Canvas Accessibility

Canvas is the learning management system (LMS) available for all classes. Canvas provides instructors with a platform to communicate with students, post course materials, and create online assignments. 

 Here are the basic things you can address in your Canvas course. 

Content Formatting:

  • Heading styles are nested in a logical and sequential order. Content is organized into meaningful sections using headings.
  • List Styles are formatted using the embedded list tool.
  • Images have appropriate alternate text; images unrelated to page content are designated as decorative.
  • Link text is meaningful, descriptive, and in context.
  • Tables are for data with identifiable headers and header rows identified.
  • Color and contrast are sufficient. Color is not used alone to convey meaning.
  • All Canvas content (pages, discussions, assignments, and quizzes) has been reviewed with an accessibility checker.

Other Considerations

Other Supplementary items include providing extra time on quizzes, converting files to Canvas pages, Canvas keyboard shortcuts, and free accessible course layouts. 


Content formatting


Headings can provide an organizational and navigational framework for content, communicating both the informational hierarchy and the relationship between different sections. Headings also provide a simple mechanism for an individual using assistive technologies to "jump" from one heading to the next when navigating the document.

When you first begin typing in Canvas' textbook editor the default style is paragraph. 

Heading Styles drop-down menu highlighted in rich content editor.

In Canvas, a style will apply to the whole line across the Canvas page. This means you cannot have a word as a heading style and also have a paragraph style within the same sentence. 

 Apply Headings

  1. Highlight the brief word or phrase, or place your cursor on the line.
  2. In the Rich Content Editor, select the Styles drop-down menu to reveal Headings 2-4.

Heading levels 2-4, Preformatted, and Paragraph.

headings Guidelines

  • Headings should follow a logical structure that identifies content based on the organizational content and hierarchy of information in the document.
  • Canvas automatically tags the page title as Heading 1. Page content headings should start at Heading 2.
  • Avoid skipping heading levels.
  • Headings should be short and succinct.
  • For additional guidance on formatting, please review the information on Structure (concept page) and Canvas Accessibility Self-Paced Course: Headings.

List Style

Lists neatly present related ideas and outlines steps in a process. They also capitalize on white space, which can help make your page visually appealing. 

In Canvas, there are two types of list styles that you can use: bulleted and numbered list styles. Bullet styles are good for grouping like-items that do not have a particular order.  

List style button highlighted in the Rich Content Editor.

Watch this video to learn how to apply list styles. 
Duration: 0:20

 Apply List Style

  1. Highlight the grouped text.
  2. In the rich content editor, select the appropriate
    list style (bullet or number list).

list styles Guidelines

  • Remove any lists created manually, such as those using dashes, asterisks, or other symbol characters.
  • Avoid using indentation to provide a visual list in lieu of the list style button.
  • Numbered lists are used to present a group of items (words, phrases, sentences) that follow a sequence.
  • Bulleted lists are used for a group of items without a sequence.
  • Lists should contain at least two or more list items, unless being used to create an outline.
  • Nested lists are acceptable, such as a numbered list that contains a nested bulleted list.
  • For additional guidance, please read more on Structure(concept page) and Canvas Accessibility Self-Paced Course: List Styles.


Images that support the content require a text description (also called "alt text") that communicates the purpose and/or content of the image. This information is presented to the individual using assistive technologies, allowing them to hear the description of the image. Image descriptions should be short and communicate the main purpose of the image. Images that are decorative can be marked as such and are ignored by assistive technologies.

There are two types of images you will be using in your course: supportive images or decorative images. Images that support content will need alt text.

If a longer description of the image is necessary to fully explain its content, consider inserting a more detailed description of the image within the document text that precedes and/or follows the image. 


  • A text description should convey the purpose or content of the image in approximately 140 characters or less. Avoid repeating the same information as contained in the surrounding text.
  • If the image is complex, use a short alt text description for the image and then provide additional information in the surrounding text of the document.
  • Do not include the file format in the alt text (Example: .JPEG, .PNG).
  • Do not include phrases “A picture of” or “An image of” as part of the alt text.
  • For additional guidance on writing effective text descriptions (i.e., alt text), please review the information onImages and Canvas Accessibility Self-Paced Course: Images.



Apply ALT TEXT to support images

Watch this video to learn about creating accessible images in Canvas.
Duration: 0:34


1. Select the image.


The image should be outlined
blue and have four blue squares at each edge.
When the image is selected, an Image Options
will appear either above or below the image.

