Remote online courses can and must be accessible to all students, including students with disabilities. In some cases, online classes offer new opportunities for accessible participation and collaboration. However, remote instruction also comes with challenges for instructors and students alike, and some students with disabilities may face new and additional barriers to full access and participation. Below are suggestions for how to think about and plan for accessibility of remote instruction.
Check-in with your students.
Check-in with your students regularly and ask if they are able to access all of the materials and participate in the course. Proactively work with your students and CU support services (e.g. Disability Resources and Services and The Office of Information Technology) to figure out workarounds when access issues arise.
Maintain learning goals, but build in flexibility.
Instructors are expected to maintain learning objectives and grade students accordingly. This includes students with disabilities. Students should never be exempt from assignments or participation due to accessibility barriers. At the same time, flexibility in meeting learning goals may be necessary. Expect that variations in internet connectivity, home environments, student familiarity with and access to technologies, disabilities, and unique stressors during this time may impact students’ ability to use certain technologies, complete tasks under time pressure, and access new types or sources of information. Think in terms of Universal Design for Learning: Keep your core learning objectives, but be flexible and build in options for how students can meet them.
Organize and communicate.
Consistent and clear organization of your course materials, and clear and regular communication about expectations and deadlines, will help all of your students, including students with disabilities. Give students access to all course materials at the beginning of the course, and communicate any changes to course materials or plans as early as possible. This will help students plan ahead, and will enable students who need accommodations such as alternate formats to make arrangements as needed.
Use platforms and materials that are accessible to students with disabilities.
Use technologies and platforms that are supported by the university and are known to be accessible. For information on supported technologies, please visit the Office of Information Technology website.
Pay special attention to the use of collaboration and communication tools, including tools used by students as part of group projects. Ensure that collaborative groups select tools that work for all students who are expected to participate.
Whenever possible, use videos that have captions and audio files that have transcripts. If you have a student with a captioning accommodation, continue to submit your videos, including videos of lectures, to the Office of Disability Resources and Services.
Know that images, including photos of handwritten notes and some scanned documents, are usually not accessible to people who use assistive technology such as text-to-speech. Whenever possible, use documents that were created digitally rather than from a scanned image. Canvas pages, Word documents, and online articles are fairly accessible formats to use. If you need to turn an image of text into a more accessible format.
Ask for help.
To learn how to create accessible content, consult the Designing Accessible Online Courses. If you would like help or have questions about how to create accessible course content, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Office of Information Technology at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Encourage students who are registered with Disability Resources and Services to work closely with their access coordinators. Faculty who have questions about student accommodations can contact Disability Services at 303-315-3515 or email@example.com.