Supporting Students with Disabilities

In a remote learning environment, students with disabilities may require additional or different accommodations than their original Accommodations Letters indicate. For any questions about how to ensure accessibility for specific students’ accommodations, the course instructor should contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC).

To plan ahead for accessibility, the teaching team can discuss together how to ensure that all course materials are accessible.

For guidance on accommodations for online exams, please consult the DRC's FAQs for faculty.

Take the free Accessibility for Virtual Classrooms course through the UC SiteImprove Academy. The course should take about 1 hour.

Course Syllabus Statement for DRC Accommodations

UC Santa Cruz is committed to creating an academic environment that supports its diverse student body. If you are a student with a disability who requires accommodations to achieve equal access in this course, please affiliate with the DRC. I encourage all students to benefit from learning more about DRC services to contact DRC by phone at 831-459-2089 or by email at For students already affiliated, make sure that you have requested Academic Access Letters, where you intend to use accommodations. You can also request to meet privately with me during my office hours or by appointment, as soon as possible. I would like us to discuss how we can implement your accommodations in this course to ensure your access and full engagement in this course.

Accessibility Corps

Accessibility Corps is a new service designed to help you make your courses more accessible for all of your students. This program pairs trained student employees with instructors who are interested in improving any aspect of their course(s) for accessibility.

Accessibility Corps provides the following services:

  • Caption creation/editing/review of your recorded materials — we’ll work with you to create captions, or to review/edit existing captions.

  • Review of material(s) for accessibility and document remediation — we’ll review individual course materials.

  • Review of existing courses for accessibility — we’ll holistically review your existing course(s) in Canvas for areas where accessibility can be enhanced.

  • Consultation for designing for accessibility — we’ll meet with you to discuss designing courses to make them maximally accessible.

Please visit this form for more information and to request Accessibility Corps services.

best practices for accessible course materials

(Adapted from CITL and Online Education's Integrated Course Design for Remote Instruction Canvas course.)

Accessibility in instruction can seem difficult and mysterious. It isn’t. The idea is to make your course in a way that works for all of your students. You can do most of that on your own (and you’ll see that it’s quite simple if you continue reading), and you can partner with the Disability Resource Center, the CITL, the FITC, and Online Education to ensure that all your students’ needs are being met. Designing course content for accessibility often takes less time than after-the-fact remediation, so start with accessibility in mind! All of your students benefit!

Basic requirements for accessible multimedia:

  • Make PDF readings legible. There are two tests for minimal legibility in a PDF:
    1. Copy and paste the text and see what you get.
    2. Turn on the screen reader on your computer and listen.

  • Caption pre-recorded video. If you have a student with an accommodation, the Disability Resource Center will work with you to facilitate captioning. Alternatively, YuJa has automatic captioning that can be corrected (which may be time-consuming).

  • Use the best microphone you can find. Audio quality is more important than video quality. If you’re broadcasting or recording your voice, do it in a quiet place.

  • Make images visible. Use the highest resolution that you can find.

  • Provide alternative text ("alt text") for images that is readable by a screen reader.

  • Use the accessibility features in Canvas. The most useful is “moderate quiz,” which is available in any published quiz and allows you to grant individual students extra time and extra attempts without revealing accommodations to their classmates.

  • Accessibility is also about ensuring access to course materials for all of your students. Take a look at the UCSC guide on Affordable Textbooks. The first two tips—considering Open Educational Resources and library-licensed e-books—are especially important right now.

Other best practices for aesthetics and accessibility:

  • Keep things simple. Use one font. Use color sparingly. Don’t put too much text on a slide. Remember that we can only take in so much information at a time, especially in a new domain of knowledge.

  • Keep things short. For example, the length of a prerecorded video, the number of lines of text on a Canvas page, or the number of words on a slide.

  • Use bulleted lists in text.

  • Use bold to highlight important pieces of text.

  • Check links. Links go dead and websites change. Make sure that external resources exist and work.

  • Provide students with materials to help them self-assess and brush up (or catch up) on prerequisite knowledge


Here are some excellent outside resources:

  • Accessible Syllabus. Anne-Marie Womack, Tulane University. 2015. This website provides detailed advice for designing accessible course materials and policies, as well as many links to accessibility resources.

  • The Irony of Inclusion and Accessibility Statements, Freya Möbus, Loyola University Chicago, 2020. Despite some excellent resources on this topic, the parts of our syllabi devoted to inclusion and accessibility remain somewhat, well, exclusive and inaccessible, argues Freya Möbus in this article in Inside Higher Education.

  • Accessible Teaching in the Time of COVID-19. Aimi Hamrie, Mapping Access, 2020. This article provides suggestions for ensuring course materials are accessible, including links to practical resources that can be adapted for your own courses.