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37th Annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference Has Concluded

Authoring Stylish and Accessible Canvas Courses

Date & Time
Tuesday, March 15, 2022 - 3:20 PM PST  
Grand ABCD  

Penn State University transitioned to the Canvas Learning Management System in 2016. As accessibility consultants for Penn State World Campus who train and consult on how to make online courses accessible, we saw people struggling to create content that was accessible while also visually appealing. Additionally, our organization was not providing any resources, governance, or guidance on how to implement stylistic code beyond the basic options offered via the Canvas content editor, resulting in a Wild West-like environment where people were going rogue and coming up with their own solutions. This often resulted in people attempting to make their courses look nicer with little regard for how it might impact people using various types of assistive technology and devices.

An immediate solution was not clear. We developed and offered Canvas accessibly training, as did others at the University, but these efforts reached a very small percentage of our faculty and staff, and visual design was not a focus of the training content.

In June 2020, Sonya reached out to the Accessibility Users Group (a community of practice for those developing online course content) to see if there was a need for a resource that would address visual and responsive design along with accessibility, and the answer was a resounding yes!

A group of us started meeting regularly to define the problem and look for solutions, and decided to create a resource within Canvas. We started by gathering and identifying code people were already using, testing it for accessibility and responsive design, and approving, modifying, or discarding code based on our results. We initially focused on gathering and testing code for boxes, images, tables, and general page formatting. One year later we had developed a fully-fledged course with code libraries, guidance for using and modifying the styles, and tutorial pages for people who wanted to take a deeper dive. This resource has since been published and shared widely throughout Penn State. Our session will provide an overview of the resource and how it helps us meet our goals of creating accessible course content for every student.

This Presentation Link is provided by the Presenter(s) and not hosted by the Center on Disabilities at CSUN. The Center on Disabilities has confirmed, as of March 14, 2022, content linked is relevant to the presentation, but has not been reviewed for accessibility nor will the Center on Disabilities attempt to remediate any accessibility issues in the linked content. Please contact the Presenter(s) with any accessibility concerns.

  • Higher Education
  • Information & Communications Technology
  • K-12 Education
Audience Level
Session Summary (Abstract)
Discover how a team of accessibility consultants, multimedia specialists, and instructional designers from Penn State World Campus created an interactive resource with accessible and responsive code snippets to enhance the visual design of online courses in Canvas. Participants will gain access to the resource and learn how to use it.  
Session Type
General Track  
  • Design
  • Digital Accessibility
  • Education
  • Leadership & Strategy
  • Web


  • Sonya Woods
    Penn State University
  • Matt Farley
    Penn State University

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