Canvas Spotlight

Audio Annotations

Last updated on September 1, 2022

It can be easy to assume that all learners learn the same way; that they have the same abilities and the same access to resources.  Here at MSU Denver, our priority is making sure that the information in our courses is accessible to all learners. Consider, however, that you are a non-sighted learner; how would you understand something that is only shown visually? As an instructor, how would you ensure your material is understood by all your learners? The answer is audio annotations. These are auditory descriptions of the relevant information you want your learners to understand.

Whether you are creating videos or presenting a slideshow in class, it is important to remember that students receive information via different methods. MSU Denver is dedicated to meeting a high level of accessibility standards, and a vital part of accessibility is making sure that information is made available using several different modes of communication. For example, if you are presenting a graph, you could take a moment to explain all of the relevant information of that graph, such as what the “X” and “Y” axes represent, and the overall trend of the data on the graph. In essence, the main point the graph is conveying.

While it is up to the instructor to decide what information is most relevant, not every little detail needs to be described verbally. The key is to focus the learners attention on the relevant information by annotating the essential elements. This practice goes beyond helping specific populations of learners and ultimately helps all students by drawing their attention to the concepts you want to highlight in the visual information you are presenting. The main goal when thinking of audio annotations is to present the same important information for everyone.

Let’s walk through it together


  • Audio Annotations are auditory descriptions of materials and content that allow for universal learning experiences and create an equitable educational environment for everyone.

Why should I use them?

  • To create equal educational opportunities for all learners
  • To make information available in multiple different formats​
  • Enhance learning by leveraging dual encoding (presenting audio and visual information simultaneously) 
  • To comply with MSU Denver accessibility standards​

Questions to ask yourself as you prepare your materials and presentations

  • What is the relevant information all students need to know from this image/graphic/slide/video?
  • Are the visuals in my presentation creating an unfair advantage for sighted learners? If so, annotate!
  • Is the piece of media decorative or informative?

Decorative images are used to increase the aesthetic value of a presentation, but are not relevant to the information provided. These images do not need to be annotated. 

Common phrases to avoid

  • You can see here…
  • As you can see…
  • Obviously, this is…
  • Now click the link here…

Using the phrases above should be avoided because they can tend to favor the point of view of a fully-sighted learner. It is okay if you have them in your presentations, but try to be more neutral in your phrasing. Instead, try annotating like the examples below:

  • The graph displayed here shows….
  • The image now on screen shows….
  • I am now moving to the top left of the menu and clicking on…