Accessibility and Accommodations in Online Courses

We cannot be excellent unless we are inclusive. The University of Maryland is committed to creating and maintaining an accessible and inclusive educational and working environment to all its constituencies in any circumstance.

In the event of an emergency disruption and a shift to online instruction and teleworking, accessibility and disability related accommodations must be provided so that students, faculty and staff can fully participate.

The Accessibility and Disability Service (ADS) provides accommodations to students to ensure equal access to services, programs and activities sponsored by the University of Maryland. Through the variety of services offered, ADS works to ensure that students’ accommodations and accessibility needs are met in any learning environment.

Why is accessibility important?

Accessibility is the right thing to do and it is required by law. By designing your course online to be accessible to those with disabilities you will benefit all students. A course is accessible to the degree that every student can easily access and navigate course content and assignments; submit assignments; and successfully use course tools.

Accessible course design is part of universal design for learning. Instructors should utilize as many components of universal design for learning as possible when developing online courses and responding to specific accommodation requests.

Creating Accessible Online Content

  • Include a written accessibility statement in course syllabus, and reference it when presenting the course standards to students. Refer to the sample syllabus accessibility statement, which can be customized to inform students on how best to notify instructors regarding accommodation requests.
  • When selecting new materials, try to find videos and audio content that are already captioned. Professional captioning will be provided for deaf and hard of hearing students registered with ADS. Instructors are encouraged to caption newly created online audio and video that will be reused in the future. DIT offers the Panopto professional caption service or instructors can learn how to caption videos.
  • Scanned images of text are not accessible. Select articles and materials that are available in a text-searchable format (meaning you can highlight and search the text within the document. Refer to this example of a searchable pdf).
  • Create accessible, well-structured documents and ELMS-Canvas pages.
  • Ensure that all software, eTools and Apps implemented meet accessibility, security and privacy guidelines before making it a requirement in your online course. Requests for accessibility evaluation can be sent to itaccessibility@umd.edu.
  • Contact itaccessibility@umd.edu to schedule a consultation or training in-person, virtually, or by phone on how to make your online course accessible.

Resources for Implementing Accommodations Online

Many accommodations that have been established for students to use in the classroom can transition with them to online courses with minimal modification. How accommodations are implemented in an online environment may need to be adapted or adjusted and will depend on specific course platforms, content, and assessments.

Some of the most frequently used accommodations include extended exam time, note taking, audio recording of lectures, consideration for flexibility in class attendance (for synchronous coursework) and assignment due dates.

Other accommodations might require some adjustment or alteration when transitioning from in-class to online coursework. ADS will work with students and instructors to affect these modifications to accommodations to ensure equal access to coursework for students with disabilities. Important considerations:

  • Contact ADS at 301.314.7682 or adsfrontdesk@umd.edu with any questions regarding the implementation of accommodations online.
  • Be flexible and adjust deadlines and pedagogical strategies to ensure an inclusive learning environment. Work with your students with disabilities to identify the best strategies to support them to be successful in your online course.
  • Direct students who do not have accommodation letters to register with ADS.
  • Students may have additional challenges that can amplify during times of stress or uncertainty. Direct students to contact their academic advisor, ADS counselor, counseling center, health center, or other student support services.

Resources for Accommodations Online

Testing Accommodations

Extended time for exams, quizzes and assessments

  • Assessments such as essays, untimed exams, discussion boards do not require exam accommodations.
  • If you use timed exams, quizzes and assignments, you need to verify if you have students who require extended time and breaks.
  • Students taking online exams and quizzes should not be required to be proctored at the ADS or other locations on or off-campus. The exams should be proctored online.
  • Some students may require extra time and breaks during exams. In addition to adjusting the extra time, instructors need to adjust for break time, when a student has an approved break accommodation. Breaks typically amount to an additional five minutes for every 30 minutes of exam time. For instance, if a regular exam length is 50 minutes the following extended time applies:
    • Student with 1.5 extended time has 75 minutes
    • Student with 1.5 extended time AND breaks has 85 minutes
  • Instructors may use the following ELMS-Canvas tools to extend time and to give extra attempts for exams, quizzes and assessments:
    • Quiz extensions tool allows faculty to provide extra time on all timed assessments (quizzes, midterms and final exams) created using the quiz tool for multiple students at once.
    • Quiz moderation tool is used to give individual students extra attempts or time. The tool allows instructors to grant a student extra time to complete and submit an assignment through differentiated due dates.
  • Contact itaccessibility@umd.edu if you have questions or need guidance on how to use these ELMS-Canvas tools.

