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Accessible Course Content in CarmenCanvas

Canvas and Carmen Canvas



CarmenCanvas is Ohio State’s learning management system (LMS) and was deployed for student and faculty use in spring 2016. 

The accessibility of an individual’s experience in CarmenCanvas depends on two things: the accessibility of the platform itself, and the accessibility of the content placed within CarmenCanvas. 

This page contains information about the accessibility of the CarmenCanvas platform and has links to documentation about how to create accessible content within your course. 

Those who create and share content in CarmenCanvas have a responsibility to ensure that content is created and provided in a way that makes it accessible to everyone in the course. 

Organization and Consistency 

  • Having a well-organized course is key to accessibility as well as usability
  • Page layout should be simple, clean, and uncluttered
  • Navigation should be clear and consistent from page to page
  • Pages should have unique and descriptive titles (ex: Module 1 Quiz 1 of 3: World History) 
  • Be consistent with naming conventions
  • If reading material is referred to by title in the syllabus, be sure you use the same name throughout course 
  • Recommend using the Ohio State Syllabus Template 




  • Use headings in appropriate, sequential nested order 
    • In CarmenCanvas, the page title is H1, so the first heading on a page should be H2, with H3 nested under that, etc 
  • Learn more about proper heading structure: Accessible Headings in CarmanCanvas 


  • Use bulleted or numbered lists (by clicking on the appropriate button in the Rich Text Editor), rather than typing out numbers or symbols for lists 

Links and Link Text

  • URLs must be embedded as unique, descriptive, named links
  • Avoid using the actual web address as the link text
    • Avoid vaguely named links like “read more” or linking one word out of a phrase that will mean nothing out of context
    • Use the whole phrase as the link text when it makes sense
    • Learn more about accessible links: Creating accessible links in CarmenCanvas  


Accessible Tables 

  • Creating fully accessible tables can be a complicated task
  • Tables should have a descriptive caption associated with them
  • Headers used for rows and/or columns must be designated
  • The “scope" of the header must also be designated. 
    • The scope attribute specifies whether a header cell is a header for a column, row, or group of columns or rows
  • For step-by-step instructions on creating accessible tables: Creating accessible tables in CarmenCanvas   
  • Here is a video that describes how to make an accessible table: About Accessible Tables in Canvas 


Accessible Microsoft Documents

Guidelines in this section are about documents with editable text, not documents with scanned text

  • Scanned text documents are not accessible and not recommended

Word Documents

Excel Spreadsheets

Use excel for organizing tabular data

PowerPoint Presentations

  • Images should have alternate text descriptions
  • Ensure that the reading order of items on slides is appropriate for the meaning being conveyed
  • Slide animation/transitions can cause issues with assistive technology and are not recommended
  • It is not recommended that PowerPoint is used to create flyers. Use Word instead
  • To learn more: Creating Accessible Power Point Presentations 


Portable Document Format (PDF) Files 

PDF files by default are inaccessible and difficult to fix 

  • Making existing PDF files accessible is labor intensive and requires technical knowledge 
  • Image based PDFs are either inaccessible or time consuming to fix
  • Alternatively, a PDF’s content can be added as a page within Canvas 

Instructor-created PDF files

  • Created with MS Word 

    • Begin by creating your document in the latest available version of Microsoft Word and run the accessibility checker in Word 
      • Correct all issues  
      • Save your document by exporting it as a pdf  
      • Make sure when saving to check the “Best for electronic distribution and accessibility” check box 
  • Created with MS PowerPoint

    • Begin by creating your document in the latest available version of Microsoft Power Point
    • In PowerPoint, the Accessibility Checker runs automatically in the background when you're creating a presentation
    • If the Accessibility Checker detects accessibility issues, you will get a reminder in the status bar
    • To manually launch the Accessibility Checker, select Review > Check Accessibility and run the accessibility checker
      • Correct all issues
      • Save your document by exporting it as a pdf  
      • Make sure when saving to check the “Best for electronic distribution and accessibility” check box
      • It is recommended that fliers not be made in PowerPoint; Use MS Word instead 

PDF files from outside sources​​

  • Using Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, run the accessibility checker and correct all issues: reading order, alt text, tables, language, title, etc
  • To learn more: Accessibility Check with Adobe Acrobat 


Alternate Text Image Descriptions and for Visual Information in General 

  • All images including stock photos and icons should have quality alternate (alt) text descriptions
    • Decorative images can be tagged as decorative within the CarmenCanvas Rich Text Editor
    • Only images which do not add any information to the content of the page may be specified as decorative
    • Icons that also have a visible text label should be specified as decorative 
  • Alt text descriptions should convey the information of the image so the reader can understand why the image is included, not merely describing the image
    • Alt text should be an equivalent substitute for the image 
  • Alt text should consider the context in which the image appears
  • Phrases such “image of”, “portrait of” should not be used in alt text
  • For video content (like recorded lectures), be sure to describe images you show or refer to
    • When using vague descriptions like “this” and “that over there” include additional descriptions of what you’re referencing 
  • To learn more: Writing Quality Alt Text 


Audio and Video Content 

  • All audio content must have a complete text equivalent in the form of a transcript
  • All video content must have both captions and a transcript 
    • In cases where appropriate only a text-based description of what is happening in the video is needed (ex: a dance or music performance where there are not spoken words) 
  • There are many ways to generate captions and transcripts
  • If auto-generated captions are used, a subject matter expert must review them for accuracy
  • Keep in mind that audio and video recordings added to PowerPoint slides also need captions and transcripts
  • For live video discussions 
    • Always let only one speaker speak at a time 
    • Have all speakers self-identify before speaking 
    • Ask speakers to repeat when they encounter audio issues 
  • Use MediaSite to upload videos to Canvas


Canvas Instructor Resources and Guides

Canvas is a capable LMS with a wide array of tools available within it for the instructor. In addition to desktop browsers, Canvas works well within Android and iOS operating systems. Students and instructors can access course Content on mobile devices using Canvas. 

To learn more: