[Athen] Canvas screen readers and underlines

Deborah Armstrong armstrongdeborah at fhda.edu
Wed Dec 5 15:37:33 PST 2018

I am both a part-time student and full-time Disability services staff at the college where I work.

I take a variety of online classes, partly to keep my skills up and partly so I can be a realistic role model.

In the course I'm currently taking we have to underline portions of our assignments. (It's a database course and on quizzes the primary keys need to be underlined.) Anyway, I'm using screen readers - I know several with Canvas.

Canvas seems to be very accessible; I've had few issues with it. But even though there's a keyboard shortcut to underline - I believe it's alt-U, I could not find a way to reliably read whether text was underlined.

Also, though this wasn't connected with underlining, every time I take a test in Canvas, and there are multiple edit fields the screen readers switch in to application mode. That's great for working in the editor as if one was word processing, but often the screen reader seems to get confused and plunk me in the wrong edit box, for example I'm answering question 5, and alt-tab to another window to look something up, alt-tab back and I'm suddenly editing question 2. It seems to be a problem only in Canvas, where all the edit fields for a quiz appear on one single page. My tests have been open-book so I'm expected to have multiple windows open and move between them.

The underlining problem is more serious. In fact, there are a lot of keyboard-accessible formatting buttons on the toolbar in Canvas, and a choice of editors, but I haven't figured what if any formatting attributes can be read by a screen reader, and which of the two available editors is the most accessible. My quizzes are timed so there's little chance to experiment, unfortunately.

Have others experienced this issue with their screen reader users? For me it happens with both Firefox and Chrome. I was told to use IE, but that seems weird because even the college is recommending against anyone using IE.

One problem I have solved though is this: if you get "stuck" in the toolbar, whether you use a screen reader or not, the keyboard shortcut to get back in to the editor is Escape.


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