an assignment, are communicated through alerts that appear at the top of the screen rather than near the location the action was performed.
  • In the document viewer, screen magnifier users need to select the comment before zooming in to see which part of the text it is linked to. Otherwise, the dotted line linking the comment to the text disappears upon zoom.
  • In the document viewer, students using screen magnifiers must go into full-screen view in View Feedback to view the annotation comments. 
  • If an annotated document is downloaded for review, it is recommended to use Adobe Acrobat for viewing the PDF, since the annotation comments may not be consistently displayed in generic PDF viewers.

Information for Instructors

Canvas has General Accessibility Design Guidelines for making your course content accessible. Additional resources developed by the Digital Accessibility Office at CU Boulder are provided below.

Accessibility Best Practices for the Canvas Platform

  • Read through the Tips for Creating Accessible Learning Experiences in Canvas.
  • Avoid requiring students to use the Files tool to access course content. If a document needs to be accessed, make sure it can be accessed through a Module.
  • Run the Accessibility Checker on your HTML content, and review the Canvas Rich Content Editor Accessibility Checklist for additional best practices.
  • Follow the recommendations in our documentation about creating accessible exams in Canvas.
  • Avoid creating in-video quizzes in My Media or Kaltura Media Gallery. The tool appears to contain a number of substantial barriers for assistive technology users.
  • Avoid using comments and annotations in the SpeedGrader document viewer to provide assignment feedback to students who use screen readers. Consider using Microsoft Word as an accessible alternative to add comments to a document.
  • If you use Turnitin Feedback Studio to annotate or comment on student work, you will need to provide feedback in a different format for students who use screen readers. See the Turnitin accessibility considerations page for more details.
  • If you utilize a publisher integration for student assignments, readings, or other course work, please contact the publisher for details about their accessibility. Consult our guide on the accessibility evaluation process for e-texts.
  • Due to accessibility issues with the Conferences tool, it is recommended that instructors use Zoom instead. If you do use Conferences, avoid requiring screen reader users to turn on their webcams, share their screens, or contribute to shared notes, as these features are not accessible. Verbally describe any content that is shared through screen sharing. Also note that live captioning accommodations may be significantly more difficult to implement in Conferences than Zoom.
  • If you have foreign language content in your course and have an enrolled student who uses a screen reader, you may need to add language tags to your course’s HTML content in quizzes, discussions, and more.

Course Document Accessibility

Consult the Accessible Technology Resources page for details on how to create accessible Word documents, PowerPoints, Google Docs, and more.

Timing Accommodations

You can set different availability dates and times for specific users for assignments and quizzes. To do so, review the Providing Extra Time Accommodations in Canvas guide.

Information for Instructors using Assistive Technology

Consult the Accessibility Within Canvas guide for keyboard shortcuts and advice on specific tools within Canvas. The instructor interface within Canvas has not yet been fully tested for accessibility. This section will be updated with more details once that has occurred.

Service Road Map & Vendor Accessibility Documentation

Canvas’s student-facing desktop interface has been reviewed by the Accessibility and Usability Lab; mobile apps and the instructor desktop interface have not yet been fully reviewed. 

OIT is working with Canvas to address the issues found so far in testing. Additionally, all regular updates to Canvas are reviewed for accessibility impact.

Canvas Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) and WCAG 2.0 Checklist

Get Help or Provide Feedback

OIT has partnered with Disability Services to provide assistance for accessibility issues related to OIT supported services. If you need assistance, please contact the IT Service Center at: oithelp@colorado.edu or at 303-735-4357.

We want to hear from you about this service. If you’re having problems using this service or you have more information about the accessibility of this service that we should share with others on this webpage, please let us know by contacting the IT Service Center at oithelp@colorado.edu or at 303-735-4357.

Additional Resources