Remote Participation Considerations and Guidance

Introduction

  • The online learning environment is subject to the same laws governing seated classes insomuch that educational institutions have an obligation to ensure that learning opportunities and experiences should be accessible. In the online environment, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as Amended, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and additionally the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are applicable. The latter describes the features necessary to meet minimum accessibility requirements in the online learning environment and are comprehensive. Please note that ARS is not resourced to remediate inaccessible course materials; departments and instructors should be aware of UNC's Digital Accessibility Policy created and maintained by The Digital Accessibility Office.

  • Please note that not all students with disabilities and chronic medical conditions will connect with Accessibility Resources and Service (ARS), and so there may be some students whose needs only become apparent in the remote environment and as a result of the unique challenges it may pose for them.

  • Instructors with any concerns that a student may be experiencing an academic barrier as a result of a disability or chronic medical condition should encourage the student to utilize the Connect with ARS form and also notify ARS at their earliest opportunity.

Syllabus Statement

Instructors are encouraged to include a syllabus statement to inform students of the availability of reasonable accommodations. More information on the steps and documentation required to initiate an accommodations request can be found in the ARS Policy on Student and Applicant Accommodations.

The following syllabus statement should be used:

  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill facilitates the implementation of reasonable accommodations, including resources and services, for students with disabilities, chronic medical conditions, a temporary disability, or pregnancy complications resulting in barriers to fully accessing University courses, programs and activities. Accommodations are determined through the Office of Accessibility Resources and Service (ARS) for individuals with documented qualifying disabilities in accordance with applicable state and federal laws. See the ARS Website or email ars@unc.edu.

Key Accessibility Considerations, for students with accommodations and supporting needs in a remote learning environment

  1. Zoom

    1. Ensure auto-captions are enabled for all Zoom sessions; these can be utilized by student participants in two ways: (1) as subtitles across the bottom of the screen, and/or (2) as a transcript in a panel to the right-hand side of the main Zoom window. The transcript panel also includes an option for the transcript to be saved by a participant. Please note that the saved transcript option disappears as a matter of course when the meeting is closed so please remind students to select save before you end the meeting. 
    2. Adopt a universal design approach by recording Zoom sessions to the cloud - these will be automatically subtitled. Recordings can be directed into the Panopto plug-in in your Sakai site or retained in the cloud for sharing via a hyperlink/URL. Alternatively, allow students to make their own recordings with auto-captions enabled. Making recordings available with captions has the potential to assist all students, but especially those with executive functioning challenges, those with sensory impairments, students with English as a second language, and students whose domestic and learning circumstances are challenging as a result of the remote learning environment.
    3. The requirement to stay "on-camera" during a class meeting can be particularly challenging for some students with disabilities. ARS may support some students with an accommodation to waive this requirement; this determination is made on a case by case basis, and with the benefit of strong supporting documentation.
    4. Being called-on within Zoom meetings can be particularly challenging for some students with disabilities. ARS may support some students with an accommodation to waive this requirement; this determination is made on a case by case basis, and with the benefit of strong supporting documentation. A UDL alternative approach is to allow responses and contributions to be made via the Chat function or through polling. 
  2. Document accessibility

    1. Supplementary readings should be provided in Word or accessible PDF files. To review for a basic level of accessibility, check to see if you can select text in the file and copy it to another location. If you cannot do this the document is not accessible and it should not be used. Also reference the accessible documents resources from the Digital Accessibility Office for assistance.

    2. Please use the hierarchical heading structure in documents to signal chapters and sections. This helps with navigating through a document. Both MS Word and PowerPoint have an accessibility checker: File --> Options --> Ease of Use. 

    3. Images in documents should have alternative textual representations or “alt-text”. 

  3. Webpage accessibility - Sakai, blogs, audio and video etc.

    1. Accessibility is an important consideration when creating content in Sakai and other teaching platforms on the web. A feature that makes this easier is the “Check Accessibility” feature in Sakai. Use this tool to find problems that you may have overlooked while creating your course content. The tool provides suggestions for resolving access issues. 

    2. Ensure that all images have alternative text or an “alt-text” tag. This is the phrase you see when you hover your on-screen pointer over an image and is used by assistive technologies to give information about the image to the user.

    3. Use a font that is maximally accessible, e.g. 14pt/16pt, Arial, and left justified. This may appear a little large but will address the needs of many students who are print challenged by adopting a universal design approach.

    4. Also reference the authoring website resources from the Digital Accessibility Office for assistance.

    5. For instructional material from, for example, YouTube, TED Talks, or other website videos, check to ensure that captions are available and accurate. Open the video and look for the  in the player. Please ensure that captions exist and are accurate. 

