Course Accessability

Formatting Text

There are four(4) guidelines around text formatting for digital content:

  • Apply appropriate document structure.
    • use headings (Do not simply use larger font sizes and bolding).
    • use numbered and bulleted lists (Do not use tabs and dashes to create lists).
  • Use Adequate Font Size (10pt minimum)
  • Avoid the use of all CAPS for emphasis. (Can be difficult to read and read incorrectly by screen readers).
  • Use true text. (Do not substitute images of text for actual text).

Font color is discussed in the Color Contrast section.

Document Structure

Headings and lists give structure to the content presented digitally. Screen readers rely on headings and lists to communicate the structure of the content to the user.


Like reading a book or an article, headings let you know what that section of narrative is about and where the focus of the narrative may change within the text.


Lists let the reader

  • identify important points or items (like ingredients in a recipe)
  • outline a particular order of operations (like instructions for baking a cake)

Using the built in formatting tools in Canvas, Word, PowerPoint, and other programs ensures that the headers and lists can be properly identified by screen readers and anyone reading the documents.

Canvas Tools for Document Structure

The images below illustrate the Canvas tools in the Rich Text Editor for creating headers and lists.

Headings in Canvas

Lists in Canvas

Bullet List

Numbered List

Text Format

Properly formatting font is extremely important, particularly for individuals with varying degrees of visual acuity.

Properly formatted text will resize on a screen making it easy for everyone to read it on any device sizes such as iPads, cell phones, and laptop screens.

 Common tips for font formatting include:

  • Select readable font types
    • straight fonts (san-serif) read well online (Arial, Helvetica, Tahoma, Trebuchet, Verdana)
    • curved fonts (serif) fonts do not read well online (Book Antiqua, Georgia, Times, Times New Roman)
  • Select appropriate text sizes (minimal acceptable font size is 10 pt)

Canvas Tools for Text Formatting

Font Type

The Canvas default font is Open Sans. It is not possible within the Rich Text Editor to change the default Canvas font.

Font Size

The default font size is 14pt. The image below illustrates the font size options within the Canvas Rich Text Editor.

Font Emphasis

Bold and Italic can be used to place emphasis on text when necessary.

  • Bold should not be used to create headers or emphasize large amounts of text.
  • Underlining should not be used unless required for proper reference styles as underlined text denotes a hyperlink.

True Text

True text simply refers to the composition of words and sentences using appropriate characters (text, punctuation, characters, symbols).

Occasionally, particularly in PDF documents, the “text” that appears on the page is actually a scanned image of text. This is problematic because images of text cannot be

  • read by screen readers and other assistive technologies
  • searched, so a student trying to find specific content within the document will not be able to do so via a text search.

True Text vs Images

True Text

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

Note that you can select a specific word or multiple words in the sentence above.

Text as Image

text as image

Note that you cannot select words in the sentence above.


  • Semantic Structure This webpage outlines the appropriate use of headings and lists in designing document structure.