Accessibility statement for Canvas - the University's Virtual Learning Environment

About Canvas and accessibility

Canvas is the main virtual learning environment (VLE) which is used to support teaching and learning at Oxford and it is maintained by the Centre for Teaching and Learning. It is used for accessing course information, learning content and resources, submitting formative assignments, and working collaboratively with other students. It also provides access to embedded services, including ORLO (Oxford Reading Lists Online) and Panopto, which is the University’s lecture capture service.

Courses in Canvas contain various types of content and file types. For the vast majority of the content on Canvas (whether HTML pages or uploaded files), users should be able to:

  • change contrast levels 
  • zoom in up to 300% without the text spilling off the screen
  • navigate most of the website using just a keyboard
  • navigate most of the website using speech recognition software
  • listen to most of the website using a screen reader

Accessibility features in Canvas

Instructure’s accessibility statement for Canvas sets out the main accessibility features of the platform, including:

  • how to navigate Canvas using a screen reader
  • how to use keyboard shortcuts
  • the combinations of screen readers and browsers that are supported
  • which areas of Canvas can be moved into a new order by users
  • how to use keyboard shortcuts
  • an accessibility checker built into the rich content editor
  • user settings that enable high contrast and hyperlink underlining

AbilityNet also has advice on making your device easier to use if you have a disability.

Non-accessible content

This website is partially compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.1 AA standard, due to the non-compliances and exemptions listed and provided in the link below.

Canvas is a third-party platform, supplied by Instructure, which means that some aspects of its accessibility are outside our immediate control. Instructure’s Canvas LMS Accessibility Conformance Report identifies the platform’s known areas of partial and non-compliance with WCAG 2.1.

Most of the content on Canvas has been created by University staff, by creating HTML pages within modules, or uploading files in various formats. The accessibility level may vary between HTML pages and different file types. The main areas of non-compliance are:

  • Alternative text for visual content may be missing or insufficient (success criteria 1.1.1)
  • PDFs, Word documents, PowerPoint files and Canvas pages may not have headers to facilitate navigation (success criteria 1.3.1)
  • Some PDF files may not be readable with screen-readers

What we're doing to improve accessibility

At the University of Oxford, we aim to ensure that our digital content is easily accessible to as many people as possible. As such, we are committed to implementing the internationally recognised Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1). A Digital Accessibility Working Group has been established to oversee the University’s implementation of the guidelines. The group will undertake a review of the University’s digital accessibility practices, define and share a framework of best practice across the institution, and work with service owners to apply the framework to our digital services and content.

The Centre for Teaching and Learning are working to improve the accessibility of the materials provided on Canvas. We give feedback to Instructure on accessibility issues and use accessibility as an important consideration in the tendering process. In addition we are increasing awareness and knowledge about how to create accessible content among content creators, by:

How to report accessibility issues

If you experience problems accessing content in Canvas, or require an alternative format, you should contact your course administrator or local Canvas coordinator in the first instance. If the issue is not with course content or you need technical assistance you can further escalate any issues to canvas@it.ox.ac.uk. The team who support Canvas will then get back to you within five working days.

You can also use the self-service facility, Sensus Access, provided on the Bodleian Libraries website, to convert files from Canvas into alternative formats. If you are a student with a disability and may need specific reasonable adjustments, do seek advice from the Disability Advisory Service.

Enforcement of accessibility regulations

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is responsible for enforcing the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (the ‘accessibility regulations’). Users can contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) to report non-compliance with the regulations.


This statement was prepared on 16 September 2020.