Understanding general accessibility guidelines for Canvas

This document outlines some general best practices in accessibility when creating material or submissions for your classes. Your instructor may ask you to contribute to a Canvas page, or post in the discussion board. It is important to keep in mind that some of your classmates may be using a screenreader to participate in the Canvas course.

Layout and Design

Generally, the layout of a page should be simple, clean and uncluttered. Navigation should be clear and consistent from page to page.

When adding content, keep content organized and chunked together in short paragraphs so users can scan your content easily.


Headings should always include descriptive section headings. Section headings allow for a quick scan of the content for sighted and non-sighted users. In Canvas, page titles are automatically generated at H1.


Alternative (alt) text is required to provide a textual alternative to non-text content in web pages. This text will be read aloud to a person using a screen reader.

By default, Canvas includes the image name as the alt text, which should be changed to something more descriptive when embedding images. Alt text is not the same as the image title, which generates text when users hover over the image. Learn how to embed images in the Rich Content Editor.


When adding a link, instead of pasting in the URL directly, attach the link to words that describe the link destination. This behavior will help everyone (whether they are screen reader users or not) understand where the link will take them.

Example Links

Content Formatting

Users can view text contrast well when formatting with bold and italics, which help distinguish between important content items.

Example Canvas Color Ratios

If you choose to use color, utilize the WebAIM Color Contrast Checker to ensure adequate color contrast and accessibility friendly colors. The following are examples of Rich Content Editor Colors Contrast Ratios within Canvas:

Fail: (under 4.5)

  • Yellow text: 1.07:1
  • Pale green text:  1.12:1
  • Orange text: 2.14:1
  • Pink text: 3.14:1
  • Red text: 4:1

Good: (4.5 to 7)

  • Blue text: 4.68:1
  • Dark green: 5.14:1
  • Purple text: 6.95:1

Best: (Over 7)

  • Burnt orange: 7.43:1
  • Very dark gray: 12.63:1
  • Black text: 21:1


Tables should be used for data display, not layout. Headings should always be included for columns and rows.

In Canvas, headings for table columns and rows can be changed in the Rich Content Editor. Further instructions are located here.

Example Table HTML Code:

  • Column
    <th scope="col">Questions</th>
     <th scope="col">Percentage of Total</th>
  • Row
    <th scope="row">Website</th>
     <th scope="row">Website URL</th>


Videos should always have the option to view captions.

Content File Formats

There may be times an instructor wants to deliver content in other file formats not native to Canvas. Here are tips to ensure accessibility of some of the most popular file formats.

Microsoft Word

General accessibility guidelines apply to designing a Word document.


General accessibility guidelines apply when designing a PowerPoint document. Use the built-in accessibility checker: [File > info > check for issues > check for accessibility].

  • Additional guidelines and links:
    • Use slide layout templates whenever possible.
    • When you can’t use a template, use one with the slide title only.
    • Write presenter’s notes in the provided area.
    • Apply Alt text to images.
    • Add captions to the slide or presenter’s notes for complicated images (e.g., diagrams or maps).
    • If embedding video, caption the video and ensure the player controls are accessible.
    • If embedding audio, include a transcript.

Portable Document Format (PDF)

Portable Document Formats (PDFs) should be created as accessible documents. Most commonly, PDFs are created from Word documents. If you do not have the original source file for a PDF document, you can tag the PDF to help with accessibility.

Additional Resources


Modified on: Fri, Jan 5, 2024 at 2:37 PM

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