Online Courses, Accommodations, and Accessibility FAQ

Instructor FAQ

To download Instructor FAQ, click on the link: Instructor FAQ PDF

Contact SAS for alternate format of this information.

Student Accessibility Services (SAS) remains open and receptive to address concerns or questions related to online courses, accommodations, and accessibility.  Please do not hesitate to call SAS in Edinburg 956-665-7005, Brownsville 956-882-7374 or email us at ability@utrgv.edu

  • Since online course structure is likely to vary from the original in-person course design, instructors should keep this in mind as it relates to accommodations. In the event a student’s current accommodations do not appear appropriate for an online course, please contact SAS to discuss this matter.
  • When using an online system to deliver course material, considerations should include bandwidth, access for all students (not all students have computers at home or reliable internet connections), and accessible materials, to name a few.
  • Some students may experience a heightened level of uncertainty regarding their disability-related barriers, especially for online instruction.

SAS appreciates instructors’ efforts during this transition and SAS staff want to continue collaborating to ensure equal access of all students.

For any student requesting accommodations due to disability or pregnancy/parenting, please refer the student to call Student Accessibility Services for additional information.

Recommendations for Faculty (Adapted from Guide from Southern Methodist University)

    1. When teaching online:
      1. Use of Zoom, Skype or other online media needs to be accessible or made accessible.
      2. All video recordings require captioning.
      3. If using Panopto, please turn on captioning as it cannot be added after the video is created but must be done while it is being created. Please note: The captioning created by Panopto is not 100% accurate, so faculty should review and edit the content as needed.
    2. When posting materials to Blackboard, all materials must be accessible for the end user.
      1. PowerPoint slides can be saved as Word documents.
      2. PDFs need to be saved as text files or converted to a Microsoft Word document for students who use technology to access the information.
  • How do accommodations work with online instruction?

    • Accommodation letters for Spring 2020 which were previously sent to instructors by SAS are still valid. However, some accommodations which were relevant in face-to-face courses may no longer apply. For example, preferential seating is not applicable to an online course.
    • If an instructor decides to offer alternatives to testing (e.g. essay, non-timed exam, group project activity), then a student’s extended time on testing is no longer applicable.
    • Please see the list of common accommodations below and considerations for each in an online environment.
    Accommodations in an Online Learning Environment
    For students with an accommodation for: Does this accommodation apply in a synchronous online course? Does this accommodation apply in an asynchronous online course? Considerations

    Volunteer Note Taker (VNT)

    Yes

    Maybe*

    Instructor: Please inform VNT to upload class notes via mySAS, a secure online portal where SAS students can access class notes.

    *If there is a recording an instructor’s lecture, students will be able to view the recording as many times as necessary, which precludes the need for a volunteer note-taker.

    Use of audio recorder for lecture

    Yes

    No

     

    Attendance

    Yes

    No

    Please contact SAS with any questions.

    Medical Leave

    Yes

    Yes

    Please contact SAS with any questions.

    Extended time for assignment deadlines

    Yes

    Yes

     

    TESTING

     

     

     

    Extended time on testing

    Yes

    Yes

    SAS will not offer in-office proctoring for online exams.

    Instructors: You can edit the test options and add a user or group in the test availability exceptions area. If the settings exist for a test, you can create these exceptions: number of attempts, timer, availability, force completion and restrict location. For more information, check out the  Test and Survey Options page. Alternatively, you may use Adaptive Release, with this tool you will be able to customize the release of content to meet the needs of individual students. For more information, check out the  Rules for Releasing Content.

    Reduced-distraction testing environment

    No

    No

    Please inform students they are responsible for ensuring a reduced-distraction testing environment for online courses.  

    A reader or scribe for tests

    Yes

    Yes

    SAS will not offer in-office proctoring for online exams. Please be aware that students may need to rely on a family member or friend to read or scribe for tests. In the event a student reports not having access to someone to assist, please contact SAS to discuss this matter.

    Alternate format of tests

     

     

     

    Braille

    Yes

    Yes

    Instructors should upload an accessible exam document in Blackboard. The material will be converted in Blackboard Ally into Braille Ready Format. The student can use assistive technology (e.g. Apex machine or Braille display) to access the exam.

