About Canvas and accessibility
At the University of York, we aim to make all of our online resources compliant with the internationally recognised Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) at the AA level.
Canvas is the VLE or virtual learning environment which is used for York Online programmes. You will use Canvas for accessing module content and resources, submitting work, working collaboratively with other students and so on.
The software underpinning Canvas is supplied by Instructure, who aim to meet WCAG at the A/AA level according to their accessibility statement. The statement provides detailed information on accessibility features of Canvas, including which areas of WCAG are supported or partially supported by the Canvas platform.
About University of York content on Canvas
Accessibility is prioritised when materials are developed and created in Canvas by University of York staff. For example we aim to follow good practices such as:
- Using header hierarchies to structure content
- Using other in-built styles for formatting e.g. lists
- Supplying appropriate alternative text descriptions of images
- Ensuring that videos have captions, transcripts and (where possible) slides included
- Adding maths content that is accessible
- Creating a good experience for screen reader users, e.g. avoiding long titles and full URL links where possible
Although the exact level of accessibility may still vary from module to module, we try to make all content accessible including documents. For most documents you should be able to do the following, in the software that opens the files:
- Change colours, contrast levels and fonts on documents
- Zoom in without the text spilling off the screen
- Navigate the content using just a keyboard
- Navigate the content using speech recognition software
- Listen to the content using a screen reader
Students can use other university services to improve the accessibility of their learning experience, for example:
- Accessing our Canvas screen reader user guide (designed to be used in conjunction with this statement) should help users to get started with screen reader access
- Making use of the Immersive Reader tool where it is available in Canvas (at the time of writing this cannot be used for module homepages or quizzes/exams). A button can be found at the top of relevant pages - this tool allows screen reading, text manipulation and translation to name just three features
- Using the self-service facility, Sensus Access, which is provided by the Library to allow the creation of alternative formats
- Investigating the Texthelp suite of tools, which are provided by the University. Both Read&Write and EquatIO in particular could be very useful for supporting accessibility in your studies
- Seeking advice from our disabilities advisers if you need specific academic support and adjustments
What we’re doing to improve accessibility
We are constantly working to improve the accessibility of York Online programmes, whether by utilising features of the system as they become available (e.g. enabling the Immersive Reader) or improving our materials within Canvas (e.g. replacing the vast majority of PDF documents with Microsoft Word). Accessibility is considered throughout the process of designing our materials and making them available to you on Canvas. We aim to work in line with the latest guidance on digital accessibility and use the affordances of technology to increase the accessibility of our resources. Additionally:
- Departments have an on-going plan to improve the accessibility of all their resources.
- We have run various user testing sessions over recent years, both to perform general accessibility checking and to test out specific issues (e.g. how to make ‘click and reveal’ content keyboard accessible)
- The template for new modules has been designed and tested with accessibility in mind - e.g. in terms of its structures, formatting and naming conventions - and earlier modules are in the process of having the latest template applied to them
- A student intern was employed in the summer of 2022 to assist with accessibility work e.g. performing audits, reporting issues to departments and editing earlier modules to apply accessibility improvements
We are aware of the following current issues which may impact accessibility and are seeking solutions to them:
Page titles in Canvas may refer to the type of activity in question (e.g. Reading) but this is not always the case and sometimes there may be more than one activity type per page
You may experience some duplication of links and headers (this appears to be an issue with the way some screen reader software interacts with the Canvas software, which we have not yet been able to resolve)
- A very small minority of content may not be navigable with a keyboard
- Padlet is used in some modules and there are some known accessibility issues with this at the time of writing (e.g. textual alternatives cannot be added to visuals, users cannot change contrast settings, keyboard navigation may be difficult)
- Codes may be added to assignments titles, making their links difficult to perceive and navigate with a screen reader. These are currently necessary for administrative purposes. Here is an example: Summative Assessment [001 1.0]
- In some cases lists may not have list formatting applied, or a single bullet point may have been accidentally used (i.e. list formatting is applied when there isn’t a list)
- Module videos (those internally produced via Panopto) may have the following issues:
- It may be difficult to play the video via keyboard controls (see screen reader guide)
- The title of the video always appears as header 1, regardless of page structure, and the title may not always be meaningful
- There may be periods of silence (e.g. up to 10 seconds) when a video starts playing
- File names of module documents
- May not always be fully meaningful
- May overlap between modules (e.g. week 1 micro-lecture 1), therefore if downloading module documents to be used later, we recommend using different folders per module
How to make contact to report accessibility issues
If you have problems using Canvas or its content, your module instructors are the first people to talk to. Your department will typically have a dedicated member of staff for handling accessibility queries - your module instructor should be able to give their contact details as needed. You can further escalate any issues to email@example.com - the team who support Canvas will then get back to you within 3 working days. The University is currently putting plans in place for you to highlight issues at a higher level.
Enforcement of accessibility regulations
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is responsible for enforcing the accessibility regulations. If you are not happy with how the University has responded to your notification or request, you can contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS).
This statement was prepared on August 6th 2019. It was last updated on November 17th 2022.