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UMBC Instructors: Disability Accommodation Guidelines/FAQs For Remote Instruction

This document summarizes important information for UMBC faculty/instructors regarding accessibility and student disability accommodations during remote and remote/hybrid instruction for Fall 2020/Winter 2021.

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 available for use under SDS resources, 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! 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. With Ally, you can start checking your course content now and begin making adjustments so that you have an accessible course for all 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.

  • If you are creating your own videos for course instruction, you can utilize Do-IT supported Panopto which can create captions (see
  • 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.
  • 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 Webcaptioner and


  • During remote instruction while campus access is restricted due to COVID, SDS will not be proctoring or printing hard copy exams.
  • Instructors can set the required accommodation of extended time in Blackboard for timed quizzes/ tests/exams. Faculty are responsible for online test administration, but are welcome to consult with SDS for questions/problems.
  • Students who have been approved for this testing accommodation through SDS must continue to receive these services in the 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 using 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 at transcriptionists are arranged in advance by him with our contracted outside vendor.
  • IMPORTANT: Instructors must EMAIL the guest link PRIOR to each session for transcriptionists to provide access during the class. Email:


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 them to access the course materials and Collaborate sessions to be able to provide communication access to Deaf & hard of hearing students.
  • All contracted interpreters have been given a 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.


  • During remote course instruction, SDS will continue to provide support for SDS-approved note-taking accommodations in the online classroom either through the continued use of peer note takers or through technology such as Sonocent or Glean software. Most students will be using technology solutions for note taking in the form of 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 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 you have students who require a reader or scribe for classes, labs or exams:

  • During remote instruction and testing, SDS will 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; students are aware of this expectation.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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.


  • Faculty are encouraged to think flexibly during the transition to remote learning and recognize that students with disabilities may be facing new challenges in this environment.
  • Faculty must continue to honor all disability-based accommodations and be mindful that adjustments may be necessary to allow for remote learning access.
  • Note that flexing a course standard may provide an alternate way for a student to meet essential course requirements and meet learning objectives, yet still allow for active participation while a student is managing disability limitations.
  • 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).
  • If approved on an SDS letter, these accommodations are clearly supported by confidential disability/medical documentation held in SDS. Faculty should not request any disability-related supporting 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).
  • Faculty should contact SDS staff if there are any concerns or questions pertaining to disability related absences or extensions. Student, faculty & SDS team meetings are welcome.
  • Faculty should consider the following:

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

How is the final grade calculated (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? 

Are there are 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)