Faculty Resources


Other Visual Impairments
Deaf/Hard of Hearing
Mobility Impairments
Students Who Learn Differently
Cognitive Disabilities
Speech Impairments
Seizure Disorders
Universal Design


Students or instructors who are blind will be using a computer equipped with screen reader software and a speech synthesizer. The system reads whatever text appears on the screen. To navigate the Web, the blind individual uses a text only browser or simply turns of the graphics loading feature of a multimedia web browser. The blind user cannot interpret graphics (including photographs, drawings, and image maps) unless text alternatives are provided. Printed materials, videotapes, video podcasts, televised presentations, overhead transparencies, and other visual materials also create access challenges.

These barriers can be overcome with accessible design and alternate media (with assistance from the Disability Resources Department):

  • Make sure all images, photos, graphics, and links have alternative text tags.
  • Make sure the label for the link describes what it actually does.
  • Make sure all areas are accessible with the keyboard or alternatives available with the keyboard
  • When using PowerPoint, provide an HTML version
  • Provide audio recordings
  • Provide Braille printouts
  • Provide electronic text
  • Provide tactile drawings
  • Provide aural descriptions of visual material
  • Test webpages for accessibility
  • See resource links at the end of this document for more information


A person with limited vision can use special software to enlarge screen images. This changes the screen so that only a small portion of a webpage can be seen at one time. Cluttered webpages or frequent page layout changes can therefore create confusion. Standard printed materials may be inaccessible for this person, large print or electronic text may be required. Individuals who are color blind cannot successfully navigate webpages that require the user to distinguish colors.


Most electronic resources are accessible to people with hearing impairments because hearing is not required. However, when audio output exists, a Deaf student is denied access. Course videotapes that are not captioned are also inaccessible. Likewise, Telephone conferences or videoconferences create barriers.

Ideas for removing barriers:

  • Tips for teaching Deaf students online
  • Provide transcripts or text equivalents of audio clips
  • Provide sign language interpreters for videoconferences and utilize California Relay Service for telephone conferences.
  • Set up a private chat room utilizing a transcriber
  • Provide alternatives to distance verbal interaction such as chat
  • Provide captions for online videos rooms or e-mail
  • Provide text captioning for videotapes: 

    1. Contact the Media Resource Specialist (521-7927), or Media Services (527-4261) to find out if the videos you plan to show in class are already captioned, or if they’re not, to arrange for them to be captioned. They can also assist with streaming video for online classes, and arrange training on how to use the captioning equipment in your classroom. Providing captioning is a legal mandate and allows Deaf students to participate fully in your class.  Please note that TED talk videos have excellent captions when accessed through the TED talk website, but most You Tube videos are not adequately captioned and will need to be interpreted to be fully accessible. Additionally, most of the SantaRosa.Kanopystreaming.com videos are captioned.
    2. Provide important information, such as assignments and test dates, in writing.
    3. Keep in mind that English is a second language for many Deaf students.  American Sign Language (ASL) is a visual language that has its own grammar and syntax.  For many Deaf students learning English is difficult because they cannot hear the language but must learn it through visual mean
    4. Take the time to check in with your Deaf students periodically to see how things are going for them in your class.


A person with a mobility impairment may not be able to move their hands. They might use an alternative keyboard and/or mouse, no mouse at all, or speech recognition software. Or, an individual may simply lack the fine motor skills required to select small buttons on the screen.

Ideas for removing barriers:

  • Make sure all course functions are available with the keyboard
  • To offset fatigue (an issue with some motor disabilities) provide a way to navigate through a long list of links or lengthy text
  • Check websites and materials for accessibility with voice recognition software (Dragon NaturallySpeaking).
  • Design large buttons
  • See resource links at the end of this document for more information


Including learning disabilities, acquired brain injuries, and other impairments which impact the ability to read, write, and/or process information. Memory, problem solving, attention, and comprehension may also be affected. Software designed to assist in reading comprehension may be utilized.

