Accessibility, Special Access and Release Conditions

Resource Overview

The FAQs and guidance below may help you make you utilize D2L Brightspace to make your course design and teaching practices more accessible.  If you need direct support relating to your students (e.g. as it relates to guidance or support on captioning), contact our Access and Disability Resources (ADR) staff.  

Faculty FAQs

What role do we have in addressing accessibility needs?

Pima Community College has the responsibility to:

What should we do if students request an accomodation related to a disability - or if they share with us that they self-identify as having a disability?

If student self identifies as having a disability or makes a request for accommodation related to a disability, refer the student to the Office of Access and Disability Resources (ADR) at [email protected] or 520-206-6688.

How do we learn about formal requests for accomodations?  

Additional Accommodation Implementation Support

If you have a student in your course that has been approved for accommodations, you will receive an accommodation notification letter from ADR via your Pima email address. This letter will specify the accommodations you are required to provide the student identified in the letter.

If you, as an instructor, feel that an approved accommodation is unreasonable or impacts the essential learning objectives of your course, contact the Office of Access and Disability Resources (ADR) at 520-206-668. If you feel you cannot provide approved accommodation because of technical constraints of the online environment or any other reason, please contact ADR.

What Learning Options are available to students?

Web accessibility refers to how easily people with disabilities can navigate and interact with websites. People with disabilities often use access technologies to help them navigate the Web. Students may have their own access technologies or use access technologies available at the College campuses. Common web access technologies include assorted types of mice, keyboards, screen readers, and screen magnifiers.

Web accessibility occurs when websites support web accessibility standards, are compatible with access technologies, and are easy for people to navigate and understand.

For more information about ADR, go to the ADR web page.

How Do We Utilize Account Settings in D2L Brightspace to Support Such Requests?

The Account Settings tool includes a number of settings that can be adjusted to improve accessibility. These settings are controlled by individual students. Make sure students enrolled in your courses are aware of options that might benefit them.

To access Account Settings from any course, locate your name and photo/avatar in the upper right corner of the D2L navbar and click on it.

D2L Navbar showing name and photo or avatar

2. Review Options Within Account Settings

Account Settings options for fonts

3. Show Discussions List Pane

Personal Settings - Unchecked box for discussions list pane

Other D2L Brightspace Accessibility Information

For more information on accessibility, see the Accessibility page on Pima's D2L Brightspace Student Guide site. This site can also be accessed from the Help menu on the navbar in D2L Brightspace.

This web page contains information on the following topics:

Designing Accessible Courses: Guidelines

As a course designer, you hold a pivotal role in ensuring that D2L Brightspace is accessible to all students, regardless of their learning needs. It is your content that students must access, assess and respond to. We strongly encourage you to follow accessibility best practices to ensure you meet the learning needs of all your students. If you are more interested in understanding the national guidelines for this process, Pima subscribes to the Quality Matters Program which allows instructors to access the Quality Matters rubric (i.e., the matrix of review standards) which you can use as a reference for developing an online or hybrid course. If you are interested in this program please contact an Instructional Designer and you will be provided with more information and contacts. 

The Accessibility and Your Course page of this site contains guidelines to create accessible web materials. The Center for Learning Technology also provides information to support your development of quality, accessible courses, please feel free to review it and contact an Instructional Designer should you have any questions or need any guidance or help.

Set Clear Course Expectations

When you set up an online course, it is important to remember that for many students it marks a big change from a traditional classroom. This can be challenging for students with physical or learning disabilities as they can feel disconnected from their instructor and other support systems.

Furthermore, D2L Brightspace provides course designers a lot of flexibility in how they set up and organize their course materials. Although there are many benefits to this flexibility, it can be daunting for students with learning disabilities and students who rely on assistive technologies to navigate pages to find all of your course materials and assignments.

There are some easy design decisions you can make that will help all students use your online course effectively:

Making Time Limits and Deadlines Flexible

Many course designers create course materials that put students with learning and physical disabilities at a disadvantage without intending to. Usually disadvantages result from students not having enough time to complete tasks or not having appropriately designed resources.

Here are a few things to consider when organizing course materials in a time-sensitive manner:

Providing Alternative Learning Materials

One of the most effective course design decisions you can make to improve student engagement is to offer course materials and assignments that appeal to more than one sense. For example, the same material or assignment can have an audio, video and text component. This type of redundancy helps engage students with different learning types, reinforces important concepts, and helps ensure that students with physical disabilities can access content in a suitable format.

