Providing Accommodations for Distance Learning

Dear Faculty,

In response to the unprecedented decision by CUNY this week to move classes to “distance learning” for the rest of the semester, I wanted to reach out with a quick reminder about accessibility and ADA compliance as it relates to online coursework. As a federally funded institution, Hostos Community College is required to comply with federal, state, and local disability laws that specify accessibility guidelines for public institutions to administer accommodations. One such law that is particularly relevant to the situation we are facing now with COVID-19 is Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires agencies to make electronic and/or online content accessible to people with disabilities; this includes online classes.

I will like to address a few things. First, please remember that accessibility is not an option, but rather a federal mandate under the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act; therefore, ensuring all course content meets accessibility standards must remain a top priority during this time of transition. Second, the Accessibility Resource Center is aware that implementing accessibility features can be confusing to implement at first. So I highly encourage you reach out to ARC at 718-518-4454 with any questions. If you cannot reach us, or we are backlogged due to high volume, you may also reach out to CUNY Assistive Technology Services at 718-281-5014.

Below I have provided a variety of pointers, along with links to further reading, on how to adapt your course content to ensure it complies with Section 508. Please discuss this information in your meetings with faculty. I also strongly encourage you forward this email to them.

Exam Accommodations: Students should have self-identified to you at the beginning of the semester by presenting their accommodation letter. Please be informed students who have yet to disclose or register with ARC can still do so. While courses remain in distance learning format, Faculty who have newly enrolled students with ARC, will receive an email accommodations letter from our center with afforded accommodations in order to address student needs.

  • For instructions on how to adjust the time limit and create exceptions in Blackboard, please click here
  • Keep in mind that some students need to utilize reading software programs, so please ensure that the documents you create are accessible.

The Classroom Materials and Exams section below will outline how to do this.
Classroom Materials and Exams:  Please click SPS Faculty Accessibility  for guides and video tutorials to ensure that your Blackboard course site and materials posted are fully accessible.  All documents that were created with Microsoft Word, PDF, PowerPoints, Excel, etc. should be checked for accessibility, as a number of students registered with our office rely on screen readers to complete their work.

  • Word Documents
  • PowerPoint
  • PDF
  • Blackboard

Video Course Content: Any video content, whether pre-recorded or live-streamed, must be captioned for students with hearing impairments. If providing captions is not possible or practical, please provide a transcript of the video. Please note that automatically generated captions are NOT a reliable alternative. For captioning guidelines, please click here.

  • If you plan on using Skype or other live streaming options for your class lectures, please keep in mind a transcript must be provided for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

We appreciate your cooperation in creating accessible instruction options for our students to ensure their success through this transition. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.

Thank you,

Ray Perez
Director Accessibility Resource CenterDivision of Student Development and Enrollment Management (SDEM)Hostos Community College120 East 149th Street, D-Building, Room D-102H, Bronx, NY 10451Tel. 718-518-6554 | sdem@hostos.cuny.edu

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