COVID-19 Accessibility FAQs

Below you will find a list of frequently asked questions regarding critical accessibility considerations for students and faculty in the transition to alternative modes of course delivery. Up-to-date information related to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) can be found on the RIT Ready website.

COVID-19 and Accessibility FAQs for Students

Yes, students with disabilities always have the right to reasonable accommodations, regardless whether classes are hosted in person or online. Accommodations for students currently registered with the Disability Services Office will remain in place.

The Disability Services Office will continue to provide this accommodation for courses where there is real-time virtual instruction. In classes where information is presented in an asynchronous format (not in real-time), note-taking will not be provided.

Yes, however, the Disability Services Office will not be involved in administering online exams for students with extended time. You must communicate your extended time accommodation clearly to your faculty, who will be able to manually adjust the allotted time for your tests in MyCourses in accordance with your approved accommodations.

The DSO Test Center computers use Natural Reader which is a professional text-to-speech tool available at  The online version of Natural Reader includes unlimited access to free voices.  There is a premium version which can be downloaded to a computer and has additional voices (fees for this premium version will not be paid by RIT but are the responsibility of the user).

Both the free and the premium versions turn written text into spoken words, which may be especially helpful for text-heavy, asynchronous classes, or for anyone who learns better via audio than text.  Any RIT student, regardless affilliation with the DSO, is encouraged to use this tool if it would be helpful.

Flexibility accommodations like “extended time on assignments” and “flexibility in attendance” will, as usual, require clear communication, advance planning, and negotiation of details between students and their instructors.  If classes move to asynchronous formats, accommodations for flexible attendance will not be applicable. Familiarize yourself with the new format and guidelines of your online course and talk with your instructors if you have questions.

Yes, you may request accommodations at any point during your education. You may find you have different accommodation needs as we make the shift to virtual course delivery. If you encounter disability-related barriers in the context of online education (or for any other reason), you are warmly encouraged to reach out to the Disability Services Office to discuss accommodation possibilities and other ways we can support you. 

Students do not need to be on campus to request accommodations or work with the Disability Services Office. You may request new accommodations or changes to current accommodations at any time.

This is a very difficult and complicated time for the entire RIT community. Please know that the Disability Services Office is here for you. We understand the importance of accessibility at this time, and all times, and we look forward to working together to address issues and answer questions as they arise. 

The move to an online learning environment may pose unique challenges for students with disabilities, and the Disability Services Office and our partners across campus are working to anticipate needs, educate faculty, and support students to the very best of our abilities. 

  • Instructors are being encouraged to be flexible with students and to communicate their expectations clearly. 
  • Students are encouraged to communicate openly with their instructors and advocate for their needs. Reaching out to instructors is recommended even if you have had conversations with them about accommodations in the past. If you encounter a new access barrier in the online learning environment, please reach out to the Disability Services Office for help.
  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is available to students in distress and can also work with you to connect with mental health providers in your home communities.

COVID-19 and Accessibility FAQs for Faculty

Yes. Students with disabilities always have the right to reasonable accommodations, regardless whether classes are hosted in person or online. Students’ Disability Services Agreements remain applicable in the move to online education.

These students should be referred to the Disability Services Office. Any new or changed academic accommodations will be communicated to instructors via email in a new Disability Services Agreement.

Please note: There is no time limit regarding accommodation requests. Students may request accommodations at any point during their education. This means that students who have never worked with the DSO in the past may do so at this time. Any new Disability Services Agreements received must be acknowledged and honored.

If instructors are concerned about an accommodation or have questions, they are encouraged to reach out directly to Catherine Lewis, Director of the Disability Services Office, at

