UMBC Instructors: Disability Accommodation Guidelines/FAQs

This document summarizes essential information for UMBC faculty/instructors regarding accessibility and student disability accommodations. It was created to assist in planning for supporting student access in hybrid instruction environments.

I. Blackboard For Instruction

II. Extended Time Test Administration

III. Transcription of real-time class lectures

IV. Sign Language Interpreters

V. Notetaking Assistance

VI. Scribes/Readers

VII. Attendance, Makeup Work, & Assignment Extensions


A. Online lectures using Blackboard Collaborate
  • SDS recommends RECORDING your Bb Collaborate lectures/discussions.
  • Why?
  1. In the event of technical problems (hardware, software, connections, etc.);
  2. For notetaking support, students can stop, start, and create accurate notes;
  3. For Deaf and hard-of-hearing students, verbatim transcripts can be made from the recorded content;
  4. Students with chronic illnesses or other challenging life circumstances during this unprecedented time can still “attend” your class even if they cannot attend “live” (please note that faculty can view who has watched the recordings and calculate “attendance” based on watching the tapes).
  5. Faculty can designate when recording is inappropriate, and the discussion content is personal disclosure that would not be tested. An audio recording agreement contract is also available for use under the “SDS Resources” menu, which indicates that the accommodation is only for educational/study use and recorded content is not to be shared, disseminated, altered, or posted publicly or would be subject to Code of Conduct sanctions.
B. Accessible Course Materials
  • Please use the Blackboard Ally tool provided by Do-IT! Ally is accessed inside Blackboard, enabling instructors to see if their posted digital course materials are accessible.
  • Blackboard as an LMS platform is accessible, BUT the content we put into it, such as documents, files, videos, links, etc., may not be accessible, i.e., a video may not have captions or an image has no description.
  • What is Ally, and how do I use it? Do-IT have you covered; see the Help Wiki:

Accessible online course content benefits ALL students. However, if you have a blind/visually impaired or deaf/hard of hearing student in your course, accessible course materials are required. SDS staff will email you directly if you have an SDS student registered in your class that requires accessible and/or alternative formats of course content.

SDS staff is available to advise you on how to use tagged PDFs, HTML, plain text, and alt text image descriptions for screen reader access and there are easy “how-to” instructions online. With Bb Ally, you can start checking your course content now and begin making adjustments so that you have an accessible course for all students and save time later!


C. Captioning

SDS recommends not using or showing films or videos that are not captioned or do not have accompanying transcripts available. Check for captions when choosing your video content!

  • If you create your videos for course instruction, you can utilize Do-IT-supported Panopto, which can auto-create captions (see
  • You can also load your prerecorded Blackboard sessions into Panopto to have captions added after the fact. Here is a short Panopto video on captioning your Blackboard Collaborate sessions in Panopto. (Note: It shows the errors that come up in auto-captioning, which you can go in and edit for the accuracy of your content before posting for the students).
  • You can also create longer videos on YouTube utilizing the auto-captioning function, and you can use UMBC supported VoiceThread, which also has the auto-captioning ability. (Link to Do-IT’s Tools & Resources site)
  • Please note that captions/subtitles help all students, particularly if the environment they are currently in has poor audio quality or noise distractions.
  • If you are holding class meetings or discussions outside of Blackboard, please use UMBC supported Webex with the Webex Assistant captioning feature turned on or Google Meetings with captions.
  • SDS can also recommend software apps that provide captions for students and staff, such as the free online tools Web Captioner and Microsoft 365 can also provide transcripts now.


  • SDS is proctoring exams in-person for in-person classes. Students must schedule to ensure seating is available at the desired time.
  • When teaching online, instructors can set the required accommodation of Extended Time in Blackboard for all timed quizzes/ tests/exams for students with this accommodation. Faculty members are responsible for online test administration but are welcome to consult with SDS for questions/problems/challenges.
  • Students who have been approved for this testing accommodation through SDS must continue to receive these services in an online learning environment.
  • How do I set extended test time?? Follow the Do-IT help wikis — the process is different for Blackboard Ultra and Blackboard Original (the older one).
  • Please note that in the online teaching and testing environment, students may have time conflicts with scheduled tests in other classes or “live” online sessions. Please work with your SDS students to set an earlier or later test start time if conflicts occur.


If you have students who are receiving transcription services for real-time meetings of your class sessions (you will be notified if a Deaf/Hard of hearing student requiring this service is in your course):

  • Instructors must invite the transcriptionist(s) to each Bb Collaborate session to allow them access to the live lecture sessions to transcribe them.
  • To add a guest/transcriptionist to a Collaborate session, please follow these steps from Do-IT:
  • While teaching using Bb Collaborate, the transcriptionist and student will connect via another web portal to send/receive real-time transcription. This allows real-time course access without requiring you to change the student’s view.
  • Instructors with students in their course with these accommodations will have been notified by SDS Assistant Director Michael Canale, in addition to receiving an SDS accommodation letter for the student.
  • Please email Mr. Canale with any transcription questions or concerns at Note: Transcriptionists are arranged in advance by him with our contracted outside vendor.
  • IMPORTANT: Instructors must EMAIL the guest link provided before each session so transcriptionists can provide access during the class.


