Brown DLD Faculty Guides

Web accessibility for Canvas and beyond

Updated on

General practices

  • Write hyperlink text to convey purpose or content, using a descriptive label 
  • Ensure that file formats are accessible (e.g., PDF, Word, PPT) 
    • Files shared with students must be accessible to all students. Provide standard formats and use accessibility checking software when creating files, where possible. 
    • Consider the use of headers to organize information, color contrasts, use of sans serif fonts (e.g., Arial) and typeface (bold, italics, underline), information layout and use of tables.
    • Consider using a document conversion tool like SensusAccess to improve existing files and produce alternative formats.
    • Creating Accessible Content - Source: National Center on Disability and Access to Education

  • Use high contrast colors 
    • Colors should not be used to convey meaning, organization, or emphasis without context (e.g., use text meaning or complementary visual representation in  association with high contrast color).
    • Color Contrast Checker - Source: WebAim

  • Provide multiple means for accessing and engaging with content
    • Offer students choice and autonomy about how they can acquire information and actively participate in their learning (e.g., written, audio, and/or video).

  • Provide information in a logical flow
    • Use familiar language rather than obscure, decontextualized language
    • Consistently and clearly communicate expectations for student engagement and production of work.
    • Make navigational structures like lists easy to understand and use.

Accessibility Tools

If you are unsure if your course meets basic accessibility standards, then consider using one of the following digital accessibility tools Brown makes available to instructors.

UDOIT for Canvas Course Accessibility

The Universal Design Online Content Inspection Tool - or UDOIT for short - generates a dynamic report with a list of accessibility errors and suggestions, while making it possible to fix such issues in one place. The tool also explains each accessibility issue it finds, making it perfect for anyone new to digital accessibility or for those who want a refresher. You can expect to spend no longer than three hours using this tool on your course. 

For information on how to install the tool and get started, visit the Using UDOIT for Canvas accessibility page. Note that UDOIT does not address the accessibility of documents uploaded to Canvas. 

The Digital Learning & Design team would love to hear how this goes for you. Reach out to [email protected] with questions/feedback and please do share this with others who could benefit from using it. 

If you'd like to meet with a designer or technologist to go over accessibility best practices or UDOIT, you can sign up for a consultation.

SensusAccess for Document Conversion

To convert PDFs and other document types to alternative formats, or make them more accessible, you can use Brown’s SensusAccess tool. 

The service allows anyone at Brown to convert inaccessible documents (e.g. image-based PDFs, JPEG photos, PowerPoint presentations) into more accessible formats. It uses optical-character recognition (OCR) to make texts searchable, selectable, and screen-reader friendly. 

The service can also be used to automatically convert documents into a range of alternate media including audiobooks, e-books, and digital Braille. In your course, you can choose to provide alternative formats on your own, or highlight this resource for students in case they would like to generate alternative formats that best suit their learning style. 

To use the tool, visit the SensusAccess page and scroll to the Use SensusAccess section. To learn about the tool and accessibility best practices, visit the SensusAccess E-Learning Course.

In addition to these tools, Canvas also offers an accessibility checker of its own.

Additional Resources:

Next Article Zoom accessibility
Still need help? Contact DLD