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Guidelines for Creating Accessible Online Learning Materials

As NOVA prepares to provide instruction and support remotely, Disability Support Services is available to assist students who use accommodations to access instruction and to take tests, exams and quizzes. Please note:

Some accommodations that apply to in-person classes do not apply to remote/online learning. Some accommodations may need to be added or modified for the new instructional strategies and materials being used.

We are identifying the needs we can predict and addressing them proactively. This includes readers/scribes or notetakers; Assistive Technology; Sign Language interpreting and captioning for deaf and hard of hearing students and recording lectures.

For situations which we cannot predict, we encourage professors and students to reach out to us as they encounter a barrier or an access issue and we will address those on a case-by-case basis.

DSS has emailed all students currently registered with our office (have a Memorandum of Accommodations) to encourage them to contact us if they encounter a problem accessing their classes or tests or quizzes.

If a student’s accommodation is to test in the Testing Center, the student should not be exempt from taking the test. Students can take advantage of extended time on testing and minimal distraction while taking tests remotely. Instructions for Extending Exam/Quiz Time Limits in CANVAS are provided on the DSS website.

We should not excuse or exempt students with disabilities from participating in classes, assignments or test and quizzes. We should work on providing access. Students with disabilities must be held to the same academic standards as their peers. Any changes or modifications to due dates, assignment formats, etc., must be considered via an interactive process with a DSS counselor.

As you consider how you will provide instruction and support via Canvas and other IT tools, Disability Support Services and NOVA Online are providing the following guidance on how to make your Canvas site, instructional materials, lectures and meetings accessible to all students, including those with disabilities.


Real-time captions can be made available in Zoom for online synchronous meetings/sessions. Follow the steps for providing real-time captions (pdf) and then send a request to Interpreter Services as soon as you know you will need CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) with as much notice as possible. Last minute requests may be difficult to fill. With your request include:

  • Course Name
  • Instructor’s Name
  • Day/Date
  • Webinar Begin and End Time
  • Webinar Link (it would also be helpful to indicate whether this is a one-time or re-occurring event)

If a student’s accommodation permits them to record lectures, please record your webinar and send the link to the student. Alternatively, you may allow the individual to record and save the lecture.

If your meetings in Zoom requires privacy, the Waiting Room feature (pdf) allows the host to control when a participant joins the meeting. As the meeting host, you can admit attendees one by one or hold all attendees in the waiting room and admit them all at once.

Note: If the Waiting room option is enabled, Join Before Host will not work for that meeting or meetings.

  • During a meeting, open the participant panel to see the list of people in the waiting room.
  • Click Admit next to each person’s name, or click the Admit All


Canvas provides tools for checking the accessibility of materials and content. Scroll to Accessibility within Specific Canvas Features in Accessibility within Canvas to see highlighted feature areas.

  • Font sizing
  • Rich Content Editor
    • Accessibility Checker
    • Images
    • Captions
    • Tables
  • SpeedGrader

Also check the General Accessibility Design Guidelines.

Making ADA Accessible Documents

Provide accessible learning materials for all students, both on-campus and online. Refer to the following resources for additional information:

ADA Checklist

  1. Write documents in the recommended font and size: non serif, at least 12 point, dark.
  2. Make your documents high contrast or black on white.
  3. Make sure all pictures, images and graphs have alternative text describing it.
  4. Remember, a scanned image of a text document is not text. Must have alt text. To add alt text, right-click on the image and select Format Picture > Layout & Properties > Alt Text.
  5. Eliminate italics except for short phrases or to provide emphasis.
  6. Eliminate all CAPITAL letters with the exception of titles and / or labels.
  7. If document is in Word or PowerPoint, use "Styles and Formatting."
  8. If flyer is for a class or presentation, include a way to request accommodations.
  9. Put periods at the end of bulleted and listed items, for clarity when read by machine.
  10. If emailing a flyer, include a hyperlink to the event website in the body of the‑Email.
  11. Check the flyer for reading order, using Adobe Accessibility Checker.

Valuable Tools to Use

  1. In MS Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, use Accessibility Checker, found under File, Inspect Document.
  2. In Adobe (PDF), use Accessibility Checker, found under View, Tools, and Accessibility.
  3. At NVCC, see Disability Support Services for assistance, or to request accommodations.