Creating Accessible Remote Learning Options

In light of the recent developments related to COVID-19, we are operating inside of a highly dynamic situation. Student Accessibility Services is suggesting some special considerations and guidance to support you as you plan for a shift to alternative methods of instruction to ensure alignment with ADA/Section 504 and 508 standards.

Disabled people, including people living with chronic illnesses and immune-related conditions, exist within our system and many function with or without accommodations in place through Student Accessibility Services. This is important to consider because our planning should include options for those who are not presently identified through formal channels.

In general, we recommend flexibility with course requirements and consultation with Student Accessibility Services to help address individual instructional, student service, or student needs.

Guidelines for Creating Accessible Remote Learning Options

Consider Including a Statement about Accessibility on CANVAS

With the abrupt transition to the online format, I have made every effort to make this course accessible to all students, including students with disabilities. If you encounter a problem accessing anything in this course, please contact me immediately by email so that I can support you. You may also contact Student Accessibility Services at or or 319-296-2320 ext. 1060.

Consider Flexibility During and After Transition

During the transition to alternate methods of instruction, offer flexibility with attendance points and participation points without specifically authorized Student Accessibility Services accommodations. Consider utilizing alternative projects/assignments, alternative submission methods, and flexibility with due dates.

Consider surveying your students to gauge their needs and concerns during this time.

  • Do they have reliable internet? Do they have a webcam for Zoom capability?
  • Do they have any accessibility requests or concerns regarding online teaching and learning (like readings available in different formats or approaches to discussion boards)?
  • Do they have concerns surrounding basic needs (home or food insecurity), psychological care, childcare, or access to technology?

If a student who is not registered with Student Accessibility Services is communicating disability related barriers in the online format, please support them to the extent possible and refer them to Student Accessibility Services for accommodations.

Tips for Creating Accessible Online Course Content

Instructional materials must be accessible in accordance with legal mandates.

Utilize the Microsoft accessibility checker to help assess document accessibility. Read Microsoft's article "Improve Accessibility with the Accessibility Checker" to learn more".

Canvas offers users clear, easy to use accessibility design guidelines. See General Accessibility Design Guidelines and Accessibility within Canvas to learn more.

Tips for Online Assessments/Exams

Consider alternate methods of assessment that do not include timed exams.

Be aware that students that may not previously have had testing accommodations may need them with the change in environment.

Common Accommodations and Online Education

Accommodations that were originally designed for face-to-face courses may need to be adapted/updated for online environments — this may mean creativity in the design and delivery of accommodations.

All adjustments/accommodations will be individually determined on a student by student basis. Not all students with disabilities will need adjustments or the same type of adjustment.

Test Taking Accommodations

  • Extended Time: The Canvas Learning Management System has a feature that allows you to adjust a student’s online quiz/exam time corresponding to the amount of extended time authorized by Student Accessibility Services (typically 1.5 time or “time and half”; or 2.0 or “double time”). See How do I add assessment accommodations for a student in New Quizzes? or Once I publish a timed quiz, how can I give my students extra time?

  • Tests Read Aloud: ReadSpeaker, built into Canvas, improves accessibility and functions as a reader for students. Students can click on the speaker to have Canvas tests and materials read aloud. This is how students will obtain their accommodation for tests read aloud. Exams must be offered through Canvas for this feature. Do not use attachments for exams.

  • Distraction Reduced/Individual Exam Setting: Please be aware that students may not have a great setting to take exams which could impact their assessment scores.

Note Taking Accommodations

  • Post lecture materials in CANVAS.
  • Consider having students add notes to a shared Google Doc so that all students can benefit from each other.
  • Consider providing video or audio clips of lectures for repeat viewing. If you can, provide a transcript or closed-captioning. See for free transcription services.

Spelling/Grammar Accommodations

Consider not penalizing students for spelling or grammatical mistakes in discussion postings because the extra cognitive load of typing or using speech-to-text software may make things more difficult for them.

Consider Students with Hearing Impairments or Visual Impairments that may or may not have accommodations

Student Accessibility Services will be corresponding directly with faculty who have students that have accommodations for hearing or visual impairments in their courses to provide more specific support and guidance.

Ideas for Working with Students with Hearing Impairments

Ideas for Working with Students with Visual Impairments

  • Create documents in an accessible format
  • All instructor made videos should include descriptive language so that students are aware of information you are presenting non-verbally.

Accessibility Quick Tips

Adapted from Association on Higher Education and Disability. (2020, March 17). Maintaining Access to Opportunity In the Face of the Coronavirus Crisis. Retrieved from

Text Contrast

Use black text on a white background to ensure that the text stands out on the page. Editor’s note: Pure white backgrounds may cause problems with glare or distraction for some students. Consider using off-white or light grey backgrounds instead.

Text Styles

Do not use color alone to denote differences in emphasis and content meaning. Editor’s note: This also applies to some graphic elements, such as charts. See Use of Color (WebAIM) and Color Contrast (WebAIM).

Heading Styles

Use built-in heading styles to designate content organization. Editor’s note: Ensure that headings are used to create a hierarchy, not just for formatting. See Using Headings for Content Structure (WebAIM).

List Styles

Use the built-in bullet or number styles for lists.

Alt Text

Provide a brief text alternative for images, graphs, and charts that answers the question: Why is this image important? See Alternative Text (WebAIM) and Siteimprove, Accessibility: Image Alt Text Best Practices.

Closed Captioning

Captioning your media provides greater student comprehension of the material covered and provides accessible media for individuals with hearing impairments in compliance with federal regulations.

Link Text

Use descriptive titles for link text, titles, and headers. See Link Text (WebAIM).


Use simple tables when possible, with column and row headers. See Data Tables (WebAIM).

Additional Resources

Student Accessibility Services is Here to Help You

Please contact Student Accessibility Services with any questions or concerns about students, accommodations, or accessibility.

Ensuring accessibility for students with disabilities throughout this public health crisis requires us all to approach each student and each situation with an open mind and to prioritize their health and safety above all. This will take the form of offering those who are among the most vulnerable, older adults and those with underlying health conditions, with greater flexibility in their work and education.

Thank you for your collaboration!

These guidelines have been adapted from the following resources:

  • ATIXA. (2020, March). Disability Support Communication to Instructional Faculty. ATIXA Listserv.
  • Association on Higher Education and Disability. (2020, March 17). Maintaining Access to Opportunity In the Face of the Coronavirus Crisis. Retrieved from

Contact Information

Student Accessibility Services

Hawkeye Center 208
Email Student Accessibility Services

Regular Hours — Fall 2022

Mon–Friday 8:00am–4:30pm

Hawkeye utilizes Relay Iowa, a telecommunications service providing full telephone accessibility to people who are deaf, hard of hearing, and/or speech impaired.

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