How to create ADA compliant equations in Canvas
Making math equations accessible for learners by applying Universal Design principles is challenging, especially when we try to integrate them into a Learning Management System (LMS) such as Canvas. Although there are alternative tools offered by several software companies (such as Word and PowerPoint formula add-ons), these tools often do not work properly across platforms (from PC to MAC or, even, from one computer to another). In addition, complex questions with equations cannot be copied from such software and pasted correctly into Canvas assignments and/or quizzes.
Two common practices are used by instructors to add equations in a LMS:
- Instructors take a screenshot of the equation and upload this screenshot to the quiz section as an image. Screenshots are images and are difficult to access due to the following reasons:
- The quality of the screenshot could be poor thus reducing its readability.
- Screen readers cannot read text/equations saved as images. This prevents learners relying on such devices, access to the actual content.
- Screenshots are still images and therefore cannot be edited within the LMS (Canvas).
- The second commonly followed practice is to create the documents in Word, PowerPoint, or LaTeX and convert them to PDF and attach/upload these files to the appropriate place in the course. Although this practice makes the content more portable, it still does not address the accessibility concerns listed earlier. Moreover, due to protocols governing proprietary software, like Word and PowerPoint, screen readers cannot read equations once the document is exported/saved in PDF. In addition, the questions cannot be copied directly from MS Word and pasted into the LMS correctly.
We have developed two workarounds to the issues listed above. These methods involve:
- Using LaTeX, an open source document preparation system
- Using MathType, a software free to download for ISU students and employees
Disclaimer – These instructions were developed using Canvas on 11/01/17. Any subsequent updates made to Canvas could potentially affect the accuracy of these instructions.