Accessibility Checker: Making your online course more accessible and inclusive.

May 17 was Global Accessibility Awareness Day, aimed to get the community thinking about digital accessibility. It’s easy to forget that disabilities are not limited to lifelong, highly visible cases but include temporary, partial and invisible impairments such as short-term injuries, colour-blindness and mental illnesses.

In the latest study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015), there were 2.1 million Australians of working age with a disability.

Reasonable adjustments are regularly made to online courses for students with disability, however not all cases of student disability will be registered with Disability Support. Therefore, it makes sense to create online courses that are as inclusive as possible from the outset.

Canvas Accessibility Checker

One easy thing you can do to improve the accessibility of online courses you create and make them more inclusive is to use the accessibility checker.  This will assist people with visual impairments, including those who use screen readers and those who have trouble distinguishing colours that do not have sufficient contrast.

You can find the Accessibility Checker in the rich text editor when creating pages in Canvas.

RichText editor showing Accessibility Checker icon

Clicking on the icon reveals issues that do not conform to accessibility standards and are likely to cause problems for some users.

In the following example a Heading 4 followed a Heading 2.  It needs to be altered to a Heading 3 so that people using screen readers can understand the hierarchy of information.

Rich text editor showing accessibility report

The next issue identified by the accessibility checker is that the grey text will be hard to read for anyone, especially people who have a degree of visual impairment.

Rich text editor showing accessibility report subsequent issues

Fixing these problems is as simple as choosing the option to automatically fix heading levels and choosing a different font colour.

When you have made the changes, clicking on the Accessibility Checker again will confirm that the page meets the required standards.

Rich text editor showing successful accessibility check

Rich Text Editor

Rich text editor showing successful accessibility report

The University’s Disability Action Plan 2014-2019 commits to:

  • create and maintain a learning experience that is inclusive of the needs of students with a disability and optimises the participation, retention and success of students with a disability through accessible and equitable enrolment, learning, teaching, assessment and research practices. (Goal 2, p7)
  • enable equitable access to information and communication resources for students and staff with a disability including ICT, Library services, and information published by the University. (Goal 3, p7)

Using the Canvas Accessibility checker when creating online course content is one thing you can do to help to achieve these goals.

A full list of the accessibility requirements that the Canvas checker covers may be found at

The W3C’s WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) provides useful summary information on designing for online accessibility and writing for accessibility.


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