Better Practices for Accessibility

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn. By implementing elements of UDL, you make your course more broadly accessible. Consider UDL Guidelines when choosing course modality, outcome goals, content, and forms of assessment.

The most manageable way to improve accessibility is to start now and go forward; do not try to retrofit everything you have done before.

The suggestions below are simple and immediate adjustments that can improve accessibility significantly, and may render certain accommodations unnecessary.

Collaborative / Crowd-sourced Notes

Encouraging students to create a Google Doc or other online tool to share and compile notes will not only help students who would otherwide need a notetaking accommodation, it would also help other students fill in any gaps in their notes.

Sharing Content in Multiple Forms

  • Provide a written description of assignments and expectations, even if you have explained them orally in class. Some students learn and proess better from hearing, others from reading, and still others from a combination and reinforcement. If you make changes to an assignment or the syllabus, discuss them in class as well as sharing the changes in writing.
  • Share content that you create in its original format. For example, if you type an research paper description in Word, share it with the class as a Word document. Turning it into another format may make it inaccessible to assistive technologies such as screen readers.
  • Share your Powerpoint slides or notes. You may choose to wait until the start of class rather than before, but allowing students to review the slides is universally beneficial. (Perhaps stick the slides in the class Zoom chat, and/or post on Blackboard and set the time/date to go live at the start of class; students who use screen readers would benefit from having the slides during class so that they do not miss anything material covered by them.)

Enabling Closed Captions

Closed captioning is available on all CUNY Zoom accounts. As a meeting host, you should enable it for all meetings and classes.

  1. When you start a Zoom class or meeting, select the Live Transcript button at the bottom, and select Enable Auto-Transcription. That's it!
  2. Students or attendees can choose to view or hide subtitles by selecting the the Live Transcript arrow, and they can adjust the settings of the subtitles in their own Zoom Preferences under Accessibility.
Image of options under "Live Transcript" button
Image of options under "Live Transcript" arrow

Saving Captions

  1. Under the Live Transcript arrow, select View Full Transcript.

  2. At the bottom of the Full Transcript window, select Save Transcript.

  3. The captions are saved in a text file named with the date and time of the meeting.

Note: Individual speakers are not identified in the captions.

Image of options under "Live Transcript" arrow
Image of Zoom with Full Transcript window open, Save Transcript button is at bottom of the window
Image of pop-up confirming that transcript was saved
Image of example of text file of saved transcript
Last updated 02/05/2021
(Audio content of example from podcast Stuff You Should Know)

Record & Share Zoom Meetings

Making available a recording of class meetings can help most students in the course, from the person who lost wifi connection during class to the student who could not hear over the background noise working from home to the student with a disability.

It is possible to address concerns about recording by setting clear guidelines from the start. The following suggestions are policies and settings that you can establish from the very start of a course, and perhaps include in the syllabus.

  • Permit students to turn off their cameras, per CUNY policy.
  • Do not record participants names (Zoom settings).
  • Auto-delete recordings after a set duration, such as two weeks (Zoom settings).
  • Include a statement in the syllabus that states that recordings may only be accessed and viewed by students in the course, may not be shared, and that participation in the course is an agreement to these terms.

Enabling audio transcription

  1. Sign into the Zoom web portal ( by selecting the Sign In button and sign in with your CUNYfirst credentials.
  2. In your profile, click Settings.
  3. Select the Recording tab.
  4. Scroll to Cloud recording, and verify that the setting is enabled.
    Note: If the setting is disabled, click the Status toggle to enable it. If a verification dialog displays, choose Turn On to verify the change.
  5. Select the Audio transcript and Record an audio only file checkboxes to enable them, then click Save to confirm the change.
  6. You do not need to record the video.
  7. Disable Display participants' names in recording for anonymity in the transcript.
  8. Scroll to Automatic recording, and verify that it is enabled.
  9. Select Record in the cloud.
  10. Disable Only authenticated users can view cloud recordings.
  11. Enable Require passcode to access shared cloud recordings.
  12. You can maintain these settings for the semester, so that you do not need to configure them for every class.
  13. See below for instructions for Sharing the Transcript.

Sharing Audio Transcript

  1. When the audio recording and transcript of a class are ready, the meeting host will receive an email. (This could take a few hours or overnight.)
  2. To share the transcript and the audio recording, you can simply forward the email to the student(s), as it includes a link to share the recordings and the passcode. (See third image below.)
  3. The fifth image below shows what a student will see if they click on the recording link and enter the password.
  4. To share only the text transcript, follow the link in the email or naviate to the Recordings page on the Zoom web portal and select the name of the recorded meeting. (See fourth image below.)
    • This opens the Recording Details page (fifth image), which includes at least two files:
    • Audio Only (m4a audio)
    • Transcript Recording (vtt)
    • If you selected other files for the cloud recording, these will also be included: Recording (mp4 video), Gallery view (mp4 video), Chat text (txt)
  5. To download the transcript file and attach in an email or post in your digital classroom, click Audio transcript.
  6. To copy the link to the transcript file and paste into an email, roll over Audio transcript to display the options and select the chain link icon to copy the link. (See fifth image below.)
  7. If a student reports that they received the error that they do not have permission to access the recording or transcript, navigate to the Recordings page on the Zoom web portal and click Share to the right of the name of the recorded meeting. In the settings pop-up for the recorded meeting, ensure that Publicly is selected (and Only authenticated users can view is not selected). Also, enable Passcode protection (and disable On-demand). (See fourth image below.)
  8. The audio recording will be available before the transcript is ready. If you or the student follow the link and only see the audio recording, you may need to wait a couple hours before the transcript is ready.