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Online Education

Accessibility

As instructors, we have legal and ethical obligations to ensure our courses are fully accessible to all learners, including those with disabilities. 

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act the information within all materials provided to students or to the public, whether in person or through electronic means, must be fully accessible to all persons regardless of their disabilities or impairments.

Every reasonable effort must be made to ensure that all files, documents, videos, books, audio recordings, and applications provided to students or the public are fully accessible.

Accessibility Best Practices

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
  • Headings should always include descriptive section headings. Section headings allow for a quick scan of the content for sighted and non-sighted users.
  • Chunking material prevents cognitive overload, providing information in digestible pieces for your students. Headers are an important organizational tool. They will help your students better understand the main points of each section, help provide a cognitive schema for the information you're presenting, and allow your students to skim the page.
  • From an accessibility perspective, headings are valuable as they provide individuals using screen readers with a simple method to navigate within a Content Page. In a recent study conducted by WebAim investigating the browsing habits of screen reader users, over 75% of individuals reported they use headings always or often to navigate web pages.
  • Rather than navigating line-by-line through a document or Web page, the use of headings allows individuals to move through the information based on heading topic.
  • How do I style text content in the Rich Content Editor?
  • In Canvas, page titles are automatically generated at H1. Ensure all heading levels are nested accordingly with no missing heading levels.
Images
  • 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.
Example Image

children sitting on a couch with a smartphone, tablet, and laptop

Default Alt Text (name of image): kids-tech-revised.jpg

Modified Alt Text: children sitting on a couch with a smartphone, tablet, and laptop.

Links
  • 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

Bad Example

Good Example

Content Formatting
  • Users can view text contrast well when formatting with bold and italics, which help distinguish between important content items.
  • Don't use underlines so as to not confuse it with a hyperlink.
  • Don’t use color alone to convey meaning. If you choose to use color, utilize the WebAIM Color Contrast Checker to ensure adequate color contrast ratios and accessibility friendly colors.
  • There is another page within this module that goes into more detail with color.
Tables
  • 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.
  • View the Creating Accessible Tables in the Rich Content Editor.
  • There is another page within this module that goes into more detail with tables.
Videos
Simplify Navigation Menu
  • In the course Settings > Navigation tab, disable items not used.
Resources: 

Attributions: 

General Accessibility Design Guidelines, Erin Hallmark, Canvas Community

Top 10 Canvas Accessibility Checks, University of Washington

Creating Accessible Course Content by @ONE (Online Network of Educators), shared under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) 4.0 license.

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