Accommodating Students with Disabilities in Online Learning

Transition from seated classes on campus to online learning off-campus presents challenges and questions some known, others unknown, Having to do with extending reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities. We would like to share what guidance we can while inviting you to stay in contact with Accessibility Resources through our email address: stu-accessibility@buffalo.edu. You can either raise questions or concerns in an email message or simply give us suggested times and telephone number where we can reach you.

A similar invitation will be extended to students. Among the uncertainty, however, one certainty is that it would be logistically impossible for Accessibility Resources to review with every student every approved accommodation in order to introduce any changes that may be made necessary by the transition, not at least by Monday, March 23. Thus we must ask faculty and students to maintain as much independent communication as possible, withers being available to consult, of course.

The Accommodation Memo

Do you still have our accommodation memo submitted to you previously by the student? If not, please contact our office or the student to request resubmission. Most all of the recommendations on the accommodation memo will still apply, some needing little new attention or changes. Provision of lecture notes, either yours or those of a peer student, need not change, for example. Note takers will still submit their notes electronically, as they do now, for Accessibility Resources’ distribution.

Test time extensions will still be required, but if you are significantly changing your testing methods or format, students may request additional time extensions.

Extended Exam Time

If you are using a timer for exams please be certain to adjust the timer for a student with extra exam time (for example,  a 50% extension yields 1.5X, where X equals length of time allowed for the test generally and so on). For assistance on how to make that adjustment please contact Center for Educational Innovation 

Lockdown Browsers

If a student has an accommodation for a “reader or scribe for tests,” this means they are using assistive-technology software on their computers. Much of that technology would be blocked by the locked browser, hence denying a required accommodation. In that case, we recommend either using an open browser or devising alternative method for a fair assessment of student’s knowledge and skills. As always, please contact AR with questions and concerns.

Distraction Reduced Setting for Tests

Off-campus, the accommodation does not apply.

Paper-based Exams

A few students need paper-based exams because their disability prevents them from using the display screen effectively. In that case, the student could print the exam and then upload it to you when completed. Of course, let AR know if this presents some unreasonable difficulty or obstacle.

Class Lectures Online

If you post class lectures online, and can do so, please enable captioning, through Panapto, for example. Even if not specifically recommended in an accommodation memo, this feature can assist all students in following your lectures. Please refer to the Resources section at the end of this guidance.

Textual Learning Materials

If you post course materials textually, please be aware that image files are not accessible to screenreader technology used by blind, visually impaired, and many learning-disabled students. Please export such content to textual PDF documents from their original software source. A clean and clear image file made from a scanned paper source can be converted to text through OCR software. Accessibility Resources can help with such tasks. However, if demand is as high as it could be, given so many courses going online all at once, it may be impossible for AR staff to keep up with the need. As it is, we generally require a turnaround time of up to 2 weeks, depending on the length of the materials being converted and the technical difficulty of the task. Again, please contact AR with questions and concerns.

Resources Online

To learn how to make electronic documents and reading accessible please use the resources at http://www.buffalo.edu/access/services/service1.html

If you are not sure if a text you are about to post document is accessible, accessibility checkers are built into Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word