    6. Captioning/subtitling a video you have prepared to share online: 

      • Record your presentation with narration and then upload to YouTube and use the automatic captioning feature to get 90-ish% of the captioning done, then tidy up the subtitle file and upload. Set your video to "private" and pass the URL to your students - see Captioning YouTube Videos which describes this process.

      • Upload your video to Sakai and into the Panopto plug-in. This will produce subtitles if they were absent from the original.

      • Another possibility is to use Office 365/PowerPoint. In the Slide Show menu, check "Always Use Subtitles" and then share your screen through Zoom. This is not a substitute for CART needed by some deaf students.

    7. Instructors presenting course content remotely, whether in real-time or using a recording, and who are moving between different presentations/displays, should ensure that they verbalize their actions and supplement visual material orally to support students using assistive technologies and those who have difficulty with attending to visual material.

    8. Note that there may be some students who are using Communication Access Rea-time Translation or CART for short; this is where auto-captions are insufficient in accuracy. CART is provided by a third-party contracted by ARS. ARS will reach out to instructors for assistance and with information about this.

  4. Remote testing with accommodations

    1. Sakai, Canvas and GradeScope can accommodate individuals and groups needing extended time for time limited tests/exams.; remember to obscure the name of any groups created to manage testing accommodations, for example refrain from using "ARS Accommodated Group" or "+50%" etc as group names are easily visible to all students.

    2. Exams formatted in an LMS to progress only in a linear fashion can be particularly challenging for some students with disabilities. ARS may support some students with an accommodation to remove this format to allow them to move back and forth when testing. This determination will be made on a case by case basis, and with the benefit of supporting documentation.

    3. For students in receipt of a stopped clock accommodation, we suggest extending the extended time identified in a student's accommodation plan. Generally, an additional 10% is sufficient. 

    4. Short quizzes are notoriously challenging to administer with accommodations when delivered in the context of a time-limited class meeting period. By all means, use them, but consider the extent to which they contribute to the course grade if students’ testing accommodations cannot be met.

    5. Extending testing time for all students is sometimes not enough to meet the university's legal obligations to provide reasonable accommodation. There are times when the additional time afforded to all students will have to be extended by the percentage determined as reasonable for an individual student. If you need help with this circumstance, please contact the ARS Testing Coordinator via email at ars@unc.edu.

    6. Some students may need more individualized and unique testing accommodations which may be managed by the ARS Testing Center. If you have a student needing the physical assistance of an examination assistant, or more complex accommodations beyond your scope in an remote setting, you are encouraged to reach out to ARS's Testing Coordinator via ars@unc.edu to explore options or ask the student to complete our modified Non-Standard Scheduling Request Form. This information will also be shared with students in our scheduled communications.

    7. The ARS Hub has historically been used to schedule exams to be taken at the ARS Testing Center. We have modified this tool to allow for alternate use in remote settings. The Hub will now send out notifications about upcoming exams and the students' accommodations. Please be sure to note the following if you receive a notice of an upcoming exam from the Hub:

      • Instructor Scheduling Reminder - no ARS proctor: This is used by students to remind their instructors of accommodations before an upcoming exam. Students are still required to send Accommodation Notifications at the beginning of the semester in order to receive their approved accommodations in a course, but several instructors require advanced notice before an upcoming exam as a reminder of a student's accommodations. Students can use this tool without ARS assistance for advanced notification that does not require ARS intervention.

      • ARS Remote Proctor: This is an exam scheduled with ARS in a remote setting, where the student's testing accommodations may not be easily facilitated in the online platform (reader/scribe, etc.). Students are required to submit a Non-Standard Scheduling Request (NSS) form at least one week prior to the requested date of the exam, to allow ARS and the instructor time to agree on appropriate arrangements and to prepare the exam and test setting.

      • ARS Testing Center, SASB 2126: This is an exam scheduled with ARS in the physical Testing Center, due to the student's need for a physical proctor or accommodation (paper exam format, etc.). Again, students are required to submit a Non-Standard Scheduling Request (NSS) form at least one week prior to the requested date of the exam, to allow ARS and the instructor time to prepare the exam and test setting.

Remote Attendance Requests

As the university continues to move forward to more normal operating procedures underpinned by a commitment to a residential, in-person educational experience, COVID continues to impact our lives. Many students will have concerns about their ability to safely/effectively integrate into and engage with the in-person learning environment. The university is no longer engaging in a special consideration process; however, we do have a responsibility to share what flexibility and options exist for students to continue their progress toward degree. The following guidance is designed to help you navigate requests from students. Please contact Accessibility Resources and Service (ARS) if you have questions.

