Planning the Switch to Online

Communicating with Students 

  • Provide an accessibility statement in your syllabus
  • Provide clear and detailed instructions for any activity. This includes information about when things are due, what task(s) should be completed, and what tools are needed. If possible, include instructions for using a platform or tool, so that students are engaging with the content, and not stuck on a tool. 
  • Provide students with links to “how to materials” for the technology you will utilize during your class. Expect that not everyone in your class will be technology savvy.
  • Keep channels of communication open. Continue to offer office hours virtually and provide multiple ways for students to communicate. Check on students who have low attendance now that you’ve switched to a virtual environment. Encourage feedback on the current course format so you can address any issues students may be encountering with the format.  
  • Consider using asynchronous (pre-recorded) format rather than synchronous (live) format for teaching. Pre-recorded lectures give Disability Services the opportunity to incorporate accommodation requests, such as video captions and transcripts. Pre-recorded lectures are also great for anyone with a cognitive disability who may need to re-watch materials and for anyone currently facing situational obstacles, such as internet issues or limited devices per household.

Recommendations for all accessible materials

Accessible materials follow standard rules regardless of the tool used. 

  • Use the most up-to-date software. Download university licensed Microsoft Software for personal and university owned computers. See detailed videos on how to make Microsoft-specific documents accessible and general Microsoft Accessibility resources.
  • Use a tools’ built in accessibility checker. Most tools and platforms have default accessibility checkers that will help you identify problem areas in your documents. They are not perfect, and they should be used in conjunction with your own knowledge and experience. 
  • Whenever possible, house course readings in UMass library eReserves. This will help with both copyright and accessibility considerations. If you must scan a document, use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to convert images to text.  If you have scanned a document and the file was saved as an image, it will not be accessible to students using many assistive technologies. You can use RoboBraille OCR to convert the image to a text-editable document. This process is not perfect, and the document may require editing.
  • Use University-approved products for your classes, including approved online course platforms (CanvasMoodle or Blackboard) and document sharing tools (Apps at UMass or OneDrive ). If you would like to use an external product, please contact the Associate Chancellor of Compliance for accessibility vetting. 
  • Work with instructional designers to identify authentic assessments and exam techniques to help ensure accessibility and maintain instructional integrity. 

Accessible Documents

In addition to all of the general recommendations above: 

Use Headings Consistently

  • Using headings in your document will allow students to orient themselves and navigate through the document. This is especially important for students using a screen reader or assistive technology for navigation. This is different from using formatting such as increasing the size or adding bold for emphasis. See Microsoft Word tutorial on creating headings.

Accessible Presentations

Creating an accessible presentation follows much of the same guidelines for creating an accessible document. Clear, consistent formatting and organization of your slides will make them accessible to everyone. Use images when necessary to add context or highlight topics, but avoid too much unnecessary decoration. If you are using slides heavily, considering providing students with access to the slides before the lecture. If students need to use assistive technology, they can follow along. It will also help students with cognitive issues focus and engage on your content. 

Accessible Audio and Video

Accessible media requires several components. Depending on the media that is produced, and the platform that is used, the process for creating accessible media will be different.