Canvas VLE: Accessibility Statement

Canvas, our Virtual Learning Environment at Queen’s is hosted by Instructure, Inc. an educational technology company based in USA. Canvas is supported by two internal teams at Queen’s University Belfast. Instructure is committed to ensuring its products are designed with inclusivity in mind. The Canvas VLE strives for WCAG 2.1 Level A/AA and Section 508 conformance. Regular testing (both internal and by a third party) is conducted to identify conformance issues, with processes in place for timely remediation of accessibility issues that are identified.

Find more information by visiting the following website: Canvas Accessibility Information.

We want as many people as possible to be able to use this environment and take part in the activities.  For example, you should be able to:

  • zoom in up to 200% without the text spilling off the screen;
  • navigate most of the VLE using just a keyboard;
  • navigate most of the VLE using speech recognition software;
  • listen to most of the VLE using a screen reader – see list of Canvas supported screen readers.

AbilityNet exists to change the lives of disabled people by helping them to use digital technology at work, at home or in education. They provide advice on making your device easier to use if you have any particular user requirements.

Read more about the VLE Accessibility Statement in each of the sections below.

We know that some parts of the VLE are not fully accessible:

Potential Issues related to the VLE Platform:

  • Most, but not all, non-text elements have equivalent text alternatives (1.1.1);
  • Not all label and legend text is programmatically associated with form controls (1.3.1);
  • Meaning is sometimes conveyed by colour alone (1.4.1);
  • Some text has insufficient contrast (1.4.3);
  • Horizontal scrolling is required when content is presented at a width of 320 pixels. However, no loss of content or functionality otherwise occurs (1.4.10);
  • Most, but not all, content is keyboard accessible (2.1.1);
  • No mechanism is present to disable the shortcut keys (2.1.4);
  • Some content disappears after a short time (2.2.1);
  • One issue is present when using right-to-left languages.(2.4.3);
  • Most elements have visible keyboard focus indicators (2.4.7);
  • Some issues were encountered with fieldset/legend structure (3.3.2);
  • Most error messaging suggests ways to fix the input in a timely and accessible manner (3.3.3);
  • ARIA attributes are often used where they are not needed (4.1.2).

Potential Issues related to the VLE Content:

  • video content may have poor-quality or missing captions;
  • there are documents (such as PDFs, spreadsheets, Word documents, presentations, etc.) that may not be fully accessible, e.g., to screen reader software or keyboard-only access;
  • some courses may be hard to navigate where instructors have removed some of the site menu options;
  • in places, the contrast between colours is not accessible(e.g., headings, links).

Accessibility of 3rd Party Integrated Tools:

  • Accessibility of Turnitin:
    Turnitin aim to conform to WCAG 2.1 AA standards of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. They are working to make their learning technologies easy to use and accessible by everyone regardless of disability or circumstance. Please visit the supplier website for full details on the accessibility of Turnitin.
  • Accessibility of Respondus Lockdown Browser:
    LockDown Browser is simply a browser used to take exams within the Virtual Learning Environment. The Windows version of LockDown Browser allows a student to use some screen reader programs, such as JAWS and Windows-Eyes. The Mac and the iPad version of LockDown Browser works with VoiceOver (the standard screen reader that comes with the Mac OS and iOS) and requires no additional effort by the user.Please visit the supplier website for full details on the accessibility of Respondus Lockdown Browser.
  • Accessibility of Additional 3rd Party Tools:
    Other  3rd party tools integrated with the VLE include Office365 and Mediasite.  These systems are supported by Information Service who can advise separately on the accessibility of each service.

If your difficulty relates to module content, contact your module coordinator.

For general Canvas issues contact Tier 1 support, via the Help menu in Canvas. For more information about how to contact Canvas Tier 1 visit the Need Help? page.

Any users who experience difficulty and may require access to Assistive Technology such as screen readers, voice recognition software, alternative mice/keyboards, etc Disability Services are available to offer support. You should contact staff within Disability Services who will liaise with colleagues to make appropriate provision.

Assistive Technology at Queen’s:

The following assistive software is available on most PCs in the McClay Library at Queen’s. To access, just click on the red ‘Accessibility’ icon on the desktop.

  • JAWS – Most popular screen reader in the visually impaired community. Allows text to speech and full keyboard compatibility. Also allows voice operated access to computer functions;
  • ZoomText – reads documents, web pages and email – which the user is able to listen to using headphones or the computer’s speakers;
  • Mindview – used to generate, visualise, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organisation, problem solving, decision making, and writing;
  • Read & Write Gold – offers assistance with reading and writing.  Functions include text-to-speech, phonetic spell checker, word prediction, speaking dictionary and a scanning facility. It is a widely used and useful package for dyslexic students;
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking – voice recognition software that turns speech into text via a headset attached to the computer – only available in Group Study Rooms 1, 2, 1A, 2A & 5. Headsets are available from the Borrower Services Desk;

Assistive Equipment at Queen’s:

In addition, the McClay Library also has the following equipment that may be of use to students:

  • A Zoom-ex scanner – scans, magnifies and reads aloud text. Available from the Borrower Services Desk;
  • A desktop CCTV text magnifier – located on Floor 2 of the McClay Library by the Enquiry Desk;
  • Height adjustable desks – located in the computer area of each floor;
  • High visibility keyboard – available from the Borrower Services Desk;
  • Ergonomic roller ball mouse – available from the Borrower Services Desk.


