Design for accessibility
Checking the accessibility of teaching materials ensures that we are supporting the success of all students.
How do I make content accessible?
Heading styles are pre-formatted headings that structure content in logical order. They enable readers to engage more strategically with your content, making it easy to view and navigate. In particular, for those who use screen readers, visually-impaired and/or dyslexic students), heading styles are essential because the software communicates levels of hierarchy.
Structure content hierarchy
Rely on text size alone
36pt font, bold
24pt font, bold
Headings in Word
Headings in Canvas
Heading one as the page title
Heading two as a section title
Heading 3 as a sub-section title
Plain language is easily understood, concrete and descriptive. If used thoughtfully, plain language can convey complex ideas without being overly simplistic.
Use plain language
“It’s raining heavily”
“It’s raining cats and dogs”
Never drag the boundaries (handles) to shrink a big image in Canvas. This may seem to work, but it doesn’t make any difference to the file size and can adversely affect the image quality; you might pull the image out of proportion, causing distortion and degradation. This can be frustrating for everyone, not just low-vision users.
Additionally, low-vision users may need to zoom in or enlarge an image, so it is best if the image has not been degraded.
Resizing images in Windows
Open your image in the Photos application pre-installed in Windows and select Resize from the menu.
Then select the medium option (this will be greyed out if your image is smaller than the medium image profile).
Resizing images in MacOS
Use the Preview App on a Mac computer to resize your image.
Screen readers cannot display images but can read aloud text labels that describe them.
Alternative (alt) text is needed to describe the content and function of the image and any text that is part of an image.
Adding alternative text in Canvas can be easily done from the Rich Content Editor.
Use meaningless descriptions
If the image is purely decorative, leave the alternative text blank: alt=“”
Colour contrast is the difference between text and background colours. Most people prefer white text on a black background (high contrast) over orange text on a red background (low contrast). This is especially the case for people with low contrast sensitivity or colour blindness, who may struggle to discern meaning when insufficient contrast is provided.
Conversely, some people with high contrast sensitivity (e.g., Irlen Syndrome or visual stress) may struggle with extreme contrast. This can lead to discomfort, such as eye strain and headaches. Therefore, providing balanced colour contrast is important.
Use contrasting colours
Use pastel shades
Colour and screen readers
Use colours along with symbols, text or alt-text
Rely on colour alone
Page layout for documents and files
Page layouts need to be clear, consistent and easily navigated. Font family size and colour should be easily legible. For example, a single column with chunked content is more easily navigated than double columns.
Your content will be scanned by screen readers and accessed by low-vision users. If you create your page layout for these readers, everyone will benefit.
Follow a linear layout
Build complex page designs
A well-constructed table allows screen readers to read out the headings by column, and the data by rows, therefore giving the data meaningful structure. The general rule is to only use tables for tabular data, rather than page layout. Consider using Canvas Design Blocks as an alternative tool for designing page layout.
Structuring tables in Canvas
Within the rich content editor, highlight all the cells in the table that contain headers.
Navigate to the Table menu, then hover your mouse over Cell and then select Cell properties.
Select Header cell from the dropdown options under Cell type.
Then under Scope, select the option to specify whether the cells are a header for a column or row.
The Inclusive Design for Canvas course provides additional accessible table examples.
How do I check for accessibility?
Use the UDOIT tool in Canvas. This identifies potential accessibility issues and suggests ways to fix them.
Word and PowerPoint
Microsoft offers built-in accessibility checkers for Word and PowerPoint – see the Office Accessibility Checker.
Similarly Adobe Acrobat provides a built-in checker – see Create and verify PDF accessibility using Acrobat Pro
Inclusive Design for Online Accessibility (PDF)
Learning difficulties and teaching inclusively (PDF)
Inclusive Design for Canvas course
Canvas design templates
Page updated 17/07/2023 (minor edit)