Accessibility and Accommodations

While creating and revising teaching materials for online or face-to-face learning, ensuring that materials are appropriately accessible for all students is both required by law and important to creating an inclusive classroom environment. This page provides tips for reviewing materials (such as written documents and videos) and seeks to help faculty understand the distinction between accessibility and accommodations.

Objective of this Page

The goal of this page is that faculty might learn to create or revise course materials with accessibility as a goal.

For more information about accessibility and accommodations at ECC, contact the Student Disabilities Service Office.

Defining Accessibility and Accommodations

A primary way to distinguish between accessibility and accommodation is that accessibility is proactive and accommodations are reactive.

When students require accommodations, based on documented disabilities, instructors are required to provide accommodations based on the student's accommodations letter (see the FAQs below for more information on responding to an accommodations letter). Accommodations might include additional time to complete exams, completing exams in the ECC Testing Center or Disability Services Office, or having a designated note-taker in class to assist with notes for in-class lessons, among other accommodations. All of these accommodations are a response to the faculty being notified of a student needing accommodations in the class.

Alternatively, an instructor seeking to make their class more accessible to all students takes it upon themselves to make sure that things like digital course content and the instructor's method for lectures will be accessible to the most students possible without being prompted by students to meet a need.

NOTE: Being proactive about making materials accessible does not mean that students will no longer need accommodations. Making course materials and practices accessible instead means a greater chance of supporting students who do not request accommodations for a documented disability but will nonetheless benefit from accessible materials. Additionally, making materials accessible, as this page will describe later on, provides potential benefits to all students.

Tips for Document and Video Accessibility

The ECC Disability Services Office has a webpage that features several suggestions for creating Accessible Content.

The page features ways to strive towards accessibility, such as using headings and lists, when creating written documents and also when recording videos.

Microsoft Word Accessibility Checklist

Verify that your Word document is accessible by checking these features:

1. Built-In Headings and Styles

a. Are the built-in headings and styles used correctly?

2. Lists

a. Are the built-in ordered (numbered) and unordered (bulleted) lists used correctly?

3. Hyperlinks

a. Are hyperlinks meaningful?

4. Alternative Text

a. Is Alternative Text added for each image, graph, and table?

5. Tables

a. Is the table simple? Simple tables do not have nested or merged rows or columns.

b. Does the top row repeat at the top of each page of the table?

c. The rows should not break across pages.

Further Resources:

Understanding the Accessibility Checker’s Error Messages

Video Explaining Why Creating Accessible Word and PDF Documents is Important

MS Office Accessibility—PowerPoint and Word

Checklist for Microsoft PowerPoint Accessibility

Verify that your PowerPoint presentation is accessible by checking these features:

1. Built-In Slide Templates

a. Are built-in slide templates being used?

2. Unique Slide Titles

a. Does each slide have a unique slide title?

3. Hyperlinks

a. Are hyperlinks meaningful?

4. Reading Order of Slide Contents

a. Is the reading order for each slide accurate?

5. Alternative Text

a. Is Alternative Text added for each image, graph, and table?

6. Videos

a. If videos are shown, are the captions included and accurate?

7. Color Contrast

a. Is there a strong color contrast between the text and background?

8. Font

a. Is the font size at least 24 point or higher?

b. Is the font readable (e.g., Arial or Verdana)?

Further Resources:

Understanding the Accessibility Checker’s Error Messages

7 Steps to Creating an Accessible PowerPoint Slideshow

MS Office Accessibility—PowerPoint and Word

Accessibility Before and After Quiz

The below teaching materials, a course syllabus and a lecture slideshow, provide a Before and After example for revising materials for greater accessibility. The Inaccessible Syllabus examples include 19 barriers and the Inaccessible Slideshow includes 8 barriers to accessibility from those listed at the ECC Disability Services Office's Accessible Documents webpage. The Accessible examples demonstrate how the materials have been revised and annotate the changes made.

After reading the ECC Disability Services Office's Accessible Documents web page, read and follow the directions below. Then, click on the Inaccessible Syllabus and the Inaccessible Slideshow and try to identify the accessibility barriers present. Finally, look at the Accessible Syllabus and Accessible Slideshow to see if you found all of the barriers and how to make the corrections.

Instructions for Reviewing the Inaccessible Syllabus Document

  1. Open the Word document entitled “Sample Syllabus in Word-Inaccessible Version.”
  2. Visually examine the document, and check for accessibility issues.
  3. Run the Accessibility Checker, and check for errors and warnings.
  4. There are a total of 19 errors/warnings related to accessibility. Check if you can find all of the errors/warnings.
  5. In the “Sample Syllabus in Word-Inaccessible Version,” fix the accessibility issues by following along in the instruction sheet entitled “Sample Syllabus-Instructions on Creating an Accessible Syllabus in Word.”
  6. Open the document titled “Sample Syllabus in Word-Accessible Version” to view the accessible version of the syllabus.