    Enlarged font

    Yes

    Yes

    Students will be able to enlarge digital format exams in the online environment using assistive technology

     

    Audio format

    Yes

    Yes

    Instructors should upload an accessible exam document in Blackboard. The material will be converted in Blackboard Ally into audio format. The student can use assistive technology to access the exam.

     

     

     

     

    Sign language interpreter

    Yes

    Maybe*

    SYNCHRONOUS COURSES:

    Zoom will be required so that interpreters can facilitate communication during lecture.

    The Zoom meeting link would need to be shared with ASLservices@utrgv.edu 2 business days prior.

    If the class meeting is recorded via Zoom, the instructor must pin the interpreter feed to ensure the student will have access to interpreting at a later date.

    ASYNCHRONOUS COURSES:

    *If a lecture is recorded, send the file to SAS so that a sign language interpreter video can be imbedded.

    If there are no videos of lecture, no interpreter is required for the course.

    Please call SAS with any questions.

    If you are using Lockdown Browser for tests, for students who use a screen reader, the Lockdown Browser will need to be disabled . Please contact SAS for additional guidance.

     

    CART (Communication Access in Real Time)

    Yes

    No

    Please follow the same procedures used with face-to-face classes.

    Instructor: A link to the video conferencing platform being used should be sent to ASLservices@utrgv.edu 2 business days prior to the class meeting.

    Alternate format of course materials:

     

     

     

    Braille

    Yes

    Yes

    Instructors should upload an accessible document in Blackboard. The material will be converted in Blackboard Ally into Braille Ready Format. The student can use assistive technology (e.g. Apex machine or Braille display) to access the material.

    Enlarged font

    Yes

    Yes

    Students will be able to enlarge digital format exams in the online environment using assistive technology.

    Audio format

    Yes

    Yes

    Instructors should upload an accessible document in Blackboard. The material will be converted in Blackboard Ally into audio format. The student can use assistive technology to access the material.

  • How do I go about setting extended time for online tests?

    • For resources related to online accessibility, including time extensions on tests, please consult the Center for Online Learning and Teaching Technology (COLTT)
  • Do I honor attendance accommodations which had already been approved for a face-to-face course?

    • Approved accommodations will continue forward through the semester. However, if your online course is asynchronous, students’ attendance should not be a concern (since there are no real-time class meetings).
    • If you have any concerns about students’ attendance in your synchronous courses, please contact SAS.
  • What do I do for students with an approved accommodation for audio format of course materials and exams?

    • Instructors may upload an accessible document in Blackboard OR create an accessible test in Blackboard.
      1.  The exam (in audio format) is made available through Blackboard Ally, an accessibility tool in Blackboard, which has a built-in reader.
      2. additional information, please see: Teaching Online and Accessibility – Blackboard Ally

    OR

    • With advance notice, SAS staff can convert course material or tests to audio format and upload to SharePoint (with one folder per instructor to maintain integrity of exams).
  • What is an accessible document?

    • An accessible document includes plain text in any of the following formats: .doc, .rtf, or .txt. If any images are included, they must have alternative text (i.e. a description of the image). Any text content (or copy of text) in an image format (.jpg, .mpg, .bmp, or other image files) is not accessible. For additional information, please see Creating Accessible Content

Accessibility Resources

For resources related to online accessibility, please consult the Center for Online Learning and Teaching Technology (COLTT) website at https://www.utrgv.edu/online/index.htm

  • Those new to digital accessibility should select “Teaching Online > The Process > Getting Started” from the dropdown menu from the following webpage: https://www.utrgv.edu/online/teaching-online/index.htm
  • Those looking for a short list of guidelines for making courses and websites accessible to individuals with disabilities should select “Teaching Online > Online Accessibility” from the dropdown menu. Other resources located on the webpage include Creating Content, Videos, Universal Design for Learning, and Additional Resources.      

 Additional resources:


General Accessibility FAQ

The following is designed to assist faculty in understanding academic accommodations for students with disabilities at UTRGV. Faculty are always welcome to contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) with any questions or concerns. In Brownsville, visit BMSLC 1.107 or call 956-882-7374. In Edinburg, visit UCTR 108 or call 956-665-7005.  Our e-mail address is ability@utrgv.edu.

  • What is an Accommodation Letter?

