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Design for accessibility

Checking the accessibility of teaching materials ensures that we are supporting the success of all students.
The University has an obligation to meet the needs of its students, including those who identify as having a disability. Checking the accessibility of teaching materials in Canvas (course structure and content) improves the overall consistency, coherency, and accessibility, enhancing the student experience across the board.

The Canvas Baseline Practices (CBP) builds on the University’s 2016 ‘Canvas Minimum Presence’ document and forms part of the Curriculum Framework Transformation, supporting the University’s aspirations for developing inclusive and accessible digital environments.

Identifying and fixing accessibility issues within Canvas courses, using UDOIT Advantage, is a key component of Canvas Baseline Practices. From the UDOIT scan results of 2000+ Canvas courses, we now have a clear picture of accessibility trends across the University. The top five issues are explored.

The number of students identifying as having a disability in 2023.

Top 5 accessibility issues

Mac laptop with text reading "I design and develop experiences that make people's lives simple"

1. Headings

Text reading "here is some more info on links" where "more info on links" is a hyperlink with a mouse hover

2. Links

Multicoloured lights on a black background

3. Colour

person using braille writer

4. Alt text

various decimals in excel table format

5. Tables

Extra tips and specific documents

Magnifying glass, notebook, pencil

More accessibility tips & tricks

Adobe acrobat logo

Accessibility in Adobe Acrobat

office365 apps on iphone

Accessibility in Microsoft 365

How do I check for accessibility?


Use the UDOIT tool in Canvas. This identifies potential accessibility issues and suggests ways to fix them. Go to: UDOIT accessibility assistant for Canvas.

Word and PowerPoint

Microsoft offers built-in accessibility checkers for Word and PowerPoint – see the Office Accessibility Checker.

Adobe Acrobat

To check the accessibility of a PDF including heading hierarchy, open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat (not Adobe Reader) and click All tools.
Adobe Acrobat - show all tools

You may need to click View more to show all the tools.
Adobe Acrobat - All tools -  View more

Find and select Prepare for accessibility.
Use the Prepare for accessibility tool in Adobe Acrobat to check/alter accessibility settings

Need help?

It’s essential to create an inclusive learning environment that accommodates students with disabilities. When encountering accessibility issues related to TALIS readings, consider the following resources:

  1. Faculty Access Portal: The Faculty Access Portal is part of the University’s disability case management system, Symplicity Access. The purpose of the Faculty Access Portal is to allow faculty members to securely view student’s learning and teaching adjustments.
  2. Ratonga Hauātanga Tauira | Student Disability Services (SDS):  Reach out to Student Disability Services for personalised assistance and guidance. They can provide strategies, accommodations, and resources to support diverse student needs.
  3. Te Tumu Herenga | Libraries and Learning Services: If you encounter any accessibility challenges with TALIS readings, the library staff can assist, you can contact them at They are committed to ensuring equitable access for all students and can provide support related to accessible materials.

For additional help or questions, you can contact the Ranga Auaha Ako, Learning and Teaching Design Team.

See also

Inclusive Design for Online Accessibility (PDF)

Learning difficulties and teaching inclusively (PDF)

Inclusive Design for Canvas course

UDOIT accessibility assistant for Canvas

Page updated 27/05/2024 (major redesign)

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