As a University of Idaho faculty member, you play an important role in promoting equal access for students with disabilities. You do this by creating accessibility in your courses, referring students who need accommodations to CDAR and working with students who have accommodations in your courses.
Some accommodations require additional conversations. Resources provided here are meant to help guide faculty through some of those conversations with students. CDAR encourages all faculty to contact our office for clarification or additional recommendations to improve access in their course.
Accommodation Reference Guide
The University of Idaho is required to provide equal and integrated access to individuals with disabilities to be in compliance with federal law (Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, & the Fair Housing Act). See FSH 6400 for the student accommodation policy.
Accommodations are adjustments or changes designed to provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in the university experience through access in courses, programs, activities, or services. Accommodations may adjust policy, structures, timelines, formats, presentation, and more.
Accommodations are assigned each semester through the below process.
- Student self-identifies as having a disability and needing accommodation.
- CDAR meets with the student to assess eligibility and assign reasonable accommodations. Accommodations are communicated to instructors via email.
- Instructors facilitate accommodations as identified by CDAR and work with student.
- Student then communicates with instructor and CDAR regarding accommodation needs and follows instructions for accessing assigned accommodations.
- CDAR supports instructors and students throughout semester by providing resources and answering questions.
What if I cannot provide an accommodation?
CDAR is here to help students and faculty find a plan that works for everyone. Sometimes certain accommodations are not the best fit in all environments. Consult with CDAR with any concerns.
What if I am asked to accommodate a student but haven’t received anything from CDAR?
If a student states they need accommodations due to a disability, refer students to CDAR. Do not provide accommodations outside of CDAR (this is for your protection).
What if I suspect a student needs accommodations?
Refer students to CDAR if you suspect a student may need supports due to a disabling condition. This needs to be done tactfully as you do not want to assume disability or ask if they have a disability (never ask). Tips for referring are to share what you have observed about the student’s academic struggle and include CDAR in a short list of resources for the student, such as Counseling Center, Academic Coaching, and CDAR. For example, “I noticed you do not complete your exams, yet according to your assignments I know you understand the material. Have you ever considered talking with CDAR or the counseling center about possible test anxiety?”
What if accommodations conflict with statements in my syllabus?
Accommodations are necessary for the student to have equal access to the course and often require adjustments to the way the course is structured or presented. Contact CDAR for help navigating any challenges due to specific accommodations.
The following are accommodation categories, please note this is not an exhaustive list.
- Testing - Adjustments to the environment, time, format, and resources permitted during proctored exams and quizzes: often taken at CDAR.
- Notetaking - Services or assistive technology to aid in the notetaking process. Can include audio recording of lectures, use of electronic devices in class, peer notetaker, and captionists.
- Attendance-based - Excused absences for disability-related symptoms or medical appointments. May include permission to turn assignments in after deadlines.
- Physical - Alterations to the physical space to be accessible. May include room relocation, special seating, adaptive equipment, field trip considerations, rest periods, or additional space e.g., for service dog or ASL Interpreters.
Headings and subheadings should be identified as such using the built-in heading features of the authoring tool. Headings should form an outline of the page content (Heading 1 for main heading / roman numerals, Heading 2 for first level of sub-headings, Heading 2 for next level, etc.) This enables screen reader users to understand how the page is organized and to quickly navigate to the content of interest. Most screen readers have features that enable users to quickly jump between headings with a single key-stroke.
Content organized as a list should be created using list controls in document authoring software. Most software allows for unordered (bulleted) or ordered (numbered) lists. Most screen readers will announce a list and the number of items in the list. Using list features help screen reader users understand how content is organized and determine if they need to listen to the list or move on to the next item.
Users who are unable to see images rely on alternate text or "alt text" to access the content of an image. Alt text should be succinct, just enough text to communicate the idea without burdening the user with unnecessary detail. Screen readers typically announce the image, so there is no need to include "image of" in alt text.
Most authoring tools provide a means of adding alt text to images, usually in a dialog that appears when an image is added, or later in an images properties dialog.
If images are purely decorative and contain no informative content, they do not require a description. However, they may require specific markup so screen readers know to skip them. The methods for hiding decorative images from screen reader users is described in more detail in the format-specific pages.
More complex images, such as charts, graphs, and maps may require additional steps beyond adding alt text.
Tables are useful for communicating relationships between data, especially where those relationships can be best expressed in a matrix of rows and columns. Tables should not be used to control layout. Authoring tools have other means of controlling layout, including columns and lists.
Key to accessible tables is identifying row and column headers. If there are nested columns or rows, a screen reader will need to be explicitly informed as to which heads relate to which cells. Try to keep tables simple, consider dividing complex tables into multiple smaller tables, each with their own heading.
Links presented in an electronic document should convey clear an accurate information about the destination. Most authoring tools allow the creator to assign a hyperlink to text.
For documents that will be circulated as print material, use a URL shortening service to create a customized and meaningful link name. University offices should consider a vanity URL to use on print material. Contact your department's Web Coordinator for information on vanity URL's.
Screen reader software is multilingual and can read content in a wide variety of languages. In order to ensure that screen readers will read a document using the appropriate language profile, the language of the document must be identified.
You should also identify the language of any content written in a language other than the documents default language. With this information, screen readers can switch between languages as they read the document.
Most authoring tools provide a means of identifying the document language, as well as the language of specific parts.
When converting from one file type to another, ensure that accessibility features remain intact. In order for a PDF to be accessible, it must be a tagged PDF, with an underlying structure that includes features described on this page. Some authoring tools do not support exporting as a tagged PDF, while others provide multiple ways of exporting to PDF, which produce varying levels of accessibility. See our Creating Accessible Documents in Microsoft Word page for information on creating PDFs in Word.
Some content can be challenging to present in a way that's fully accessible. The following offices at the University of Idaho can assist you in making your material more accessible.
Course Design / BBLearn and Ally
Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning
Education Building, Suite 220
University Web pages
University Communications and Marketing
Director, Web Communications and Operations
Center for Disability Access and Resources