UMBC Instructors: Disability Accommodation Guidelines/FAQs

This document summarizes important information for UMBC faculty/instructors regarding accessibility and student disability accommodations during remote and remote/hybrid instruction AY 2021-2022.

I. Blackboard For Instruction

II. Extended Time Test Administration

III. Transcription of real-time class lectures

IV. Sign Language Interpreters

V. Note taking Assistance

VI. Scribes/Readers

VII. Attendance, Make-Up 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 note taking 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 recordings).
  5. Faculty can designate when recording is not appropriate and the discussion content is of personal disclosure that would not be tested on. 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 and enables 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 has 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 are creating your own 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 how to caption 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 accuracy of your content before posting for the students).
  • You can also create longer videos in YouTube utilizing the auto-captioning function and you can use UMBC supported Voicethread that also has 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 on.
  • SDS can also recommend software apps that provide captions for students and or staff such as the free online tools: Webcaptioner and Microsoft 365 also can provide transcripts now.


  • For Fall 2021, SDS is proctoring exams in-person for in-person classes. However, given COVID restrictions we are operating at a reduced seating capacity. Students must schedule in advance to ensure there is seating available at the time desired.
  • 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 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 in order to allow them access to the live lecture sessions to be able to transcribe it.
  • 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 to each other 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 PRIOR to each session for transcriptionists to provide access during the class.


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

  • Instructors will need to 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 be able 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 to use for course/meeting interpreting. While you are teaching your course in Collaborate ”live”, the interpreters and students will also be connected via Webex simultaneously in another window. This allows them to see each other in real-time. If you are using other 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 provide support for SDS-approved note-taking accommodations in the online classroom either through technology such as Glean audio notetaking software (formerly Sonocent) or the use of peer note-takers when necessary. Most students will be using technology solutions for note-taking in the form of audio recording.
  • Instructors recording class lectures in Bb Collaborate allows ALL students to more easily take notes as they can replay sections that they may have missed. This increases accessibility for all students and is recommended as a Universal Design best practice.
  • Faculty are typically not involved in the note-taking assistance process as students can record lectures using their own portable devices and software if they have been provided that accommodation (note-taking plus audio recording).
  • Students have been advised that any 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 through emailing the roster. Faculty do not assign peer note-takers.


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

  • Scribes and/or 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.
  • In the event that this is not an option, SDS will discuss alternative access solutions with the student and may schedule a reader/scribe remotely that SDS arranges for.
  • If a student needs a remote reader or scribe for an online activity or assessment, they will need to provide SDS with as much advance notice as possible (minimum 2 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 needs of the situation (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. SDS staff will work with you to develop the best possible process given the resources available to ensure academic integrity.
  • Note: Assigned readers and scribes may change according to staff availability during the semester.


  • Faculty are encouraged to think flexibly and take under consideration that students with disabilities may be facing new challenges in the transition between the online and face-to-face learning environment.
  • Faculty must honor all disability-based accommodations that are listed in the SDS letter. Be mindful that adjustments may be necessary to allow 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/or SDS as soon as possible to arrange for make-up 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 clearly supported by confidential disability/medical documentation held in SDS. Faculty should not request any disability documentation be sent to them.
  • An accommodation for a make-up test or an assignment extension is not an automatic extension on all coursework all semester, but rather 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/or SDS with a need for absence due to disability to request a make-up 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 if there are any concerns or questions pertaining to 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 be considered to still meet the learning objectives or what is being measured? Brainstorm solutions with colleagues or SDS staff. Think, how can a student demonstrate their knowledge of the course material.