  • Accessible documents: Ensure all documents and materials presented to students are accessible
    • Use clear, consistent layouts and organization schemes for presenting content
    • Use large fonts, plain backgrounds, and high contrast color combinations
    • Avoid screen shots of written material
    • Make sure PDFs are accessible
  •  Accessible Audio and Video content: The communication access (e.g. ASL or captioning) provided to students in the physical classroom should also apply in the virtual realm. For example, if you had an interpreter in the classroom, you should use one for any synchronous (real-time) content presented online. 
    • For class sections supported by the Department of Access Services, assigned captionists and interpreters have reached out to all their faculty. Any NTID student should have the same access in the virtual environment as they do in the physical classroom. 
    • Please remember that not all students who require captioning are necessarily affiliated with NTID. If a student has an approved accommodation related to captioning, you must provide this. 
    • It is important to consider captioning in both synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (e.g. watching a YouTube video) contexts. All faculty members in all classes should endeavor to present pre-recorded video content with captioning, pursuant to RIT policy.   
  • Text Equivalents for images: All images must have alternate text (alt text) or a written description of the image embedded into the HTML tag
  • Flexibility: The significant disruption to routine and format may cause great stress and anxiety for some students.  Instructors are encouraged to be flexible with students and to communicate their expectations clearly.

Students are being advised to self-advocate and reach out to instructors to clarify their accessibility needs. If you do not hear from a student you know is registered with the Disability Services Office or Access Services (or if you anticipate a student may benefit from accommodations), it is okay to reach out to them.

Please always remember to communicate about disability and accessibility privately, never in a public space or forum.

RIT serves many students on the Autism spectrum.  Students with Autism may experience levels of stress and anxiety above and beyond their neurotypical peers.

Laurie Ackles, Director of RIT’s Spectrum Support Program, offers the following recommendations:

  • Provide very clear, detailed, information (in writing) about navigating the online course shell, including where to locate lecture materials, where to submit assignments, etc. 
  • Consider simplicity, clarity and consistency when re-creating course structure and requirements.    
  • Provide clear expectations, in writing, about how to appropriately engage in live virtual lectures or chats. 
  • Provide information and options for receiving support from faculty regarding content or course questions, or more general concerns. 
  • Provide regular, detailed feedback about progress, including proactive use of Early Alerts. Early Alerts allow Spectrum Support Program staff to understand clearly where students might need additional support to be successful. 
  • Consider flexibility with group projects, which will be increasingly challenging in an online format for students with social communication challenges. If group work is expected, consider smaller groups and assigned group roles.   
  • Check in with students frequently to provide them with an opportunity to share concerns.

Students’ testing accommodations are all still applicable and must be honored whether classes are online or in-person. The Disability Services Office Test Center will not typically be involved in administering online exams for students with extended time. 

The Test Center is open, with limited capacity, from 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. weekdays. Students must schedule tests a minimum of two business days in advance through the MyDSO Student Portal.

Faculty must manually adjust the allotted time for students’ timed tests in MyCourses, in accordance with their approved accommodations. It is important to remember that not all "extended time on exams" accommodations are configured the same (e.g. some are for 1.5x on exams, others are for 2.0x). The individual Notification Letters you received via email, which are maintained within the MyDSO portal, specify the amount of time students’ exams should be extended. The individual Notification Letters can be viewed in the MyDSO Faculty Portal at any time.

Instructors with questions about online proctoring of exams should contact Sherry Clark at or contact the Teaching and Learning Services support desk at 585-475-2551 or

Since the Disability Services Office Test Center will not be operating while classes are hosted online, faculty are responsible for ensuring students with approved accommodations are given the appropriate length of time for any timed tests, exams, and quizzes. To manually extend an individual student’s allotted exam time, please follow the instructions found in this brief video. Instructors can also reach out to the Innovative Learning Institute for MyCourses support, if needed.

Not all extended time on exam accommodations are configured the same (e.g. some are for 1.5x on exams, others are for 2.0x). The individual Disability Services Agreements you received via email from the Disability Services Office specify the amount of time students’ exams should be extended.

Note that this accommodation is distinct from “extended time on assignments” which implies due date flexibility and requires clear communication and negotiation of details between students and their faculty.

No. A take home exam that is not timed does not qualify for the "extended time on tests" accommodation. (As a distinction: If a take home exam was open for 24 hours, but within that time frame a student had a 2-hour time limit to work on the exam, then the eam would qualify for extended time.)  If a take home exam has a due date, but students are not timed while completing it, there is no need to offer extended time.

Dr. Catherine Lewis
Director, Disability Services Office

Laurie Ackles
Director, Spectrum Support Program

Richard (Rico) Peterson
Assistant Dean and Director, NTID Access Services

Innovative Learning Institute Helpdesk