Instructor Resources for Accessibility Assistance

Accommodations & accessibility assistance

Accessibility Services assists students in arranging accommodations to reduce the effects of the student’s disability on their academic experience. What is “reasonable” is determined between Accessibility Services and the student.

Students have the right to accessible accommodations, and accommodation letters describing the student’s accommodations are delivered to faculty by the individual student.

  • Students must meet the same academic standards as their classmates.
  • The college is not obligated to provide accommodations that would fundamentally alter the curriculum.

Accommodations are not optional and are not left to the discretion of the instructor. However, Accessibility Services encourages consultation, questions, and concerns. The coordinator may or may not have written permission from a student to discuss the nature of the student’s disability, but can discuss the student’s functional limitations relating to the individual classroom, curriculum, and tests.

Accessibility Services may be able to offer appropriate alternatives, especially where accommodations could fundamentally alter the course. Contact Accessibility Services if you feel an accommodation is unsuitable for your course or a particular class (e.g. field trips, labs).

Services to assist faculty include:

  • Specialized test administration for students who need to take their tests in the Learning Commons for disability-related reasons
  • Consultation regarding classroom and testing adaptations for individual students
  • Consultation regarding students with learning difficulties
  • Preliminary screening of students with possible learning disabilities

Sometimes a student’s accommodations will include use of specialized hardware, software or services. Accessibility Services can help by:

  • Assisting with conversion of your tests and materials into accessible format – audio, large print, Braille, etc.
  • Procuring textbooks in alternate media
  • Training students to use assistive technology

In the Learning Commons we have:

  • Read & Write reading and writing software
  • iPads with Siri for dictation
  • CCTVs for enlargement
  • SmartPens, digital recorders, and laptops for loan or classroom use
  • Many other types of specialized software and equipment

You may be asked to assist with:

  • Helping the student find a classmate who will serve as a note-taker or scribe
  • Find seating for a classroom aide, or sign language interpreter
  • Provide us with your syllabi and/or classroom material so we can arrange for alternate media
  • If your course has timed tests, you may be asked to extend the testing window (many instructors remove the time limit)

If you have a mobility-impaired student and the elevator is out of service:

  • Upper-story classes may have to be temporarily moved to an accessible location
  • Work with division assistants, Buildings and Grounds, or Accessibility Services to find an accessible place
  • It is not adequate to substitute access to the classroom with copies of lecture notes or private meetings, especially if outage is expected to last more than a day or two

You and the student will work out the logistics of testing accommodations once the student delivers their accommodation letter.

  • Students are often referred to the Learning Commons for testing accommodations.
  • When practical, students should take their tests at the same time as the rest of the class to ease concerns about test security.
  • A student may need to take their test at a different time to accommodate the need for extended time or use of assistive technology.

Our partners in the office of Instructional Systems Technology can assist with:

  • Brightspace accessibility (extending test time limits, etc.)
  • Creating accessible documents
  • Video captioning and instruction

Best practices you can use to create accessible documents as you create and post content:

Microsoft Word:

  • Use Times New Roman or Arial font and a minimum of 12 point size.
  • Use headings to assist in navigation and readability of the document.
  • Ensure all pictures have alternative text.
  • Avoid using SmartArt and text boxes. Many screen readers have difficulty with text boxes and get “stuck” when trying to read them. Charts, tables, and graphs need alternative text.
  • Use the accessibility checker to check your document.


  • Begin with an accessible Word document.
  • Save it as a PDF after checking accessibility.
  • If someone else created the PDF:
    • Try highlighting text to see if you can select it. If you cannot, it is likely an image.
    • Often, the easiest way to make it accessible is to use Read and Write (you can download and use Read and Write for free as a part of your association with JCC) to convert the document to a Word document. Add alternative text and run the accessibility checker, then save as a PDF.


  • Choose colors that offer good contrast and avoid red and green.
  • Ensure each slide has a unique title.
  • Ensure all pictures have alternative text and caption all video.
  • Make sure text is 24 point or larger (even larger for face-to-face classes, 28+).
  • Use the accessibility checker and ensure elements are read in the correct order.
  • For download, also create an accessible PDF version. Screen readers have a difficult time reading PowerPoint.

Using hyperlinks in any document/presentation:

  • Make sure the hyperlink text is meaningful. Avoid “click here” and other non-descriptive words.


  • All videos need captioning. TEI can help you with this.
    • Only about 20% of people who use captioning are deaf. The rest have a variety of access needs. Processing difficulties due to a learning disability or brain injury, the need to have a quieter environment, better attention/focus, and “it is just easier to absorb the information with captions on” are just a few reasons that people use captioning.
    • Auto captioning (like provided through YouTube) is not accessible because it will contain errors. However, use it! This is a great tool, but you need to fix the software’s mistakes.
  • Videos should include descriptions.
    • With most lectures, this is not needed because the material is what you are saying.
    • If you use video that shows how something happens, or demonstrates something, then descriptions are needed. Example: "This is a video of mitosis. The first thing that happens is that the cell begins to grow… …finally you have two identical cells."
  • If you are demonstrating with a video or using a video that does not describe what is happening, be sure to add audio that describes it.
  • For the same reason that captioning is not only for the deaf/hard-of-hearing, video descriptions help everyone.

According to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, qualified students with disabilities have the right to reasonable modifications in all campus programs and services in order to make a college education truly accessible.

High school special education laws, like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), are designed to ensure student success, and end with graduation. Individualized education plans (IEPs) are formal plans for helping students in K-12 be as successful as they can be, but are not provided at the college level.

Disability-related information is confidential. Accessibility Services may not have the student’s permission to discuss the nature of the student’s disability, but can discuss the student’s needs in the classroom and testing environment.

You should not ask a student about their specific disability (for example, what it is or severity), though they may self-disclose.

Students requesting classroom and testing modifications must work through Accessibility Services and provide documentation supporting the disability-related request.

You can also refer students with disabilities, or students who are unsure but may be eligible for assistance, to Accessibility Services.

There is no requirement for faculty to make any modifications to coursework or testing unless notified by Accessibility Services. Claims of disability and requests for accommodation from students should be referred to the Accessibility Services office for proper evaluation and action.

As you prepare or update your syllabi, please consider including a statement about the availability of services for students with disabilities:

"Special Accommodations: Students who require accommodations to complete the requirements and expectations of this course because of a disability must make their accommodation requests to the Accessibility Services office. Don Pool, ADA coordinator/accessibility services, can be reached at 716.338.1251, or"

You may want to add a statement to your course similar to:

"During our current changes in course delivery, we are doing our best to move all of our classroom material into an alternate format. Our commitment is to make courses accessible to everyone and we make every effort to insure inclusivity in design. If you run into barriers accessing materials, we will implement design modifications or appropriate accommodations to minimize and potentially eliminate those barriers. Please contact Accessibility Services if you run into any barriers so that we can address them promptly."