Placement Exam Accessibility

Placement exams have been moved online since 2020 and are given in the Canvas framework. The following guidelines will help you make your content more accessible to a wider range of users.

Test Your Content

There are two tools that can help test your placement exam:

  • The Canvas Rich Text Editor has an accessibility checker that will flag issues in questions and answers. It is the button with the Universal Access symbol, which looks like this:

    The universal access symbol; in the Canvas rich text editor, this symbol is used as a button that will be labeled as Check Accessibility

    It will analyze your text, provide you with a report, and assist you in correcting the issues found. It will be especially helpful in flagging contrast and structure problems. It is also the only way to give tables logical structure. But it will not be 100% effective; you will still need to follow the guidelines below.

  • If you have created the placement test or tests before having these instructions, you may want to consider using UDOIT, a tool that retroactively looks at existing content and guides you in its remediation.

General Guidelines


Screen readers, which voice the text on a screen out loud and are used by blind individuals, are not able to interpret an image and provide a description. Therefore, any images need to be accompanied by alternative text that the screen readers can use to describe the image. See alternative text for guidance on how to describe your image, since different uses of the same image can require different alt text.

To add alternative text in the Canvas Rich Text Editor, there is a field in the “Insert / Edit Image” dialog. If the image is purely decorative, check the Decorative Image checkbox in that dialog.

Some Concerns

  • Describing questions on a test can be much more difficult due to the concern of giving the answer in the image description.

  • It is important to only describe what is in the image and not give extra details that would provide information beyond what a sighted user would have available. As an example, if you are describing a bar graph, first provide the label for each tick mark, then describe the percentage each bar goes up the graph. This will help the user think about the tick marks and properly determine the height of each bar and the value based on matching that with the left column.

  • If questions rely on graphs without numerical values, the image description can describe general trends.

Video and Audio

Blind, low vision, deaf and hard of hearing individuals will need alternate channels associated with the video and the audio to access the same information. Below, we provide some general recommendations:

  • Provide captions for video.

  • Provide audio descriptions for video when things take place on screen that are important to understand the content.

  • Provide a transcript for audio.

  • In the case of audio files and videos, it is best to ensure that they don’t autoplay, and that there are always accessible controls to pause, replay, and search through the audio.

Providing alternate channels for media inevitably changes the character of the question. You will need to use your judgement.

If you feel a particular accommodation is challenging to provide because it reveals the answer to a question, we recommend that you contact the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) at


Providing enough contrast between text foreground and background will benefit everybody, however, it will be especially helpful to individuals with low vision. Use the Accessibility Checker in the Canvas Editor to ensure that requirements for sufficient contrast are met.

Use of Color

Do not rely on text color only for meaning or emphasis in text. Use other formatting options as well, such as bold, italic or underline.

Paragraph Length, Formatting for Visual Structure

Some individuals with cognitive disabilities will need visual structure in long text sections. Keep questions and answers as short as is feasible within the needs of the test. In some cases this may not be possible, such as reading comprehension in language placement tests. If this is the case, try to add some visual structure with paragraphs or formatting to make the text easier to parse.


If you add links within questions or answers, make sure that the text of the links describe accurately and succinctly the destination (e.g., “Link to article about Michelangelo” instead of “here”). If there are many links, make sure that they all have unique text.


If a block of text can be construed as a list, use the list format function in the Canvas Rich Text Editor to format it as such. Use number lists if the order is of consequence, a bullet list if not.


If the question or answer is long and has definite sections, provide headings (via the Paragraph menu in the Canvas Rich Text Editor) for each section. Ensure that you start at a level 3 heading for questions and answers. Use increasing numerical headings for sub-sections and do not skip heading levels.


In order to make tables accessible to blind individuals, make the first row cell text describe each column. Next, run the Canvas Accessibility Checker: it will assist you to make the first row a heading row.

Time Adjustments

Some individuals are authorized by SSD to receive an increased allotment of time or additional attempts to complete an exam as an accommodation. If you need assistance, please contact

Canvas allows these changes to be made on an individual level for a student. See this documentation on making changes to quizzes.

Discipline Specific Guidelines


For individuals using screen readers, sets of pronunciation rules are applied to ensure that text is spoken correctly.

When there is a change of language in a text, you need to instruct the screen reader software to switch pronunciation. To do this, follow the instructions below.

  1. When editing, click on the “HTML Editor”.
  2. At the beginning of the language change, add <div lang=”language code” and if appropriate dir=”direction of text” which will be either “rtl” or “ltr” ('right to left' or 'left to right').
    1. a question in French would be <div lang="fr">
    2. a question in Hebrew would be <div lang="he" dir=”rtl”>
  3. At the end, add </div> to close the section.
  4. Switch back to the Rich Content Editor and save.

If you have multiple languages in the same question, follow the instructions above, but wrap each language section in an appropriate tag:

<div> for blocks:

  • <div lang=”en”>Has bus number 123 come by yet?</div>
  • <div lang=”he”>אוטובוס מספר 123 כבר עבר?</div>

<span> for inline things:

  • <span lang="en">Good morning</span>
  • <span lang="he">ערב טוב</span>

Here is a list of language codes.

Some Concerns

  • For some individuals, a reading test might not be possible. In the case of someone using a screen reader, this becomes more of a listening test. If you have questions about appropriate accommodations, please contact
  • With alternate channels for media, keep in mind that by providing them, you will be changing the nature of the question.

Math and STEM

Unfortunately, due to limitations in technology, the best way currently to accommodate a screen reader in a placement exam is to provide a human reader, which can be arranged via SSD.

When inserting equations into Canvas using the rich text editor as of May 14, 2020, the following list of accessibility barriers are known to exist:

  • Equations are static images and therefore cannot be enlarged without losing severe quality.
  • Information about each equation is provided to screen reader users via an image description in LaTeX code, which has some limitations.
    • Many users taking placement exams will not be familiar with LaTeX.
    • Many screen readers are not able to review image descriptions character by character. This is essential when reading and understanding equations.

We are currently coordinating with Canvas and are testing the capabilities of screen readers and online solutions for producing math. We plan to have a set of guidelines available sometime during the fall semester on the updated ways to produce accessible math content.