Accessibility Tips and Resources for Online Instruction 

UCR-Recommended Platforms

As the University moves toward remote learning for Spring Quarter, we are aware that there are a number of tools and companies offering assistance.  Not all of these platforms have been vetted to ensure they meet the needs and standards of the University. Unapproved platforms present concerns with respect to privacy, accessibility compliance and the welfare of our students and to the University as a legal and policy matter, among other concerns.

Please use only UCR-recommended platforms for administering online exams and delivering remote instruction. These recommended platforms may impose some constraints on instructors but using them provides appropriate accessibility, privacy and security for our students. Use of iLearn (Blackboard) is strongly encouraged and will satisfy most instructors’ needs. Use of YouTube is discouraged. Faculty who already utilize YouTube should contact XCITE for further instructions on how to make Youtube ADA compliant. Other UCR-recommended platforms and best practices can be found on the KeepTeaching website. 

Consider contacting Exploration Center for Innovative Teaching and Engagement (XCITE) or the Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) to ask about the platforms you are using and their accessibility. 

FERPA and Data Security

To ensure adherence to federal and state privacy laws, it is imperative that all work with student data continues to be performed using UCR-recommended platforms and tools, even while using personal computer devices to connect to UCR servers and services.

Additionally, any email communication with students or about students must be done using UCR email.
To view information about copyrights and teaching, visit the UCR Library page on Copyright & Teaching.

SDRC Approved Disability Accommodations

Students with disabilities who participate in your alternate instruction may need additional accommodations for participation.  If you are unsure as to how to provide accommodations for a student, please feel free to reach out to the SDRC. 

Faculty will get notification via email if there are letters of accommodation in the R’Ability portal. The faculty member may access the R’Ability portal at any time to see students with SDRC-approved accommodations in their course, including descriptions of accommodations. If a student is approved by SDRC for exam accommodations, faculty will receive additional notice prior to an exam if the student wishes to use their accommodations on their exam. For more information about the accommodations process, please see the Faculty and Staff Resources page on the SDRC website.

All online content must be accessible to students in your course when posted. SDRC will continue to partner with XCITE and instructors to ensure students’ disability accommodations are provided.

If you have questions about the provision of accommodations as we move forward in these settings, please contact SDRC.

Keep Teaching Quick Guides

Recommended Platform Quick Guides


Exam Guides


General Information

Best practices for moving your content online in case of campus closures or emergencies
3 Low-Tech Ways to Approach Emergency Remote Teaching

The following tips for increasing accessibility in online courses were adapted from Explore Access.

Consider including an Accessibility Statement on your Syllabi

[Sample] Students with Disabilities: UC Riverside is committed to providing equal access to learning opportunities to students with documented disabilities. To ensure access to this course, and your program, please contact the Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) to engage in a confidential conversation about the process for requesting accommodations in a course or classroom. More information can be found on If you are a student registered with the SDRC, please ensure you request your quarterly accommodations through

Or use this syllabus template that includes an accessibility statement as well as links to other institutional resources and policies (e.g., academic integrity, Title IX, ITS, academic support services, copyright statement, etc.)

Sharing Accessible Documents-MS Word

If you are sharing information in a document, consider utilizing a Word document as the format. This allows students who may be using assistive technology to access text-to-speech and/or enlarged text in a way that does not disrupt the flow of the document.

  • Use headings to structure the document.
  • Add alternative text to images.
  • Create links by using meaningful text descriptions.
  • Avoid the use of SmartArt.
  • Avoid adding text boxes.
  • Avoid putting important information in headers or footers.

Sharing Accessible Documents-PDFs

If you are providing a document in PDF format for students to access, the PDF must be a text based/searchable PDF.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Start with an accessible source document. By following the previous suggestions for creating an accessible MS Word document, you are on your way to creating an accessible PDF.
  • Save the MS Word document to PDF by choosing, Save as PDF rather than printing to PDF.
  • Simple documents should convert pretty well from MS Word to PDF. More complex documents may need to be checked for accessibility and even remediated for accessibility.
  • If you have a Professional version of Adobe Acrobat, you can run an accessibility check.
  • You may also want to check with XCITE/SDRC for assistance in making your PDF documents accessible

If you are using PDFs that were created by someone else, check to make sure they are accessible.