Considerations for students who use adaptive technology to complete exams

  • Some students need to use adaptive technology (such as text to speech software, screen readers or screen magnification software) to complete exams. Much of the adaptive technology software requires access to the internet.
  • Important: If an exam requires the use of a lockdown browser, instructors may need to determine exceptions to be instituted for students who require internet-based technology during exams. Instructors may consider using built-in exceptions within the lockdown browser or eliminating the requirement to use lockdown browsers.
  • Contact ADS adaptive technology lab if you have any questions on how to implement exams for students who require the use of adaptive technology.

Use of video and audio clips during exams, quizzes and assignments

  • Students who use sign language Interpreters, transcribers or captioning as an accommodation will need professional captioning of videos and transcripts of audio used in any portion of an exam, quiz or assignment.
  • Contact ADS deaf and hard of hearing services (DHHS) at dhhs@umd.edu to determine the best means of captioning your videos.

Using alternatives to human readers and scribes

  • Some students require a “human reader” for exams and they are not able to utilize text to speech technology. Instructors should create an audio file of the exam items that is recorded with clear, distinct pronunciation.
  • This is extremely important for technical courses like Math, Science or Foreign Languages.
  • Some students require a “human scribe” for exams and are not able to utilize speech to text technology. Instructors should consider eliminating the need for a scribe by changing their exam format, such as moving from an essay exam to a multiple choice/true-false format.

Implementing alternatives to computer based testing

  • Some students require a paper copy of the exam. Instructors can consider giving permission to print off the exam and email it back to the instructor; providing an audio file of the exam items; or developing an alternate assignment for the student to complete
  • Contact ADS at 301.314.7682 or adsfrontdesk@umd.edu if you need support implementing test accommodations online.

Note Taking and Audio Recording

  • ADS offers two options for note taking; peer note taking and Sonocent audio note taking. Depending on a student’s disability and study preferences, one option may be a better fit than the other.
  • Peer note taking should continue without interruption for both synchronous and asynchronous recorded lectures. It is important for instructors to inform note takers that note taking should continue as if classes are being held in person.
  • Audio recording of lectures should continue without interruption.
  • Instructors may consider using Panopto to record their lecture to share with students to expedite this accommodation.
  • Contact ADS note taking services at adsnotetaking@umd.edu or (301) 314-7842 to learn if note taking accommodation is required during your online course.

Sign Language Interpreting and Transcribing

  • ADS can provide sign language interpreting and transcription in synchronous and asynchronous lectures.
  • Synchronous lectures and discussions can be accommodated via remote sign language interpreters or remote TypeWell transcribers. ADS recommends using Zoom for synchronous lectures that require a remote service provider.
  • Asynchronous lectures must be captioned. If you are using any means for recording other than Panopto you will need to download an MP4 of your recording and upload it to your Panapto folder in ELMS.
  • Use Panopto captioning form to request captioning for your pre-recorded lectures (24-48hs turnaround). Students who need access to the lecture material in less than 24 hours will be provided a transcript in the interim while captioning is being processed.
  • Instructors may explore using pre-recorded lectures (professionally captioned is required), and create opportunities for discussion in writing only such as ELMS discussion boards and live Google Chat/Hangout.
  • ADS may ask professors to give service providers access to their ELMS-Canvas course as well as their Zoom or WebEx link. Transcribers may need to be assigned a designated transcriber role within Zoom by the course instructor.
  • Remote interpreting and transcribing may also be arranged for virtual office hour meetings through the DHHS provider request process.
  • Students needing to call their instructor may use the Video Relay Service.
  • Contact ADS DHHS office for assistance at dhhs@umd.edu.