Ideas for removing barriers:

General Time Management/Study Strategies

  • Use daily planner/smart phone to manage appointments.
  • Use organizational system to map out due dates and study times for entire semester.
  • Set reminders for important deadlines.
  • Preview schedule for each week, prioritize tasks.
  • Plan blocks of study/homework time each week, including break times. Utilize a dedicated study space that is free of distraction.
  • Use instructor office hours.
  • Participate in available study groups. Make use of tutorial center and writing lab.

Helping Students Process Verbal Information:

  • Break instruction into smaller steps.
  • Use basic language and limit the amount of information.
  • Avoid figurative language, puns, sarcasm.
  • Allow for thinking time before expecting a response.
  • Ensure that key vocabulary is understood. Teach in isolation before using in instruction. Then encourage the student to use it as you work together.
  • Rephrase information as needed. If student is skilled verbally, have them repeat steps back to you.

Reading Fluency/Comprehension

  • Have the student review reading material in a quiet area. Preview essential vocabulary by reading/showing the student the word, have them repeat the word and scan to highlight the word throughout the reading passage.
  • Prep for reading by reading subtitles, bold print, and captions with the student.
  • Preview essential vocabulary.
  • Help student create questions from the subtitles and write them on a post-it.
  • Read in small chunks and go back to post-it note question. Either answer the question aloud, highlight the information from the passage, or jot down brief notes on the post-it.
  • Post-its can be used later for studying.


  • Use graphic organizers, mind maps, Venn diagrams, brainstorming.
  • Use mapping software such as Inspiration software (mind maps, concept mapping, outlining).
  • Use template cues (for example 1st paragraph needs thesis, main ideas, second paragraph needs supporting information).
  • Have students dictate papers or use voice to text software.


  • Use graph paper.
  • Block off work space for each problem.
  • Minimize the amount of copying a student is asked to do.
  • Box answers.
  • Portion off a section to the right of page for scratch work.
  • Identify key vocabulary (even basic references like ‘sum’, ‘difference’, etc.) and teach to student in isolation.
  • Break down explanation into steps. Write each step clearly, using simple language with space in between each for easy reference later. Make up practice problems for student, gradually building to a more complex level.
  • Show examples or work through a problem with the student.
  • Use visual diagrams, drawings, charts, or tables where helpful.
  • Provide a reference sheet for the student to use.
  • Use the reference sheet with the student to solve a few practice problems so that they understand how to use it.
  • Give student a few practice problems to do independently once the process has been reviewed and practiced together. Correct together and look for patterns to their errors so that you can give specific feedback.
  • Provide resources for further practice.


Cognitive disabilities include learning disabilities, acquired brain injuries, and other impairments which impact the ability to read, write, and/or process information. Memory, problem solving, attention, and comprehension may also be affected. Software designed to assist in reading comprehension may be utilized.

Ideas for removing barriers:

  • Apply principles of effective communication by making site information clear and simple
  • Keep layout consistent from page to page
  • Use plenty of white space in the structural design
  • Use Visual Cues to Highlight Important Information
  • Use supplemental video and graphics when possible in addition to essential text


A speech impairment may limit a student's ability to effectively participate in interactive telephone conferences, videoconferences, or classroom presentations.

Ideas for removing barriers:

  • Provide electronic mail communication alternatives
  • Allow recorded presentations
  • Provide 1:1 presentation opportunities


Some of the attention grabbing features of webpages, including objects which have strobing, flickering, or flashing effects can induce seizures for people who are susceptible.

Ideas for removing barriers:

  • Do not create flickering effects with a frequency greater than 2 Hz or lower than 55 Hz
  • Avoid bright flashing elements that strobe more than 2 times per second


One of the best ways to promote success for all of your students is to embrace Universal Design for Learning practices. When used effectively, they may often mitigate the need for accommodations in class. Here is an in-depth Universal Design Toolkit for your use.

Access requirements can be helpful for everyone, not just people with disabilities. All users benefit when there are a variety of ways to access the material. Planning for access as the course is being developed is much easier than creating accommodation strategies after a person with a disability enrolls in the course or applies to teach it and is required for any online materials.

Universal design is defined by Ron Mace of the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University as: “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design." The concept stresses design that is marketable to people with diverse abilities, preferences, native languages, age, and other diverse characteristics.

For more information on the principles of universal design in general, and for instruction, visit the Curriculum Committee website.