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IT Service Status
IT Service Status

Canvas Accessibility

Project Status

Ongoing:The team continues to work with instructors to increase the accessibility of all Northwestern course sites and learning materials in accordance with Northwestern's digital accessibility policy and the Americans with Disabilities Act. To aid instructors in remediating accessibility issues in their course sites, Northwestern IT has enabled the Pope Tech Accessibility Guide in all Canvas courses. Pope Tech is a robust Canvas accessibility evaluation tool that scans pages to reveal accessibility errors and provides an interface to correct those issues directly on the page.

Project Background

Northwestern is committed to being a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment and to fostering a community of access, belonging, and accountability. In accordance with this commitment, and with the knowledge that accessible digital content can enhance usability for everyone, the University established its Digital Accessibility Policy in 2021 to enable digital access and improve the user experience.

Teams across the University coordinated with the Office of Global Marketing and Communications and campus accessibility experts to align websites with Northwestern's digital accessibility policy and the Americans for Disabilities Act. This project extends the focus from websites to include focused attention on learning content.

Benefits to the Northwestern Community

As a result of the project, Northwestern will enhance the learning experience for all students and offer a significant and specific impact on improving the learning experience for students who are blind or have low vision, are color blind, are not native English speakers, have learning disabilities, and use assistive technology software to access or review course material.

Project members are extending the effort's reach by developing resources and offering guidance on making digital content accessible through seven core components and by sharing accessible course site templates through Canvas Commons, a repository of shared resources for Canvas users and all instructors who opt into the platform.

Goals and Objectives

Through implementing a more accessible digital learning environment, the project team will be equipped to:

  • Measure the accessibility of teaching and learning materials in Canvas.
  • Increase awareness of the importance of digital accessibility and the tools available to the Northwestern community.
  • Increase the accessibility of the platforms and tools used in teaching and learning, including course sites and supplemental teaching and learning tools.


Through a multi-year, phased approach, the project team will guide instructors through bringing all active course sites into alignment with Northwestern’s digital accessibility policy and the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

The project team will directly communicate to instructors, offering workshops, training, and resources that include detailed guides, automated web tools, and customizable templates. Collectively, these resources enable instructors to quickly and easily update existing course sites and build new accessible course sites.


The Canvas Accessibility Project will be completed in two phases from early 2023 through 2024. The first phase of the project is focused on training instructors to understand and address the seven core areas in course sites that most impact digital accessibility. Phase two will focus on ensuring the accessibility of documents used in teaching and learning.

Table shows a list of phases of the project from 2023 through 2024
Phase Target Start Date Status
Course site updates February 2023 In Progress
Supplemental materials updates August 2024 Not Started

Project Team

Table shows a list of project team members by name, title, department, and project role
Name Title Department Project Role
Sean Reynolds Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Northwestern IT Executive Sponsor
Victoria Getis Senior Director, Teaching and Learning Technologies Northwestern IT Project Sponsor

James Stachowiak

Accessible Technology Strategy and Operations Lead

Northwestern IT and AccessibleNU Project Liaison
Dan Hoefler Project and Portfolio Manager Lead Northwestern IT Project Manager
Serena Simpson Communications Specialist Northwestern IT Project Communications Support