NSM Faculty/Staff Newsletter

From the Office of the Dean

Improving Canvas Content Accessibility

To comply with federal and state regulations, the University of Houston SAM policy (01.D.13) requires instructional materials posted in learning modules (i.e., Canvas) to be accessible to those with disabilities. The material needs to be compliant regardless of whether you have a student with accommodations for disabilities in your course. Details of the University policy can be found here: EIRA Policy - University of Houston.

Overall, NSM content in Canvas has improved considerably since last semester. Thank you to everyone who has invested the time needed to move us toward acceptable accessibility ratings. At present, please continue to work toward reaching an overall accessibility rating of at least 67% on your materials and overall site. At present, only 58% of our courses meet this standard.

To determine if your document is accessible, take advantage of the Ally tool available in Canvas and the accessibility tool features found in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint tools. Orange and yellow gauges appearing on your content are indicators that something about the document is not fully compliant. If you click on the gauge, you are taken to a pop out that identifies the issue and helps you adjust the document.

For PowerPoint, Excel, and Word documents, click “review” and then click the “Check Accessibility” tab and follow the suggestions. If the “Check Accessibility” tab is not visible, it can be accessed by going to File, Info, Check for Issues, then Check Accessibility.

Quick Fixes to Improving Your Accessibility Scores in Documents

  • Delete PDF and Word Documents that are saved on Canvas, but no longer in use.
  • Add alternative image tags in Word documents and PowerPoints with a brief description of what is in the image or mark as decorative.
  • Use hyperlinks that describe the page the link goes to rather than pasting in an entire URL.
  • Select sans serif fonts for all materials.
  • Use high-contrast colors between text and background.
  • Do not scan documents to images or post as PDF. Screen readers cannot navigate this type of content. Swap out your PDFs as Word documents.
  • Math equations can be particularly challenging to create in a compliant format. A guide that may have some helpful suggestions for tools can be found here. If there are tools that might be helpful to have a license to, please let Donna Pattison (dpattiso@central.uh.edu) know.

More tips can be found on the Faculty Development Workshop site in the Faculty Development Materials section in the Accessibility: Creating Accessible Course Materials PowerPoint file. That file gives background information on accessibility, tips on how to make your documents more accessible as you create them, as well as an overview of the Ally tool.

Training material is also available to assist you under the Accessibility header on the INSTRUCTION@UH page.

We ask that all instructors attempt to address the issue in their courses. If you are having difficulty with the accessibility checker, please reach out to Andrea Arias-Rodriguez (aariasr2@central.uh.edu) or Ngozi Onwuama (nuonwuam@central.uh.edu) in NSM-IT for assistance.

Thank you for your continued efforts and your patience as we all work toward helping the College reach its accessibility rating goal for the academic year.