Submenu “Image Options” appears above highlighted image.

  1. If the image has pedagogical value,
    write a brief description in the Alt Text box.

    Select Done to save the information.
    In “Image Options” window, write alt text in description box; select “Done”.


Apply 'decorative image'  

Watch this video to learn about creating accessible images in Canvas.
Duration: 0:31

If the image is decorative, select the Decorative Image checkbox.

 For decorative images, in Image Options window, select “Decorative Image” then select Done.


Documents containing hyperlinks to websites or other online resources can be improved by using descriptive link text that is understood by the reader instead of the full URL. Using the full URL as the link text may not make sense to the reader, particularly if it is long.

Links button highlighted in rich content editor.

Hyperlinks Guidelines

Edit an Existing Link

Watch this video to learn about making an existing link accessible.
Duration: 0:37

  1. Place cursor on link. A submenu will appear. Select Link Options.

    In the pop-up hyperlink submenu, select “Link Options” to edit existing links.

  2. In the Text field, write descriptive text. Select Done.

    In Link Options, write descriptive text under “Text” field, then select Done.


Watch this video to learn about creating an accessible new link.
Duration: 0:52


  1. Highlight the text to be converted into a hyperlink.

    under Links button, “External Links” is highlighted.

  2. In the rich content editor > select Links > External Links.
  3. In the “Insert Link” window, add the URL to the Link field.
    Select Done.
    In Insert Link window, write description under Link field, then select Done.


Tables in Canvas should be used for data and not layout purposes. An accessible table includes the following:

  • At least one header (row and/or column)
  • Caption description summarizing the table

The easiest method to ensure an accessible data table in Canvas is to use Pope Tech Instructor Accessibility Guide or the native Accessibility Checker. After you create the table in the Canvas Rich Content Editor, use the Accessibility Checker to add the appropriate table header information.

  1. Create your Canvas page and then create a table.
  2. At the bottom of the editor, select the Pope Tech Instructor Accessibility Guide.

For additional guidance, please read Tables (concept page) and Canvas Accessibility Self-Paced Course: Tables.


When choosing colors to present text information in documents, avoid pastel colors or the “light” version of a particular color.

Such color options do not provide sufficient contrast against a white background. Contrast ratios should be the following:

  • 4.5:1 for regular text
  • 3:1 for 18 point font and larger, or 14 point font and bold

Contrast ratios may be evaluated using tools such as:


Color & Formatting

When using color to indicate a specific condition or state, include text formatting to provide a distinguishing characteristic. For example, if a list of vocabulary words were identified only in red text, this could present difficulties for an individual who has a type of color-blindness.
Use color and formatting to support accessibility, such as:

  • Red text with Bold formatting
  • Using an asterisk, brackets, or other annotation symbols in addition to color

In addition to color, an asterisk is used to indicate emphasis.


Canvas Text Color Guide

This infographic provides a guide of text colors accessible on Canvas' white background and text colors accessible on black backgrounds as guidance.

✓ = accessible colors
o = colors that are accessible only for large text
      (Header 2, or 18pt and larger)

Accessible text colors on white and black backgrounds.


Hex Code Option Now Available

The new color palette allows for customized colors.

Using the Hex code along with a color contrast tool
can help you identify an appropriate color combination.

  1. Select Text color.
  2. Select Custom color.
  3. The Color Picker dialogue box should appear
    with the option of entering either the decimal or hex code.

    Select Save.

For additional information on color (concept page), read Canvas Accessibility Self-Paced Course: Color.

Color Picker palette allows content authors to customize colors, then select Save.



Accessibility Checkers

There are two accessibility checkers that you can use to check your Canvas pages. We recommend using the Pope Tech Instructor Accessibility Guide as it is a bit more robust in accessibility support.

Pope Tech Accessibility Checker

Pope Tech Instructor Accessibility GuideThe Pope Tech Instructor Accessibility Guide is an accessibility remediation tool available to instructors in Canvas. With the Pope Tech accessibility tool, instructors in Canvas will be able to check and verify their course content to align with Section 508 Standards and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to ensure an equitable and accessible experience for our students at the SDCCD.

Some key features of Pope Tech include:

  • Accessible, fast, and accurate web accessibility testing for their courses as they edit them.
  • Accessibility errors in Canvas can be easily edited and fixed—with minor work and in minimal time.
  • Integrated documentation and examples are provided to help guide instructors in creating more accessible content.
  • Pope Tech also provides simple feedback!