    An accommodation letter is a document created by Student Accessibility Services which lists approved accommodations for an individual student.  The letter is proof that the student has provided the necessary documentation to SAS and qualifies for accommodations, which are valid from the date the letter is sent until the end of the semester. The letter is sent from SAS via email to both faculty and the student.
  • What office is responsible for determining academic accommodations?

    Student Accessibility Services (SAS) is the department designated to work with qualified UTRGV students who have self-disclosed a disability and registered with the department for academic accommodations. Determining appropriate accommodations involves the student and a SAS staff member engaging in an interactive process. SAS uses information obtained through discussion, observations, professional judgment, third party documentation, and input from faculty regarding essential course requirements to assist in determining accommodations, if any, which are reasonable in each case. Accommodations are approved by the SAS Departmental Review Committee before an accommodation letter is issued.
  • When is a student required to notify faculty of a need for accommodations?

    Although SAS encourages students to register with SAS early in the semester, this can occur at any time. If a student notifies faculty of the need for accommodations, faculty should promptly refer the student to SAS. SAS provides instructors with a student’s accommodation letter once accommodations have been approved through the SAS process.  Accommodations are not retroactive, and consequently, if a student applies January 15th and accommodations are approved by SAS on February 18th, the accommodations are effective February 18th forward.
  • Should I provide accommodations to a student who does not have an accommodation letter?

    It is recommended that faculty not provide accommodations for students unless an accommodation letter from SAS has been received. Similarly, if a student asks for an accommodation that is not listed on the accommodation letter, you are not obligated to provide it. Instead, refer the student to SAS.  For questions, please contact SAS at 956-882-7374 (Brownsville) or 956-665-7005 (Edinburg) or email ability@utrgv.edu.
  • Am I responsible for identifying a volunteer note taker for a student with an approved accommodation? What if I can’t find one?

    Due to barriers experienced by students with various disabilities, some students require note taking assistance. SAS asks faculty to assist in identifying a student volunteer in the class.
    • Faculty can make an announcement to the class by using the brief script SAS provides in the email with the student’s accommodation letter.  FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) law prevents you from disclosing the student’s name or the disability when announcing the request of a note taker.
    • If no one volunteers the first day, please try again at the next class meeting. Until a volunteer is identified, some alternatives include sharing instructor notes, posting notes in Blackboard, recording the class using Panopto, or encouraging the student to audio record the class.
  • Does the student’s disability information need to remain confidential?

    Yes. Faculty should always keep a student’s accommodations and disability-related information confidential.  Again, FERPA law prohibits disclosure.
  • Do I have to allow students to use technology in class?

    There are instances when a student will need to use one or more assistive technologies. These devices will be listed in the student’s accommodation letter and may include, for example, use of an audio recorder for recording class lectures. In order to avoid publicly identifying the student with a disability, a statement can be added to the course syllabus, such as “Exceptions for the use of technology (e.g. audio recorder) may be granted for compelling reasons at the discretion of the instructor.”
  • Should I lower academic standards because a student has a disability?

    No. Academic standards are the same for all students. The purpose of accommodations is to “level the playing field,” not to give a student an unfair advantage and should not fundamentally alter the curriculum requirements. Many students with disabilities require extended time on tests, for example, but the tests are the same for all students.
  • A student is experiencing academic difficulty in my class. I think the student may have a disability. What should I do to assist the student?

    Talk privately with the student to discuss your observations. For some students, a referral to the Learning Center or Writing Center may be helpful.   In the event a student discloses a disability, refer the student to SAS.
  • Should I alter my course attendance requirements when a student has an accommodation for flexible attendance?

    The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has determined that requests for flexible attendance accommodations due to a disability should be considered on an individual basis by Student Accessibility Services (SAS). The degree of attendance flexibility is based on the individual student’s condition (as determined by SAS through an interactive process with the student along with documentation of the condition, provided by the student to SAS), the nature of the course, and whether class attendance and participation are essential requirements of the course.
  • What should I do if an accommodation listed in the Accommodation Letter appears to fundamentally alters an essential element of the course?

    Please contact the SAS Director at 956-665-7005 (Edinburg) or Assistant Director at 956-882-7374 (Brownsville) to discuss your concerns.