Designing Accessible Courses: D2L Brightspace Features

Setting Release Conditions and Special Access (to support students with different needs)

Special Access and Release Conditions are used to set criteria around the availability of content, which can be useful for accommodating students with different needs.

The following examples show when you might use release conditions or special access to improve accessibility:

Setting Up Special Access Conditions

Special access allows you to provide alternative content, time limits or extra Quiz attempts to individual students or groups of students to accommodate special needs. For example, you can use special access to set up a restricted Assignments folder for individuals who under-performed on or missed an assignment. You can use special access to accommodate individuals who need additional time writing a Quiz because of a physical or learning disability. You can also allow extra Quiz attempts on an as-needed basis.

The following tools allow time restrictions to be set on content and, therefore, use special access to allow alternative time limits:

There are three types of special access:

Edit Quiz - Course Requirements example for setting special access options

Allowing Extra Quiz Attempts

Option 1: Use Special Access

If the due date of your Quiz has passed and you wish to allow some students more attempts – do the following:

Option 2: Delete Previous Attempts

If the due date of your Quiz has not passed and you wish to allow some students more attempts – do the following:

Using Release Conditions

Release conditions allow you to create a custom learning path through the materials in your course. When you attach a release condition to an item, students cannot see that item until they meet the associated condition. For example, you could attach a release condition to the second topic in your course's content area that would hide that topic until students viewed the topic before it. Or you could create a condition that required students to view a content topic before gaining access to a Quiz, or one that required them to post a message to a Discussion topic before they could see a content module.

If you attach multiple conditions to an item, students must meet all conditions before they can access the item. For example, you could require students to visit first three content topics in a unit before gaining access to an associated Quiz.

Tools that support release conditions:

Note: Once a student meets a release condition, the condition is cleared for that student and cannot be reset. For example, if you attach a release condition to a Discussion topic requiring students to achieve more than 60% on a Quiz before they can access that topic, and one of your participants receives 72% on the Quiz but you adjust their grade to 55%, they will be able to access the topic because they did meet the requirement at some point.

Tutorial: Adding release conditions via the content menu 

Alternatively, view in full-screen.

Creating Release Conditions: Best Practices

Set Up Conditions Before Students Access the Course

If you add new release conditions after students have accessed the course, students might be confused by resources disappearing. Since conditions cannot be reset, you also risk having students meet conditions before your resources are ready (e.g., accessing a content topic before it is finished).

Avoid Unnecessary Conditions

Each condition you associate with a tool takes additional time for D2L Brightspace to process. Using as few conditions as possible to set up a learning path minimizes the amount of time that students spend waiting for pages to load.

Example: You want to require students to read the topic before taking the Quiz, and you want them to read the topic and attempt the Quiz before submitting the week's assignment to the Assignments folder. On the Assignments folder, you only need to attach the condition that students attempt the Quiz; you know they must read the content topic before they can take the Quiz.

Avoid Circular References

A circular reference makes it impossible for students to satisfy a set of conditions. For example, if you set the condition that students must view a content topic before they can access an Assignments folder, and then set a condition that they must submit a file to the Assignments folder before they can access the content topic, you have a circular reference. Students can't satisfy either condition without satisfying the other one first.

Avoid Impossible Conditions

Ensure that your conditions are not impossible for students to satisfy. For example, a condition that students must achieve greater than 100% on a grade item would be impossible (unless bonus marks are available for the item). If students are unable to satisfy a condition, they are unable to access the content or tools to which the condition is attached.

Avoid Contradictory Conditions

Contradictory conditions occur when two or more conditions that cancel each other out are associated with an item. For example, the conditions "User must achieve greater than 49.9% on Grade Item 1" and "User must achieve less than 50% on Grade Item 1" are contradictory. Students could not satisfy both conditions at the same time; they would not be able to see the item associated with these conditions.

Meeting Web Content Accessibility Standards

D2L Brightspace recommends creating HTML topics for your course content when possible. HTML code is easier for assistive technologies to interpret than application based files such as MS Word. It also allows you to link content topics together and link content to different tools in D2L Brightspace. Most of the tips provided are web content standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Simplify Your Layout. 

Use a simple layout that does not organize content in tables or columns. Simply organized material is easier for students to read and understand, is easier for assistive technology to interpret and present, and is easier for mobile and hand-held devices to resize.

Use Unique Headings

Add a Table of Contents

Use Descriptive ALT Text to Improve Accessibility with Images and Links

Caption Your Tables and Graphs

Include Text Alternatives 

Use Non-Blinking Multimedia

Use Color Carefully To Ensure Accessibility  

Use Relative Font Sizes 

Use HTML When Possible and PDFS Only if Fully Accessible