The following message was sent to all Mines faculty on 3/23/20:

Dear Faculty,

As we prepare to transition from in-person to online instruction, we remind you that Disability Support Services is still available to support you in ensuring that your course remains fully accessible to students with disabilities.

Additionally, the staff from Trefny – who are supporting you with instruction as part of this transition to online – have tools and guidance on how to make your online content accessible.

Please consult the Trefny website:, and reach out to Trefny with technical support needs or questions.

DSS, Trefny, and Testing Center

DSS & Trefny Support/Role

If you have students in your classes who have guaranteed accommodations as noted by Disability Support Services, those accommodations are still be available to them. DSS has reached out to numerous students and their faculty where we’ve identified a potential for specific challenges (e.g. transcription, captioning, visual presentation of material). If you’ve received communication from DSS, please partner with us to proactively address these accessibility efforts.

Additionally, it is imperative that faculty work with Trefny to design course content upfront with accessibility in mind.  It is not possible for DSS to make all content accessible after it has been created or transitioned.  The need will be far too great (e.g. hundreds of videos) and the turn-around time is far too short.

A Note About Testing

The Mines Testing Center exists to help proctor exams, often for students who have extended time or the need for a less distracting/private testing environment. In some ways, the Testing Center is irrelevant in an online environment where extended time can be provided within the context of Canvas and students have control over other environmental factors.

Faculty can accommodate a variety of testing accommodations through offering extended time in Canvas and imbedding flexibility with the structure of their course (e.g. take home exams, large windows of time to take exams to eliminate schedule conflicts, etc.).  Trefny can provide guidance on how to utilize the Canvas affordances, should you have questions.

Where there are identified challenges with online exams, DSS and the Testing Center can problem solve as needed.

Key Faculty Efforts

The Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), has provided useful guidance and resources around online course accessibility. While we’ve taken time to detail a few below, additional highlighted resources are included at the end of the email.

High Quality Audio

The use of high quality audio recording practices may be the single most important accessibility effort all faculty should prioritize. This effort will be to the benefit of students with disabilities, potential forthcoming accessibility software (e.g. automatic captioning software), and all students in the course.

The use of headsets with microphones and/or dedicated microphones will help dramatically with this expectation. Audio recording should be clear and loud, absent of any background or competing noise. Students, including those who with disabilities which can be accommodated by way of amplified sound (i.e. turning up the volume), will benefit greatly from this effort.

Trefny and DSS can help navigate best practices and practical recommendations with audio recording. First, consider reading through this helpful guide: 5 tips to improve the audio quality in your video presentations.

Accessible Documents

Documents provided on Canvas need to be accessible to students with disabilities. For documents created using the Microsoft Office Suite, the built-in accessibility checkers will provide feedback on errors and guidance on how to fix them. Scanned PDFs are not accessible, because they can’t be read by a screen reader. Question related to this effort can be supported by Trefny.

Text Equivalents for Audio and Video

For any recordings, either audio or video, a text-based equivalent should be provided or available. For audio, this is a transcript; for video, captions. The best way to create a text equivalent is to write a script and record from that.

If that is not an option, you can use auto-generated captioning tools like YouTube or to generate a transcript or caption file. You will need to edit the file to be accurate; auto-generated transcripts are typically only about 60%-70% accurate, which is unacceptable for students.

Text Equivalents for Images

Any images included in the course site should include a text description. In documents, the accessibility checker will advise on how to add a text description. In Canvas, the image uploader has a field for alt text, which is where you can add a brief description of the image.

Last Thoughts

We encourage you to…

  • Seek technical guidance from Trefny
  • Learn how to add extra time on exams in Canvas
  • Provide flexibility with course participation and attendance policies, as many students may be dealing with health issues for themselves or their families.

Should you seek more information about this subject, the links below reference material that is  fully endorsed and readily distributed by ADEAD.  DSS is also available to provide additional resources upon request.

20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Course & 30 Web Accessibility Tips

Additionally, we’ve created a Faculty FAQ website that will be routinely updated with common questions or particularly relevant guidance. This site is available here:

Finally, additional student-facing information will be distributed and posted (via the ever-growing and evolving website: related to how students can reach out for help with any technical, academic, or personal challenge as part of this virtual, online experience.  We expect this email to be sent in advance of the March 30th start.

Thank you for your support in making the online learning environment accessible to students with disabilities. Please email with any questions.

Warm regards,

Marla Draper

Director of Disability Support Services

Sam Spiegel

Director of Trefny Innovative Instruction Center

Colin Terry

Associate Dean of Students

Richard C. Holz, Ph.D.

Provost and Professor