Concerns about taking in person courses

Students with concerns about taking in person courses should be referred to first work closely with their academic/program advisor to identify options already available, such as: 

  1. alternative courses that meet degree/program requirements that are already offered online 
  2. an alternative schedule of courses that may be out of synchronization 
  3. taking courses approved by the appropriate authorizing official that are offered online at a different institution 
  4. reducing hours for a semester through an underload or a decelerated program 

Flexibility within the existing course design

Faculty are not expected to redesign an in-person course or create a separate course to afford online participation; however, faculty are invited to consider solutions that are possible within the current course design even if these may not fully emulate the in-person student experience.   

Students should work with the instructor to determine what flexibility already exists for any student that has special circumstances (e.g., reviewing recorded course lectures when sick with flu/COVID/isolating/quarantining or students missing class for official university business or to meet religious commitments, etc.). 

One possible option may be record class meetings and share with the remote student or to utilize a recurring or standing Zoom meeting in class with the remote student as participant and use the screen sharing feature in Zoom to share any visual materials with both in-person students and the remote student. Zoom can be set to hide non-video participants so as not to clutter the screen and auto-captions can help both the remote student and in-person students in a masked environment. The Chat function of Zoom can be used to facilitate engagement of students both in-class and remotely and ismall group/paired work is a planned feature of the class, an in-person student can be invited to join the meeting (note, this will necessitate the instructor muting both the sound and microphone on the class computer to avoid audio feedback issues).

For assistance in determining what might be possible with the technology available in a classroom, instructors may find the UNC Hotline: Classroom Training Materials helpful. In addition, instructors can schedule an in-person demonstration of the technology available in any general purpose classroom. Instructors scheduled in non-GPC classrooms can reach out to departmental/school IT staff for similar assistance.

If the flexibility offered by an instructor does not resolve the student's concerns, the student should work through the academic chain (department head and ultimately college or school) as they normally would if there are extenuating circumstances (e.g., senior graduating at the end of the current semester). 

Students may be referred to ARS when there is uncertainty regarding the underlying reason for the request. "If you need to request accommodations based on a disability or medical related need, please contact Accessibility Resources and Service." 

Disability Related or Medical Condition Related Concern

For courses that do not have an online option readily available, a student with a disability or chronic medical concern may initiate a request through Accessibility Resources and Service (ARS) by completing and submitting the Self-Identification Form. Pregnant students or students with parenting concerns should reach out to Equal Opportunities and Compliance (EOC).

If it is substantiated that a student is eligible for this consideration, ARS will contact the student's instructors to initiate discussions about options available. ARS will work with each instructor to specify the feasibility and details of remote participation and inform the student of options available.

Should a student be eligible, it is understood that: 

  1. not all courses have options for remote participation (e.g.: heavy discussion/ participation based, group work required, labs, practicums, etc.) 
  2. approval to attend a course/courses remotely for the current semester does not imply approval for future semesters 
  3. the remote participation for an in-person class may look different than it did for previous semesters
  4. remote participation is unlikely to provide the same experience as that for in-person students 
  5. modifications may take the form of streamed synchronous access with varying levels of interaction or recorded lectures provided asynchronously 
  6. If remote participation is not feasible, ARS will explore possible alternatives with the department in a good-faith effort towards inclusion. For example, allowing the student to enroll/transfer an online course from another university that is approved by the college, school or program, and/or any supporting policy modifications. 

Additional resources and information

  1. UNC's Digital Accessibility Office, which has a comprehensive and growing calendar of training opportunities

  2. Explore Access - Designing an Accessible Online Course

  3. WebAIM tutorial describes how to use headings, add alt text, create links, and use Word’s Accessibility Checker to identify accessibility problems

  4. Using Adobe Acrobat Pro, you can run optical character recognition on any pdfs

  5. Using Powerpoint Translator - Microsoft 

  6. Flipped instruction with PowerPoint Recorder 

  7. Generating automatic captions and a transcript for your Microsoft Stream videos

  8. Creating accessible PowerPoint presentations - Microsoft 

  9. Creating accessible Word documents - Microsoft

  10. 20 Tips for Instructors about Making Online Learning Courses Accessible from DO‑IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internet working, and Technology) at The University of Washington)

  11. And for those of you with more time on your hands! Accessibility in Online Courses and Materials Applying Universal Design for Learning by Samantha Harlow is the Online Learning Librarian at UNC Greensboro

  12. Universal Design for Learning Guidelines