Zoom Considerations for Teaching Students with Disabilities
The following tips may be useful to consider when teaching with Zoom. Not only can they improve the learning experience of students with disabilities, but some of these approaches may also help those students participating by phone or whose first language is not English.
Students who have an identified need for live captioning will have an accommodation letter from Student Disability Services. Student Disability Services will contact instructors of students who routinely use captioning in courses. It is possible that additional students may identify the need for captions in remote learning who do not typically need this service when instruction is on campus. If a student requests captions as a disability accommodation, please contact Student Disability Services as soon as possible for their assistance in arranging remote CART or other captioning options.
Zoom offers multiple ways to support closed captioning for its live meetings. Learn more about closed captioning.
Send out the Zoom Keyboard Shortcuts ahead of time for anyone with a temporary or permanent disability that may make it challenging to use a full keyboard when participating.
To ensure full keyboard support within the desktop meeting client, the toolbar must be set to not automatically hide. This can be accomplished by unchecking the “Always show meeting controls” under the “Accessibility” section of the desktop application Settings, or in the “In-meeting (basic)” section of the web portal Settings. This may also be accomplished on a per-meeting basis using the “Toggle the ‘Always show meeting controls’ option in Settings/Accessibility” keyboard shortcut.
Audio descriptions of visual materials
Describing content that is displayed on Zoom will help anyone with vision or learning disabilities, as well as students who need to call in due to internet issues.
User content shared through Zoom’s screen sharing feature is rendered to meeting participants as an HD video stream. In order to make contents of the screen share accessible to attendees who use screen readers, it is recommended that the presenter share the relevant files/notes with meeting attendees. This solution will ensure that the document’s full content and semantic markup is preserved and made accessible to screen reader users. Zoom provides file upload capabilities in its in-meeting chat so that meeting hosts may share files to participants while in-meeting.
There are several ways that participants can ask questions in Zoom: by raising their hand, unmuting when called upon, or by entering the question into the chat. Please keep in mind that some students may not find it easy or even possible to access the chat window and the main Zoom room simultaneously, and those using a screen reader to listen to the chat may encounter audio interference with the conversation in the main room. Whenever possible, sticking to a single communication mode within Zoom will make learning easier for a wide range of students.
If you are hosting a Zoom meeting and choose to have students write questions in the chat, try to repeat the question for everyone to hear before answering it. Consider asking another student to help manage side conversations in the chat, and to share the questions and comments at regular intervals with everyone in the main Zoom room. This practice will be helpful to students with a variety of disabilities that make it difficult or impossible to attend to multiple streams of information at the same time.
Links in Zoom chat
If students in your class require assistive technology, we recommend that you do not post important hyperlinks in the Zoom chat. The assistive technology some students use will not be able to activate any links embedded in the chat. You can instead share links and resources before or after the meeting through email or on Canvas. If other participants post links in the chat, remember to share (or designate a student or TA to share) those links with the class by email or through Canvas. You can also save the chat before ending the meeting to distribute as a text file to your students after the session ends.
Spotlight the speaker
If you’re using Zoom in a seminar or smaller section, you might consider using the “Spotlight” video feature to make the current speaker larger and more visible to the class. This can assist with lip-reading and other techniques students use to communicate.
Zoom tools that are not accessible
The whiteboard and polling features in Zoom are currently not accessible for people with motor or visual disabilities. If you use these tools, you may need to work with your students on suitable accommodations.
For more information, please visit Zoom’s Accessibility FAQ page.