Why Accessibility Matters

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that all public spaces must be accessible to all users. This includes digital spaces. As an online instructor, you must make every effort to ensure your course materials can be used by all students, including those who might have disabilities.

See Why Accessibility? from the MU Digital Access website for more background.

Being proactive about creating accessible course materials will save you time in the long run, as you will not have to rush to retrofit your course in response to a student request for accommodation. Many of these practices will make your course easier for everyone to use, not just those with special needs. Most importantly, accessibility is the right thing to do!

Accessibility for Your Canvas Site

One reason the UM System adopted Canvas as its learning management system (LMS) was the company’s commitment to digital accessibility. To learn more, read Accessibility within Canvas

It is still up to you to ensure that your Canvas course site is organized in a logical, consistent manner, and that all materials provided within your course are accessible. See General Accessibility Design Guidelines (from Instructure Canvas) for details.

Course Navigation

The default Canvas course layout and navigation are simple, but there are further steps you can take to ensure all students can navigate your course intuitively.

  • Hide navigation links to parts of the course you do not want students to access from the course navigation (or at all).
  • Specify where students need to begin to orient themselves to the course and start working on lessons.
  • Use the Modules to “curate” course content. Content pages, files, discussions, quizzes, and assignments that support a module’s objectives can all be added to a module.
  • Give each module a descriptive name; for example, instead of “Week 3” call it “Week 3: Disorders of the Respiratory Tract” or “Week 3: Alias Grace (Sections 1–4).”
  • Give each item in a module a descriptive name. If you link a file, edit that link so that instead of the file name, students see a title; instead of “English 3100 (Spring 2020).docx” students see “English 3100 Syllabus (Word).”

Using the Rich Content Editor

The Rich Content Editor is the interface that allows you to enter announcements, discussion text, instructions for assignments or quizzes, and so forth into your Canvas course. You can copy and paste text from other sources (such as a Word document) or type directly into the Rich Content Editor.

The Rich Content Editor renders what you have entered as HTML. You do not have to know HTML in order to use the Rich Content Editor; you can use the buttons on the toolbar to format your text (just as you can format text in a Word document). If you choose to use the HTML View to edit the source code directly, see the MU Digital Access page on How to Make an Accessible Website.

Canvas Quizzes and Assignments

The following pages provide guidance on making sure your assessments are created accessibly:

Giving a Student Extra Time or Extra Attempts on a Quiz

One of the most common requests for accommodation in an online course entails providing extra time on a timed quiz. To learn how to do this, please see Once I publish a timed quiz, how can I give my students extra time? in the Canvas guides.

Checking Course Accessibility

You can use the Accessibility Checker in the Canvas Rich Content Editor to identify and fix issues in your announcements, pages, assignment and discussion prompts, and so forth. You may also check the accessibility of individual Pages in Canvas by adding a Wave Browser Extension.

Accessible Documents and Multimedia

If you will be uploading documents to your Canvas site for your students, or creating videos, be sure to review the information on MU’s Digital Access website for guidance on ensuring these document types are accessible as well (as well as tips on how to check the accessibility of your documents).


Modified on: Tue, Mar 17, 2020 at 2:18 PM

Tags: accessibility accommodation ADA disability

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