Alternative Text Format

  • Many students require online content (e.g., ELMS page, documents, articles, textbooks) in an alternative format (e.g., audio files, large print versions, electronic braille or braille printouts, etc.).
  • ADS offers alternate text service for converting required printed course materials into electronic formats that are accessible.
  • Contact ADS Alternative Text Unit at adsalttext@umd.edu if you need assistance to make your online course content accessible to your students.

Students on the Autism Spectrum

Examples of Online Accommodation

Below are examples of accommodations and types of technology used by students with disabilities, organized by disability type.

Low Vision

  • Use of screen reader
  • Use of voice commands and dictation software instead of a keyboard and mouse.
  • Enlarged text and illustrations.
  • Contrast-enhanced printed materials, including color contrast. Avoid using color to convey meaning; don’t refer to color as the sole means of bringing important content to students’ attention.
  • Image-enlarging technology (e.g., TV monitor, magnifier)
  • Electronic format for syllabi, assignments, readings, resources
  • Glare guards
  • Supplementary light source
  • Perform online activities that do not require drag and drop.
  • Zoom-text software and/or amplifiers
  • Use of Accessible Mobile Apps and eTools

Blindness

  • Use of screen reader
  • Use of voice commands and dictation software instead of a keyboard and mouse.
  • Verbal or audio descriptions of visuals and videos
  • Audio-recorded, braille or electronic-formatted lecture notes, handouts, and texts
  • Raised-line drawings and tactile models of graphic materials
  • Braille lab signs and equipment labels; auditory lab warning signals
  • Adaptive lab equipment (e.g., talking calculators, tactile timers)
  • Computer with optical character reader, speech output, Braille screen display and Braille printer output
  • Accessible Mobile Apps and eTools

Deaf and Hard of Hearing

  • Remote American Sign Language
  • Real-time captioning
  • Transcriber
  • Note taker
  • Visual aids in a video and/or written supplements to spoken instructions
  • Written assignments, lab instructions, summaries, notes
  • Use of written text for class and private discussions
  • Transcripts of podcasts, voice-over PowerPoints, videos, and other online media such as synchronous web conferencing tools (e.g., Zoom or WebEx).
  • Flexibility with web conferencing (video) discussions (e.g., discussion boards, online chat in writing only)

Learning Disability

  • Note taker
  • Text-to-speech software
  • Kurzweil software for reading, writing and study
  • Audio recorded lectures
  • eBooks and audiobooks
  • Captioned videos
  • Extended time on exams and assignments
  • Alternative testing arrangements/locations
  • Instructions provided in multiple formats, including visual, aural and tactile
  • Computer with voice output, spell checker and grammar checker
  • Concise and clear oral and written instructions.
  • Well organized course navigation including visual aids.
  • Guidance or Adaptive reading text or interpreting illustrations.
  • Use of screen reader to help understand text.
  • Brief sections of text, audio or video. Students may have trouble focusing on or comprehending.

Mobility / Motor Impairment

  • Notetaker, scribes, lab partners
  • Accessible Mobile Apps and eTools
  • Computer with speech input, voice output and alternative keyboard
  • Voice-to-text dictation software
  • Wheelchair-friendly furniture and room arrangement (e.g., adjustable tables, space for a wheelchair, lab equipment located within reach)
  • Class materials available in electronic format (e.g., image files are not accessible)
  • Extended time for completion of activities. These individuals may become easily fatigued by movements that wouldn’t be tiring for most people.
  • Perform online activities that do not require drag and drop as many individuals are not able to use a mouse.
  • Use of assistive technologies like head wands and voice-recognition software to access a course.

Speech Impairment

  • Alternative assignments for oral presentations (e.g., written assignments, one-to-one presentation)
  • Course substitutions
  • Flexibility with web conferencing (video) discussions (e.g., consider discussion boards, online chat)

Chronic Health Condition

  • Notetakers
  • Flexible time to access content and complete assignments
  • Extra exam time

Additional Accessibility Resources