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Accessibility Considerations for Online Teaching

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As you prepare to start the spring quarter online, here are some considerations for inclusive and accessible teaching.

Things to consider

  • Students’ physical abilities and their environment — Students are now limited to digital access, and their assistive technologies might not play well with some of our digital tools. They may have limited/no access to personal aides and accommodation service providers. They may be trying to learn in a less-than-ideal environment with other members of their household working from home or learning remotely.
  • Students’ technologies and their technical knowledge — They may be limited in their devices, digital tools, connection bandwidth, as well as lack of familiarity with the new tools and format we are adapting for class use.


  • Stick to well-established technologies that have been checked for accessibility, such as Zoom and Canvas. Check the Teach Anywhere website for more information about available tools for teaching online and to get step-by-step instructions for how to use them. Contact the Stanford Canvas team at for help and to schedule a one-on-one Canvas consultation.
  • Provide multiple formats of instruction, create accessible course material, consider multiple methods of equally effective assessment, and be flexible with the tools and format for students to submit their homework. Give yourself extra time for course preparation, as you might have to augment your instructions and logistics. It could take longer to adapt to new technologies, re-think assessments and modify your teaching format for your online class.
  • Be flexible with extended time (for accommodations), office hours (across time zones), homework and grading turnaround time, requests for alternative formats, class discussions and class presentation requirements.

Suggestions on providing multiple formats

  • Video: In your lectures, describe images and charts with greater detail, as if you were describing over the phone to someone. Turn off the default HD video in your Zoom settings to help those who might not have reliable bandwidth. Record your lectures so that students may review them when they are on a stable Internet connection. A recording also allows for captioning of your lecture. Contact the Office of Accessible Education (OAE) if there is an accommodation request. Students who used to sit in front of the class to lip read will now need captioning.
  • Material: Prepare your material in an accessible format, to the extent possible.  In addition to PDF files, provide the source files (e.g. docs or pptx). In a pinch, you or your student may use automated tools such as SCRIBE to convert your file into more accessible formats, but always check the converted file to verify the results. The OAE can help to convert complex files if a student requires them as part of an accommodation.
  • Class activities and interactions: Consider alternatives such as online discussions in Canvas, or small group discussions with report-backs. Let each group decide on the best format for them. Rather than sharing back to the class live, assigning it as homework due by the end of week will also provide flexibility for students when learning asynchronously.
  • Assessment: Review your course's learning objectives. Can students acquire the same knowledge with other formats of instructions, and with different digital tools? Are there equivalent ways that you can use to assess them? Contact CTL for a pedagogy consultation.

Additional Help Resources

For additional support resources, visit the Teach Anywhere Help page.