Reporting accessibility problems with Canvas:

We continuously look to improve the accessibility of the VLE. If you find any problems not listed on this page or think we’re not meeting accessibility requirements, contact:


Enforcement Procedure:

The Equalities Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI) is responsible for enforcing the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (the ‘accessibility regulations’). If you’re not happy with how we respond to your complaint, contact the Equalities Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI).

Contact Disability Services by phone or visiting in person.

The nature and type of support available from Disability Services varies and will be tailored to meet your individual requirements.  Support may include arranging in-course support including resources in alternative format.

Find out how to reach Disability Services on the Contact Us page of the University website.

Instructure is committed to ensuring its products are accessible to users with disabilities. The Canvas LMS strives for WCAG 2.1 Level A/AA and Section 508 conformance. Regular testing (both internal and by a third party) is conducted to identify conformance issues, with processes in place for timely remediation of accessibility issues that are identified. Canvas is a complex and broad system. It has been evaluated by Instructure and WebAIM according to WCAG 2.1 standards. Testing is regularly conducted using automated tools, assistive technology (such as screen readers, keyboard testing, etc.), and coding best practices. Third party accessibility evaluation occurs semi-annually with internal audits conducted with each release. Mechanisms are in place for logging and fixing accessibility defects.

The content listed below is identified by the Blackboard Ally Institutional Report and is non-accessible for the following reasons:

  • Documents:
    • PDF files which have been uploaded into Canvas courses that are not readable by screen readers (i.e. they have not been scanned with Optical Character Recognition (OCR);
    • Any file uploads which are malformed/encrypted (e.g. are deemed inaccessible due to unusual file formats/extensions or additional password protection);
    • Any uploaded files including inaccessible content (e.g. images with no alt text or poor contrast ratios);
    • Any uploaded files that are not tagged/ do not use appropriate styles or structure (e.g. lack of headings, table structure or captions etc.).
  • Images:
    • Images that do not have alternative text (alt text) provided;
    • Images that do not have appropriate contrast ratios;
    • Animated images that may induce seizures (e.g. flashing gifs).
  • Canvas Content:
    • Content that is is added/edited directly in the Canvas Rich Content Editor (e.g. Pages, Discussions, Announcements, Assignments or Quizzes), that includes:
      • images with no alt text or contrast issues;
      • embedded videos with no captions;
      • text or tables that have not been formatted with appropriate styles/structure (e.g. use of headings).

Note: This section of the Accessibility Statement is based on the results of the Accessibility Audit.

The accessibility regulations don’t require us to fix the following types of content because they’re exempt:

  • pre-recorded audio and video published before 23 September 2020 which is not intended to be used in modules delivered during AY2020/21;
  • live audio and video unless a recording is kept online for 14 days or more;
  • heritage collections like scanned manuscripts, maps or artefacts;
  • PDFs or other documents published before 23 September 2018;
  • content published before 23 September 2019 (unless it is intended to be used in AY2020/21 courses).

Content provided on Canvas sites for modules which are no longer being used for active teaching, such as those modules taught during academic year 2017/18 or earlier, are considered disproportionate burden, as there is a substantial amount of content which would be accessed by a very small group of users.

The accessibility regulations do not require us to fix:

  • PDFs or other documents published before 23rd September 2018 if they’re not essential to providing our services e.g. content contained in older modules within QOL that you may still have access to;
  • Course content developed within Canvas (e.g. Pages etc.) published before 23rd September 2019;
  • Pre-recorded audio and video published before 23rd September 2020.

Instructure have undertaken a Voluntary Product Accessibility template which demonstrates that where it supports WCAG 2.1 expectations with some exceptions.

As a result of this work we have not undertaken any in-house testing of the Canvas platform. However, we are exploring resources to allow us to do this in the future.

In terms of the accessibility testing of content within Canvas, every course now has an accessibility score and a report (available through the Blackboard Ally integration). This gives staff the opportunity to identify and resolve accessibility issues across their Canvas course content.

Our accessibility roadmap will show how and when we plan to improve accessibility on the VLE (details to be added soon).

Note: This section of the Accessibility Statement is dependent on the results of the Accessibility Audit.

This statement was prepared on 18 Nov 2020. It was last updated on 10 Feb 2021.