Pages vs. PDFs: The Simple Way to Cure Accessibility Headaches

The HTML environment (meaning pages in a Canvas course) is the most user-friendly for both screen reader devices and mobile devices. On top of that, remediating Word, PowerPoint and PDF files to make them accessible is not something many instructors know how to do. In this episode of Byte-sized, we’ll show you the best way to resolve that dilemma.

Watch this short tutorial on how to do the “copy and paste to Canvas” method.

Posted in Byte-Sized Canvas, Rubric Section D.

Passionate about teaching and learning, Helen enjoys showing instructors how to apply best pedagogical practices in Canvas to create dynamic courses that keep their students engaged.


  1. Thank you Helen. I have some questions. I’m an art teacher and I need to show a lot of slides. Normally I use Powerpoint and PDF. Any suggestions for which way will be easier to make them accessible?

    • Hi, Meiru,

      I’m sorry to say there’s no quick answer to your question. How to remediate a PowerPoint is a whole class in itself! And as you heard in this Byte-sized episode, I strongly encourage moving away from PDFs altogether because they’re so challenging to make fully accessible. It is entirely possible to include any images as part of a Canvas page; they don’t have to be shown in a PPT or PDF. That would be the easiest way to address accessibility.

      Whether you’re presenting in a slide deck or on a Canvas page, the key for accessibility will be to make sure you’re providing appropriate alt text/description of the images. You’ll likely need to go beyond simply describing the image and also include whatever aspects/elements a sighted person would get from seeing the image. What can you point out that a non-sighted person needs to know about what you want students to glean from a particular image? Ask yourself, “If I were describing this image to a friend over the phone, what would I tell them so they can “see” and interpret it in the way I want them to?”

      All the MicroSoft Office Suite products have a built-in accessibility checker which can help you remediate a PowerPoint deck. Here’s a page with information about using the MS checkers (in our Course Design Resources shell).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.