Accessibility Guidelines for Remote Courses

Aspects of remote instruction may create barriers for some students with disabilities or medical conditions. Students who report disability-related barriers should be encouraged to contact AEC as soon as possible to initiate support. AEC also serves as a resource for faculty and instructors with questions related to specific student accommodations, accessible course design, and accessible digital content. To enhance accessibility and reduce the need for individual accommodations, we encourage instructors to consider the following guidelines in designing remote courses.

1) Record all synchronous course sessions and allow flexible ways for students to engage with course concepts

While live interaction can support engagement for some, providing alternative methods for students to access course content and meet objectives creates a more equitable learning environment. In cases where students may need time to coordinate accessibility tools, asynchronous access to course content may be necessary.

  • Record class sessions, enable auto-transcription, and make recordings available to all students
  • Enable live transcription in Zoom so that students have the option of viewing auto-generated transcription during class
  • Create a back-up plan for students who may face barriers to accessing content in real-time
  • Share text-based lecture notes or assign rotating groups of students to share notes for synchronous sessions

2) Provide clear communication and structure

As much as possible, courses should follow a clear and predictable structure that is communicated to students ahead of time. In many cases, appropriate accommodations may be context-specific, so it is important for students to have advance access to course format information in order to anticipate potential barriers. Some students may experience significant barriers navigating information across multiple platforms and through various modes; mindfulness of appropriate pacing and workload are important factors to support access.

  • Include AEC’s recommended syllabus statement and encourage students to share best strategies to support them and any concerns related to access
  • Create an accessible syllabus and organize your content in consistent ways
  • Establish participation protocol, such as using the raise hand feature in Zoom, and encourage students to identify themselves before speaking
  • If students are asked to contribute to discussion boards, divide boards by topic to allow for easier navigation

3) Offer options for students to demonstrate learning

The more choices students have to demonstrate understanding of course concepts, the less need there will be to address numerous individual accommodation needs. If available tools are insufficient to create access, alternatives may need to be developed for students to demonstrate learning.

  • As traditional exams may not always allow students to demonstrate what they know, consider alternatives to exams for ensuring valid assessments
  • Rather than relying on restrictive time limits or other structures which may create significant barriers, become familiar with the various options available for preventing academic misconduct
  • If you decide to administer a timed exam, make sure to facilitate testing accommodations outlined on students’ notification letters, including adding extended time and adjusting availability windows appropriately; utilize AEC’s Instructor Portal to view students’ notification letters in one place

4) Create and post accessible digital content

Accessibility should be prioritized in the creation phase of digital content. Faculty and instructors are encouraged to follow best practices on creating accessible digital content and reach out to AEC for consultation as needed. As appropriate, AEC is also available to support conversion of course materials to formats that will meet individual students’ needs.

  • Become familiar with Canvas accessibility considerations
  • Include image descriptions and alt text for visual content, including pictures, videos, charts, and graphs
  • Provide information in Word documents or other editable text formats
  • Refrain from posting image-based PDFs - if you cannot copy and paste the text out of the PDF, it should be run through Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
  • When possible, use library resources to find articles rather than scanning personal copies 
  • When available, link to videos that have already been captioned
  • Add automated captions to videos in Panopto