  • Can you highlight the text on the page? If not, it may be an image of the text instead of real text.
  • Older PDFs created by scanning an article are often purely an image.
  • Work with someone in XCITE/SDRC to determine the best approach to making these documents accessible.

Sharing Accessible Slide Presentations

When you use MS PowerPoint to teach online you may be using it in a variety of ways.

  • Upload it so that students can download it to view on their own computer.
  • Load it into the LMS so that students view it as a slide presentation there.
  • Show it during a live video conferencing session.

No matter the end product, there are several things that need to be considered as you create the presentation.

  • Choose a design template that offers good contrast.
  • Avoid starting with a blank slide and adding text boxes.
  • Instead, choose the layout that fits your slide design.
  • Avoid the “Design ideas” presented by PowerPoint. Some are accessible but many are not.
  • Look at the “outline view” of the slide to see if the text on your slide is visible there.
  • Describe images, charts and graphs with alternative text.
  • Use sans serif fonts and make sure your text is 24-point or larger for online classes and 28-point or larger for face-to-face classes.
  • Create an accessible PDF version of the PowerPoint for students to download. This version will be more accessible to screen reader users.

Video Accessibility

Video content can be much more engaging than more static content, adding great benefit to an online course. At the same time, if access is not considered, video content can present barriers for many students. So what needs to be considered to make sure video content is accessible?

  • For videos embedded in a course, the video player needs to be accessible by keyboard and the controls need to be labeled properly so that a screen reader user can access all of the video controls.
  • The video will need to be captioned.
  • The visual content will need to be described.
  • A transcript will need to be created that includes the captions and the descriptions of the visual content.
Editing and Captioning Videos

When choosing a video that has been created by someone else, make sure it is captioned. Automatic captions do not provide equal access. 

If you are uploading a video to a platform, such as Youtube, which provides for automatic captioning, you will need to go back and edit the captions to meet accessibility standards. 

To edit captions on YouTube: 

  1. Upload your video file to your YouTube channel. YouTube will automatically generate captions.
  2. Go to your Video Manager.
  3. Next to the video you want to edit captions for, click the drop-down next to "Edit" -> Subtitles/CC.
  4. Click the caption track you want to edit.
  5. Click Edit above the video.
  6. Click Publish edits

Alternatively, you can create your own captions using a free online tool like You can save your SRT captioning file and upload it onto your video. Here are the directions on how to import captions directly to YouTube:

  1. Go to your Video Manager.
  2. Next to the video you want to edit captions for, click the drop-down next to "Edit" -> Subtitles/CC.
  3. Select “Add a new track.”
  4. Upload your SRT file and identify the language. Your captions should appear on the video momentarily.
Audio Description

Audio description refers to providing information about the visual aspects of a video to someone who is blind or who has low vision. Audio description can be provided as part of the general narration or can be added after the fact. If the video is simply a recording of you providing a lecture, then there would be little need for audio description. If you are also showing slides, you'll want to describe what is in the slides.

The following will help you consider what aspects of a video need additional audio description.

  • Are there sections of the video that provide content in text only (i.e. credits, section titles, statistics, etc.)?
  • Are the names and/or titles of speakers listed under the speaker?
  • Are there presentation slides that are being shared that are not spoken by the narrator?
  • Are there other visuals that add to the content of the video?
  • Is something being demonstrated in the video?
Providing a Transcript

Once you have your transcript for the captions and the audio descriptions, you can combine the two to create a document that will make your video accessible to students who are DeafBlind. Simply create an accessible MS Word document with this content and provide a link to it below the video.


As with other multi-media solutions, if you have audio only content you’re also required to supply an accurate text-based transcript.