Check in with your students

Communicate changes to your students as soon as possible. Let them know what technologies you plan to use, in what ways, and inform them of any changes to course materials. Above all, check in with your students regularly and ask if they are able to access all of the materials and participate in the course. Proactively work with your students and Disability Resource Center to figure out workarounds when access issues arise. The following tools in Canvas can help you communicate changes to your students, and provide surveys to identify access issues:

Maintain learning goals, but build in flexibility

Instructors can maintain learning objectives and assess students using online tools in Canvas. This includes students with disabilities. Students should never be exempt from assignments or participation due to accessibility barriers. At the same time, flexibility in meeting learning goals may be necessary. Expect that variations in internet connectivity, home environments, student familiarity with and access to technologies, disabilities, and unique stressors during this time may impact students’ ability to use certain technologies, complete tasks under time pressure, and access new types or sources of information. Think in terms of Universal Design for Learning: Keep your core learning objectives, but be flexible and build in options for how students can meet them.

Do your best to use platforms and materials that are accessible to students with disabilities

The Disability Resource Center resource page, Possible Accommodations, provides information about some common accommodations and disabilities. Many of these apply to the virtual learning environment, and others can be adapted. In general:

  • Use technologies and platforms that are supported by the University and are known to be accessible. (Canvas, Drupal)
  • Pay special attention to the use of collaboration and communication tools, including tools used by students as part of group projects. Ensure that collaborative groups select tools that work for all students who are expected to participate. These include:

    Office 365
    Canvas Groups
    Canvas Collaborations
  • Whenever possible, use videos that have captions and audio files that have transcripts. If you have a student with a captioning accommodation, make sure your videos include captions. Learn more:

    Instructional Continuity: Captioning for Live and Recorded Lectures
    ZOOM: Automatically Transcribe Cloud Recordings
    Screencast-O-Matic Closed Captioning

  • Know that scanned documents and photos of handwritten notes are often not accessible to people who use assistive technology such as text-to-speech software. Whenever possible, use documents that were created digitally rather than from a scanned image. Canvas pages, Word documents, and online articles are fairly accessible formats to use. If you need to turn an image of text into a more accessible format, use the SensusAccess tool.

Don’t worry about being perfect

This is a stressful time for all members of the Cal Poly community. The remote version of your course and the accessibility of your course may not be perfect. Kindness, flexibility, and patience on all sides will go a long way during this time.

Ask for help

  1. To learn how to create accessible content, consult the CTLT Access for All webpages and our Instructional Continuity webpages. If you would like help or have questions about how to create accessible course content, don’t hesitate to reach out to the CTLT at, or contact Pam Dougherty, Instructional Designer and Accessibility Specialist at
  2. Information about student accommodations can be found here: DRC Possible Accommodations. Encourage students who are registered with the Disability Resource Center to work closely with their Access Specialists. Faculty who have questions about student accommodations can contact the Disability Resource Center at
  3. Information about the California State University Accessible Technology Initiative can be found here: CSU ATI Professional Development