Canvas is the Learning Management System (LMS) that has been adopted by DVC, as well
as the majority of community colleges in the California Community College system.
Both online and face-to-face courses use Canvas as a means to facilitate learning.
Canvas is built on a platform of accessible code. However, like any web-based system,
the person who inputs information into it must also follow basic accessibility best
practices. In other words, the "shell" is already accessible, and it is up to us
to ensure that what we put in that shell is also accessible. The following strategies
will teach you best practices for content created within Canvas (i.e. not uploaded from Word or PowerPoint). For accessibility tips for Word and
PowerPoint content, see Module 2 and Module 3.
This tutorial focuses on five accessibility best practices:
Add alternate text to images
Add styles to text
Identify headers in tables
Use the Canvas Accessibility Checker
Add alternate text to images
Alternate text is text embedded within the code of your Canvas page that describes
an image. Screen-reading software can detect the alternate text and voice it for
students with visual impairments.
Within your Canvas course, navigate to the page which contains the image.
Click the Edit button, which will open the Rich Content Editor (RCE).
For the purposes of this tutorial, we are going to assume that an image is already
inserted into your page. Click on the image to select it, then click the "Embed Image"
The "Insert/Edit Image" box will appear. Locate the "Attributes" area and the box
next to "Alt text". Type in a description for your image (e.g. Student sitting at
computer). For a purely decorative image, you can check the box beneath the Alt text
box. This will hide the decorative image from screen-reading software and will not
Click Update, and your alternate text will be saved. You won't be able to see it,
but it's there!
Add styles to text
Using styles is a way to "tag" elements in your page in order to define whether the
text is a Header 2, Header 3, Header 4, or a paragraph. We use these tags in the same
way we think of an outline; the title of the page is typically Header 1, while main
headings are Header 2, subtitles are Header 3, and so on. All text that is not a
heading can be considered "paragraph" text.
For the purposes of this tutorial, we will add styles to text that already exists
on the page.
Select the text with your mouse, and then select the proper header from the drop-down
menu. Use the following style guide when determining which style to use:
Main heading would be Header 2
Subtitles would be Header 3
Sub-subtitles would be Header 4
Any regular text would be "Paragraph"
It is possible to create a video from directly within Canvas using the Record/Upload
Media button shown here:
However, the process of captioning the video with Canvas' tools can be a little cumbersome
and clunky compared to the tools available in YouTube (in Carrie Million's humble
opinion). Canvas uses a free service called Amara to provide the captioning platform, but it lacks the "auto-transcribe" feature in
YouTube, and therefore requires more time on the part of the instructor.
For the purposes of this tutorial, we will assume there is already a table on your
To identify column headers, select the relevant cells in the table. In the Table menu, select "Cell
In "Cell properties", set the Cell type to "Header cell", and in the Scope menu, select
the "Column" option.
To identify row headers, repeat steps 1 and 2 but in the Scope menu, select the "Row" option.
Run the Accessibility Checker
Canvas has an Accessibility Checker button that will scan your page for some access errors. It will check for alternate text and table captions, but it does not check for styles or table headers. Make sure to check those two elements yourself.
On your page, click "Edit", then click the "Check Accessibility" button on the far
On the right side of your screen, a window will appear which addresses each accessibility
issue the checker found. It will allow you fix the problem within the window and then
click "Apply" and "Next" to move through each issue.
Want more information?
The following is a compendium of external resources related to making your Canvas
content accessible for students with disabilities.
Canvas has published accessibility tutorials for specific Canvas features:
When you create a page within your Canvas course, the Rich Content Editor (RCE) opens. The RCE supports multiple accessibility features for easy content creation:
Many vendors publish a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), a standardized document which evaluates a product's accessibility in accordance
with Section 508 standards. Vendors note how aspects of their product support each
criterion under 508. Because it is a self-disclosing document, it often behooves the
purchasing entity to test the product themselves to ensure the VPAT is accurate. View the Canvas VPAT
The University of Minnesota's Accessible U includes "Canvas Accessibility Considerations". This site focuses largely on design, offering valuable tips for making your Canvas course inviting and accessible for
all types of students from the landing page to the individual course materials.