Accessibility & Accommodation
Getting Started With Accessibility
Plan: What do I need to know?
Accessibility means ensuring that all students can equally access, use, and understand learning content. Universal design for learning can help with creating accessible content through consideration of a variety of learning modalities and disabilities. Accessible course materials include but are not limited to alternate text for images and graphs, a clear course structure, and captions and transcripts for course media like videos and audio.
- For help with advanced questions, contact the IT@Cornell Web Accessibility team
- Student Disability Services has a number of resources to help instructors improve access and inclusion (this should be your first stop if a student already enrolled in your course has requested accommodation). You can also view Creating an Accessible Course.
- Student Disability Services also provides sample syllabus statements you can use to inform students about accommodations
- IT@Cornell has resources for maintaining accessible websites, contact them for advanced accessibility questions and issues.
- Cornell University maintains a website for accessibility information broadly, including for events
Prepare: What do I need to do for my courses?
Course content and documents in Adobe PDF, Microsoft Word or Microsoft PowerPoint format can be accessible, but these formats are not accessible by default. Many of the issues are the same as for web pages (e.g., appropriate headings, alternate text for images) but the techniques vary across document authoring tools.
These steps can help you integrate accessibility into your process for creating course content:
How do I get started?
Use an accessibility checker to ensure that all types of content in your course meet requirements:
Canvas: for your Canvas course itself
Ally: an accessibility checker that will integrate into Canvas to check your course content
Equidox: a more intuitive and user-friendly tool for checking and remediating PDFs than the accessibility checker in Adobe Acrobat Pro
- Adobe Acrobat PRO: for PDFs
- MS Office: for Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents
- Website content: WAVE and SiteImprove are available to Cornell instructors
Below you will find additional information about basic requirements for creating accessible online content. This Quick Guide to Accessibility outlines ways to improve different types of resources.
Content that you build within Canvas is accessible. However, documents that you upload into your Canvas course may not be accessible. Documents available online should be in accessible formats for use with assistive technology such as text or screen readers and magnification tools.
- Making text in a course searchable allows the text to be read by screen and text readers, and allows learners to search for words or phrases within a document.
- This should not be a problem in most Microsoft Word, PPT, or Excel documents
- PDFs that have been created in newer versions of Adobe are usually searchable (see the PDF accessibility checker options above to verify that your documents are searchable). The SensusAccess tool converts PDF documents into different formats
- Consider text design elements
- Use properly styled headings: watch a video tutorial on headings
- Use simple fonts that are easiest to read. The text should be standard serif and sans serif font
- Use high contrast; it is best to have a dark-colored font on a light-colored background; avoid red-green or yellow-blue combinations as contrasting colors because individuals with color blindness are unable to differentiate the text from the background
- Text formatting should be simple, and only links should be underlined
- When using Microsoft products (Word, Excel, & PowerPoint), use the Accessibility Checker for the following issues: incorrect use of headings, alternative text for images, color and font use, tables, and charts
- Word documents
- PowerPoint presentations
- Google Docs
Link text is the clickable text used to connect a website to another page or resource. Rather than using the URL (e.g., https://www.cornell.edu), the link should be text that describes the page the user will find upon clicking the link (e.g., Cornell University homepage).
Tables and charts should have identifying headers and labels.
4. Images & Graphics
Images and graphics should have alternative text so that individuals using screen readers or other non-visual means of access can benefit from the information.
- How to add alternative text to Images
- How to edit image attributes in Canvas
- Complex figures and diagrams may be challenging to describe. We recommend searching the following sources for versions that may already be accessible:
- Digital course materials are available through publishers; please contact the Cornell Store
- Remember that instructors around the world are facing the same challenges and may have already created solutions that you can use. Reach out to colleagues at peer institutions and search online or through your academic associations/societies
- View the “Library Support for Online & Hybrid Teaching” guide or reach out to a library liaison to discuss options for your content
The links below are from our Online Content Accessibility Workshop
- Pre-recorded lectures can prove helpful in terms of accessibility. They also can be accessed at any hour of the day from any place which provides a great deal of flexibility to students. Moreover, they are more amenable to use in future courses
- There are several options available for recording your lectures for remote teaching. This table compares the main features of tools to help you decide which one is most appropriate for your teaching needs
- Tips for Pre-recorded Lectures
- Audio files should have written transcriptions and video files should be closed-captioned
- Student Disability Services provides captioning services for qualified students with disabilities at no cost: Contact SDS for assistance
- Videos automatically captioned by YouTube, Kaltura, or Panopto are not adequately captioned and should be reviewed for accuracy before using. Learn how to edit auto-captions in Kaltura, Panopto, or Zoom
- Narrated PowerPoint presentations are not accessible. Consider recording presentations in Panopto and then having the lectures captioned
- Create a plan to provide equitable alternatives to inaccessible AV
- Cornell's Video on Demand service can help you caption your videos
- Captioning is not required for synchronous lectures or discussion sections. If you are interested in providing captioning:
- Contact the CIT Service Desk to request access to Ava (a live captioning tool)
- Real-time captioning through PPT, where you talk over slides that you share via Zoom and PPT provides auto-captioning. Present with real-time, automatic captions or subtitles in PowerPoint. You can also present slides with captions using Google Slides.
Transcripts & Audio Descriptions
Plan: What do I need to know and do for my courses?
Cornell University policy is that faculty should prioritize addressing known accessibility needs for students enrolled in their classes. Student Disability Services (SDS) works closely with faculty to support students who may need specific accommodations (e.g., support to complete classwork or additional time for examinations). SDS support can help address new accommodation needs that arise in online and hybrid learning environments. Many accommodations are possible. For more assistance, please reach out for help.
Prepare: How do I get started?
Some students may not have enough privacy to be able to participate freely in class discussions, especially around sensitive topics. Consider surveying students at the beginning of the course to learn about their remote environment. This will help you better understand how to make accommodations that might affect student learning but might not be apparent in a hybrid or online setting.
Ways to accommodate student remote learning environments for hybrid & online teaching
In addition to suggesting tips for minimizing distractions and creating a schedule to follow, suggest that students:
- use headphones during synchronous discussions or when watching videos
- share concerns about their environment and access to technology that might affect their participation
- select a virtual background in Zoom that might allow for more privacy