Instructions for Reviewing the Inaccessible PowerPoint Slides

  1. Open the PowerPoint entitled “Sample PowerPoint-Inaccessible Version.”
  2. Visually examine the document, and check for accessibility issues.
  3. Run the Accessibility Checker, and check for errors and warnings.
  4. There are a total of 8 errors/warnings related to accessibility. Check if you can find all of the errors/warnings.
  5. In the “Sample PowerPoint-Inaccessible Version,” fix the accessibility issues by following along in the instruction sheet entitled “Sample PowerPoint-Instructions on Creating an Accessible PowerPoint.”
  6. Open the document entitled “Sample PowerPoint-Accessible Version” to view the accessible version of the PowerPoint.


ECC Webinar on Accessibility

The below video is webinar on accessibility, led by Pietrina Probst, Director of ADA and Student Disability Services, and Tammy Ray, Instructional Technology & Distance Learning Coordinator IV and Adjunct Faculty in Digital Technologies. The webinar was led on May 26, 2020 with faculty in ABEC.

Faculty FAQs on Accommodations

The questions below provide responses to questions that faculty frequently have regarding student accommodations.

1. What is an accommodation letter?

  • The accommodation letter lists the accommodations for which a student is eligible to receive based on a disability.

2. How will I receive an accommodation letter?

  • Prior to Spring 2020, you received hard copies of accommodation letters. Starting in Spring 2020, you will receive these accommodation letters via email from sds@elgin.edu.

3. When I receive an accommodation letter, should I talk with the student?

  • It is recommended that you contact the student directly (either through email or in person in a private setting). You may start the conversation by saying, “I received your accommodation letter via email. How may I best support you in this class?” A follow-up question may include, “In previous classes, what support did you receive that was helpful?” Additionally, you can discuss how/when the student should go to the Testing Center to take tests/quizzes if the student is eligible for testing accommodations. See Question 4 for additional details.

4. How do I send tests to the Testing Center for students who are eligible for testing accommodations?

  • Please deliver your test and “Request for Testing” form to the Testing Center via email at testing@elgin.edu, the mailbox outside of B115, or intercampus mail.
  • The “Request for Testing” form is available on the eNet.

5. Do I need to notify anyone else when I receive an accommodation letter?

  • You do not need to notify anyone else about the accommodation letter. In fact, you should not disclose information on the accommodation letter due to strict confidentiality policies. However, for any questions, please contact the Student Disabilities Services office at sds@elgin.edu.

6. If students tell me that they have a disability, what should I do?

  • If the students give you an IEP, 504 Plan, or other medical/psychological documentation, please refer the students to the Student Disabilities Services office. Please do not keep the documentation on the students’ disability.
  • If the students tell you about their disability but don’t provide documentation to you, please refer the students to the Student Disabilities Services office.

7. If I think a student needs accommodations but I have not received a letter, what should I do?

  • You cannot ask students if they have a disability due to confidentiality.
  • You can share general information on campus resources. For example, you may ask the student, “Are you aware of our campus supports, including the Tutoring Center, The Write Place, the Math Lab, Student Disabilities Services office, Wellness Services, etc.?”

8. What can I do in the classroom to further support students with disabilities in the classroom?

9. Are the accommodations the same for online courses and face-to-face courses?

  • Yes. Students with qualified disabilities should continue to receive reasonable accommodations for both online courses and face-to-face courses, but the accommodations may look different depending on the format of the course. For questions about how to apply students’ accommodations in the online delivery of courses, please contact sds@elgin.edu.

10. What should I include in my syllabi regarding accommodations and accessibility for students with disabilities?

  • Please include the following statement in your syllabi:

Accessibility Statement for Syllabi

Elgin Community College (ECC) views disability as an important aspect of diversity and is committed to providing an equitable and accessible learning environment for all students. The Student Disabilities Services (SDS) office collaborates with students who have disabilities to provide and arrange reasonable accommodations to foster full participation in courses and campus experiences.

If you have a disability (e.g., vision, hearing, speech, psychological, ADHD, TBI, health, intellectual, autism, learning, physical, etc.), please visit www.elgin.edu/ada, complete the “Registration Form” under “New to Student Disabilities Services,” gather documentation on your disability, and schedule an intake appointment.

If you have received accommodations in the past at ECC and need accommodation letters for your courses this semester, please visit www.elgin.edu/ada and complete the “Request Form” under “Returning Student” as soon as possible.

While ECC will not compromise or waive essential skill requirements in any course or degree, students with disabilities may be supported with reasonable accommodations to help meet these requirements. The laws state that students do not need to disclose a disability, but if reasonable accommodations are needed, the students must disclose a disability to the SDS office and provide documentation on the disability during the intake appointment. If students do not follow the intake process through the SDS office, ECC does not need to provide reasonable accommodations to standard procedures.

If you have any questions, please contact sds@elgin.edu or 847-214-7717.

Your Before and After Document

To put the information above into practice, faculty are encouraged to choose one of their teaching documents (such as an Assignment Description or slideshow) and to submit the unedited version that may contain barriers to accessibility as well as the revised accessible version. Use the dropbox below to submit both an "Inaccessible" and "Accessible" version for one of your course materials. You will be prompted to sign in using your faculty1234@student.elgin.edu account.