To learn more about Pope Tech and find more tutorials and resources. Please visit our Pope Tech Accessibility page.

Canvas Accessibility Checker

The Rich Content Editor includes an accessibility tool that checks common accessibility errors within the editor. You can use the Accessibility Checker to design course content while considering accessibility attributes. This tool only verifies content created within the Rich Content Editor. You may use other accessibility tools to verify additional content in Canvas.

As part of the Rich Text Editor, Canvas now includes a tool to check the basic accessibility of your page before you save.

Like any tool, the Canvas Accessibility Checker tool:

  • Works when it's used correctly
  • Creates problems if used incorrectly
  • Doesn't cover everything you need to check for in your pages


The Accessibility Checker Tool is limited in that it is an open-sourced work-in-progress tool. It may not catch every accessibility issue and like all accessibility checkers, it will still need human eyes to find and fix accessibility issues.

Accessibility checkers are like robots. They cannot, for example, determine whether an alt text describes the image that ties it to the content of your course. They also cannot determine what phrases should be formatted as headings.

However, the Accessibility Checker is a good tool to use for:

  • Creating accessible tables
  • Color contrast


Canvas Accessibility Checker Anatomy

  1. Displays the total number of issues identified and the current issue.
  2. Brief description of the issue.
  3. In-depth explanation.
  4. "You-Do-It Action Area" - the Accessibility Checker may ask you to:
    • Select text colors and background colors with high contrast.
    • Provide an option to merge links that have the same URL.
    • Provide a descriptive alt text or identify decorative images.
    • Provide a caption and identify header rows or column headers in order to create an accessible table.
  5. Select Apply to save your work.
  6. If applicable, a Previous and Next button allows to move through the accessibility issues.

Image of the Accessibility Checker with annotations showcasing the different fields on the tool




The Canvas Accessibility Checker is located at the bottom right-hand of the text editor.

Run the Accessibility Checker button. The Accessibility Checker should appear on the right-hand side of the screen.

Screenshot of the Accessibility Checker Button in the New Rich Content Editor in Canvas


2. run canvas accessibility checker 
  1. Canvas will highlight the inaccessible issue in question.
    Note: sometimes the highlight may not highlight the object correctly.

  2. Remediate each issue based on the need.

  3. Select Apply to save your work. The Canvas Accessibility Checker will automatically move to the next issue.

Demonstration in Canvas to how to add alternative text in the Canvas Accessibility Checker



Other Supplementary

Faculty Support


Some students may require additional time on a Canvas Quiz. Instructors can modify Canvas Quiz settings to allow for multiple attempts or to support students approved for an extended time. Please see the Canvas Instructor Guide: How to grant extra time or attempts in a quiz.


Files (Word, PPT, PDF, Excel) should be “converted” to Canvas pages whenever possible.


New semester - feel like refreshing your courses' look and feel? 

Different colored themes are based on each college. Adaptable module and page layouts. Download the adaptable course layouts in Canvas Commons:

  • San Diego City College 
  • San Diego Mesa College
  • San Diego Miramar College
  • CTE Faculty 


Student support

  • Please direct students to your local DSPS office to ensure proper accommodation are provided. 
  • Students can take advantage of the free Immersive Reader in Canvas.

    Immersive Reader is a learning tool that uses proven techniques to improve reading for people, regardless of their age or ability. Key features include "read text out loud," "break it into syllables," and "increase spacing between lines and letters." It offers text-decoding solutions for students with learning differences such as dyslexia, and it encourages independent reading and helps teachers support students’ unique learning needs.

    Canvas Pages store educational resources that are plugged into courses or groups. These resources can include text, video, links to files, and other content. Thanks to our long-term partnership with Microsoft, we’ve integrated Immersive Reader into all Canvas Pages content, which ensures that learners can consume and comprehend those resources regardless of their reading ability.

    When building courses and creating course content in Canvas, Immersive Reader lets users: 
    • Change font size, text spacing, and background color
    • Split up words into syllables
    • Highlight verbs, nouns, adjectives, and sub-clauses
    • Choose between two fonts optimised to help with reading
    • Read text aloud
    • Change the speed of reading
    • Highlight sets of one, three, or five lines for greater focus
    • Select a word to see a related picture and hear the word read aloud as many times as necessary

      Note: The Immersive Reader does not function the same as a screen-reader such as NVDA and JAWS. The Immersive Reader is a tool to assist with cognitive disabilities; whereas, a screen-reader supports low or visual impairment.