If you have students who receive ASL Interpretation in real-time meetings of class:

  • Instructors must add interpreters to their Blackboard course if they have not already done so. For their Blackboard role, please select “Interpreter”.
  • This will allow interpreters to access the course materials and Collaborate sessions to provide communication access to Deaf & hard of hearing students. Interpreters prepare for class just like faculty do by prereading and familiarizing themselves with the content.
  • All contracted interpreters have been given a UMBC Webex account for course/meeting interpreting. While you teach your course in Collaborate” live,” the interpreters and students will connect via Webex simultaneously in another window. This allows them to see each other in real time. If you are using different platforms, please communicate this information to the Deaf & Hard of Hearing Coordinator so that we can coordinate access.


  • During remote course instruction, SDS will continue to support SDS-approved notetaking accommodations in the online classroom through technology such as Glean audio notetaking software (formerly Sonocent) or peer notetakers when necessary. Most students will use technology solutions for note-taking in the form of audio recording.
  • Instructors recording class lectures in Bb Collaborate allows ALL students to take notes more quickly as they can replay sections they may have missed. This increases student accessibility and is recommended as a Universal Design best practice.
  • Faculty are typically not involved in the notetaking assistance process. Students can record lectures using their own portable devices and software if they have been provided that accommodation (notetaking plus audio recording).
  • Students have been advised that recordings are for educational study only and cannot be shared or distributed. (Audio recording agreement:
  • If SDS must secure a peer notetaker, SDS staff will solicit volunteer students from the class by emailing the roster. Faculty do not assign peer notetakers.


If you have students who require a reader or scribe for classes, labs, or exams:

  • Scribes and readers are typically student workers hired by SDS. However, during remote instruction and testing, SDS may permit a family member on-site with the student to act as the scribe or reader. A scribe or reader is only to write or type what the assignment/test says and what the student’s response is; the students are aware of this expectation and requirement.
  • If this is not an option, SDS will discuss alternative access solutions with the student and may schedule a reader/scribe remotely that SDS arranges.
  • Suppose a student needs a remote reader or scribe for an online activity or assessment. In that case, they must provide SDS with as much advance notice as possible (minimum two business days) by emailing a request to SDS at
  • If SDS must secure a remote reader/scribe for a student, additional access to the course may be needed. SDS staff may then email you to request that you add the assigned individual to your Blackboard course to facilitate scribing. SDS would create a Webex session between the student and the reader/scribe so that the reader/scribe can access the same material your student needs to view.
  • Depending on the situation’s needs (Collaborate, online test, online lab, etc.), scribes may need to submit the material or test answers to you in an alternative format, such as via email or a secure Box link. Given the resources available to ensure academic integrity, SDS staff will work with you to develop the best possible process.
  • Note: Assigned readers and scribes may change according to staff availability during the semester.


  • Faculty are encouraged to think flexibly and consider that students with disabilities may face new challenges in transitioning between online and face-to-face learning environments.
  • Faculty must honor all disability-based accommodations that are listed in the SDS letter. Adjustments may be necessary for remote learning access if modality changes occur during the semester.
  • When disability-related absences have occurred/will occur, students are responsible for contacting the faculty member and SDS as soon as possible to arrange for makeup work or an alternate due date(s). Students must notify faculty in advance when possible.
  • If approved on an SDS letter, accommodations related to attendance are supported by confidential disability/medical documentation in SDS. Faculty should not request any disability documentation be sent to them.
  • An accommodation for a makeup test or an assignment extension is not automatic on all coursework all semester. Still, it is to be applied when an extenuating circumstance arises from a student’s disability. Communication must occur from the student to the instructor and SDS with a need for absence due to disability to request a makeup or extension.
  • Any offered or agreed upon new due dates, extensions, or alternative assignments should be documented in writing (email). Typical extensions are 24-48 hours. Extenuating circumstances can be referred to an SDS disability specialist for further planning.
  • Faculty should contact SDS staff for any concerns or questions about disability-related absences or extensions. Student, faculty & SDS team-based meetings are welcome.
  • Faculty should consider the following for their courses:

What does the syllabus state regarding attendance (class policy)?

How is the final grade calculated, i.e., are attendance/participation given a percentage?

Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process?

To what degree does a student’s failure to attend/participate constitute a significant loss to the educational experience of other students in the class (group work/discussion elements)?

Is there an expectation of regular classroom interactions between the instructor and students so that student participation is a fundamental element of the learning method in the course?

Does the course material build on itself so that work must be completed in an order such that a student could be significantly behind and unable to participate or move forward in the course until caught up? For example, is the coursework structured sequentially? 

Are there equally effective alternatives that could still be considered to meet the learning objectives, or what is being measured? Brainstorm solutions with colleagues or SDS staff. Think about how a student can demonstrate their knowledge of the course material.   

Thank you for supporting our students. Do not hesitate to reach out with questions.

If you are interested in additional faculty training or departmental consultation regarding implementing accommodations, please get in touch with our general SDS email or a professional staff member directly. We look forward to working with you!