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.

Live captions

If your student has a need for live captions, their Accommodation Letter should indicate this. Please contact SAS as soon as possible to arrange for remote CART or other live captioning options.

Keyboard shortcuts

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.

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.

Managing participants’ questions

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.

Repeat questions

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 TF 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.

Other Zoom tools

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. You can also reach out to the Poorvu Center to learn about similar, more accessible teaching strategies to accomplish your teaching and learning goals.