Digital Learning Webinar: Designing Accessible Courses in Canvas

Photo of a laptop featuring a webpage from Georgetown University's learning management system, Canvas.

On Thursday, October 25th, Instructional Designer Linda Lemus, Online Course Coordinator Bingran (Ann) Wang, and Web Developer Brian Blosser led the webinar Designing Accessible Courses in Canvas. You can re-watch the webinar below and access the team’s resource document. This blog post will expand on some of the questions asked during the webinar and share some further resources.

I am teaching using a site on Georgetown Commons Blogs, what about accessibility there and in WordPress?

All of the accessibility features we highlighted in Canvas (alt-text for images, headings, accessible lists and hyperlinks) can and should also be done in WordPress. WordPress itself is committed to accessibility, and provides a number of accessibility-ready themes. Here’s some more resources:

I want to feel more comfortable speaking about disability. Do you have any resources around inclusive language and inclusive pedagogy?

Inclusive language is “language that avoids the use of certain expressions or words that might be considered to exclude particular groups of people” and is best-known for introducing the concept of gender-neutral language or terms. This understanding has been expanded to include many other marginalized populations, including those who are disabled. Colorado State University has an excellent page explaining how to be more inclusive when speaking about disability. Here at CNDLS, we also have a number of resources on inclusive pedagogy which can also help in this area.

What about the documents I share on Canvas? Do they need to be accessible, too?

Short answer, yes. You can always test your Word documents, PDF files, and any other resources you are uploading to Canvas using your computer’s built-in screen reader, checking their contrast, or using the Word accessibility checker. Remember to also make sure that your videos are captioned and can be played back at different speeds. Many 3rd-party services, such as 3Play, transcribe your videos for a fee and integrate with the caption functionality of popular video hosting providers such as YouTube and Vimeo (this is what CNDLS uses for it’s online courses).

One final, important reminder: it is always best to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to the accessibility of your online resources. Taking a bit more time up front in the development can save lots of time (and student stress!) later.
You can learn more about web accessibility at Georgetown’s Web Accessibility page, and as always, if you have any specific questions or concerns, email us at cndls@georgetown.edu.