Accessible Digital Content

Not all teleconferencing software is accessible to individuals with disabilities. To make sure students can fully engage in the online learning environment:

  • Identify the accessibility barriers for the product of your choosing and limit interactions of inaccessible features;
  • Provide accessibility features and resources to enable using the product independently;
  • Establish responsibility for quickly addressing equal access needs, such as closed or live captioning. Consider using Microsoft Office PowerPoint with the Presentation Translator Plug-in or Google Slides with live captions and
  • As screen sharing occurs, audio description is needed to provide the important visual content to people who are blind or visually impaired.

Additional third party or open-source digital learning technologies used to facilitate instruction, such as polling software, must also be evaluated for accessibility. If the required technology is inaccessible to users with disabilities, work closely with your campus disability services office to create equally effective access for the known barriers.

As various types of content are uploaded to the Learning Management Systems (LMS), establish a plan to prioritize making course materials and related technologies accessible to all learners. It is recommended to use the following hierarchy:

  • Content for registered students with disabilities;
  • Large enrollment courses; and
  • Required courses.

There are numerous free or campus-sponsored tools to enhance the inclusiveness of the course. Here are some basic universal design tips:

  • If you post a PDF, make sure it is searchable text and not just an image;
  • If you post a PowerPoint presentation, use larger size fonts and high-contrast color schemes. Avoid the use of color or animation to convey information;
  • If you post a video, check and see if it has intelligible captions. At minimum, use automatic caption features (e.g., YouTube) and improve accuracy as needed;
  • If you post audio, also share a written transcript. The Google Docs Voice Typing feature creates a transcript for you;
  • If you post photographs, graphs or other media, add alternative text to describe the image and its context;
  • If you are a campus that uses accessibility tools in your LMS, leverage them; and
  • If you use a new technology for engagement/discussion, check with your campus disability services office to be sure all your students can use it.

For courses moved online, the process for scheduling and delivering exams and quizzes may change. As campuses plan to deliver exams online, ensure that assistive technologies (e.g., screen reader, text-to-speech) are not blocked from taking exams remotely. While proctoring/testing systems allow for exam security, they may pose barriers to students with disabilities.

To extend time on exams and quizzes, most, if not all, LMS have built-in features to accomplish this. However, you may need to extend the time manually for the individual student for each exam and quiz.

New! Ally software is an accessibility tool for courses that provides faculty with user-friendly feedback on the accessibility of their content. Ally is now available to all campuses at no cost through June 30th of this year; your campus Chief Information Officer has been sent the Participating Institution Agreement (PIA) to setup Ally.
SUNY's Electronic & Information Technology (EIT) Accessibility guidance and free, unlimited user access to self-paced online accessibility training through Deque University may accessed by logging into SUNY Blue. Visit blue.suny.edu and enter your campus credentials. Navigate to Enterprise Projects > SUNY EIT Accessibility. If your campus does not have a Deque University administrator, contact your campus EIT Accessibility Officer.

Check out 20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Course (PDF). 

Accessible Digital Media Guidelines  
Designing an Accessible Online Course 
Considering the User Perspective – A Summary of Design Issues (with Challenges and Solutions)  

For individuals who have a chronic illness, please feel free to share this resource to speak with others who understand this time of heightened stress: Beyond My Battle Support Group.

Information adapted from Provost T. Laursen memo dated 3/18/20 Guidance and Resources for Students with Disabilities