Canvas, Ally and SensusAccess

Canvas, Ally and SensusAccess

Working In UVA Canvas

Canvas provides built-in tools to help create inclusive/accessible content. In addition, Ally and SensusAccess are integrated into Canvas to provide guidance and alternative formats of course content.

The ITS Learning Technology Services team has created guidance documents to help you start working in, or transition to, UVA Canvas. To begin creating accessible content within Canvas, review the very good documentation found at the Learning Technology Services Help/Tips for Designing Content webpage. You can also contact the team at [email protected].

In addition Instructure, Canvas' parent company, provides guidance documents for the built-in text editor and general accessibility:

The Developing Skills section of this website also provides good information to help in developing accessible content.

Integrated Tools: Anthology Ally and SensusAccess

What is Anthology Ally?

Anthology Ally (formerly Blackboard Ally) provides instructors feedback and guidance for increasing accessibility of Canvas course content. Ally also converts the digital course content into the following alternative formats available for student download:

  • Tagged PDF: Structured PDF for improved use with assistive technology
  • HTML: For viewing in the browser and on mobile devices
  • Audio MP3: MP3 version for listening
  • ePub: For reading as an e-book on an iPad and other e-book readers
  • Electronic Braille: BRF version for consumption on electronic braille displays
  • BeeLine Reader: Enhanced version for easier and faster on-screen reading
  • Immersive Reader: Aid reading comprehension and grammar skills. Internet required.


  • Not all output alternative files may be fully "accessible" or usable. The accessibility of alternative formats depends on the state of the original file. Files with distorted text or scanned files with text embedded in images may cause issues for the conversion tools.
  • Not all alternative format types may be available for a particular file.

For Students:

YouTube Video: Overview for Students

Ally generates alternative formats of the content found in Canvas courses.

To Download Alternative Formats

  1. Open any individual page in Canvas such as a file, page, quiz or assignment. Note: Alternative formats are not always available in Module view.
  2. Select the "Alternative Format" icon near the title at the top. A window listing available formats opens. (
    Ally icon with large A with downward arrow indicating download.
  3. Highlight the desired format, then select the Download button. The alternative format will be downloaded to your computer or device.

For Instructors:

YouTube Video: Overview for Instructors

After an instructor saves content to a module, Ally automatically measures the accessibility of each file attached to the course and shows an accessibility score. Scores range from Low to Perfect. The higher the score the fewer the issues. Students do not see these scores.


Scores range from Low to Perfect. The higher the score the fewer the issues.

Our goal is to "GO GREEN"! Reaching a score of 80% or higher is great!

  • Low - RED (0-33%): Needs help! There are severe accessibility issues. Address these items FIRST!
  • Medium - ORANGE (34-66%): A little better. The file is somewhat accessible and needs improvement. Tackle these next.
  • High - LIGHT GREEN (67-99%): Almost there. The file is accessible but more improvements are possible.
  • Perfect - DARK GREEN (100%): Perfect! Ally didn't identify any accessibility issues but further improvements may still be possible.

For files with Low to High scores, Ally shows you the issues and gives a step-by-step guide on how to fix them. Obviously we are striving for higher scores - meaning fewer issues, but don't stress!!! Address those issues listed as severe first, then tackle the others.

What Will Cause a Low Score?

  • Images without alternative text (alt text) or alt description.
  • PDFs with missing alt text, or scanned PDFs of text.
  • Poor text color contrast such as yellow text on a light background or blue text on a dark background.
  • A font size that is too small.
  • Missing H1, H2, H3, and H4 tags which indicate heading and subsection content.
  • Tables without table headers.
  • Media that could potentially trigger seizures or other harmful responses in students.
  • Links without text that describes the target.
  • PowerPoints built without templates, missing alt text on images, missing titles, or a missing reading order.

How Do I Fix These Issues:

For guidance on how to address the issues uncovered by Ally, follow the guidance provided within the Ally tool. Additional information can be found on this site under the Developing Core Skills section to help build your skill set, and also by reaching out to your department or school instructional design team.

Ally Quick Start Guides:

View recent training videos held for UVA faculty/staff found on the Coordinator of Academic Accessibility YouTube site.

For more information and support, contact the Learning Technology Services group.


SensusAccess is an on-demand, alternate media and document remediation service. SensusAccess can automatically convert documents into a range of alternate media including audio books (MP3 and DAISY), e-books (EPUB, EPUB3 and Mobi), digital Braille, digital large-print, and BeeLine Reader. The service can also remediate inaccessible documents such as image-only PDF files, JPG pictures, Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, and LaTeX projects and deliver them into more accessible and less tricky formats. SensusAccess can translate documents from one language into another.

SensusAccess is integrated into Canvas and can also be used through the online interface found on the Library's SensusAccess Document Converter website.