Accessibility Corps

May 05, 2021

Written by Jim Phillips, Director of Campus Engagement (ITS), and Dana Conard, Instructional Technology Support Specialist (Online Education)

The Accessibility Corps Defined

The Accessibility Corps is a small but growing team of three UCSC students, hired in 2020 and dedicated to the specific purpose of helping faculty with accessibility in their courses. After receiving specialized training on various accessibility topics to prepare them to respond to any service request they might encounter, student technicians are then paired with instructors interested in improving the accessibility of their courses. accessibility image

The student technicians can help to produce accessible materials, edit captioning for videos, and review the flow of information in Canvas courses to proactively address any accessibility concerns. The services are designed to be flexible to the instructor’s needs: even small changes can improve the access for all students.

The idea of providing accessibility support to faculty was modeled on a successful rollout of the Student Corps, which assigned student technicians to help faculty one-on-one in response to the pandemic, which forced a rapid transition to remote instruction. 


Dana Conard, an Instructional Technology Support Specialist with Online Education, was the source of inspiration for the program. She pulled together staff from Online Education, the Disability Resource Center (DRC), and the Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning (CITL), and quickly launched the program in fall 2020 to support the return of remote and online instruction. Dana is uniquely positioned to see the widespread need, the potential value this service holds for campus, and the passion students bring to their work. In her first job in higher education, she worked with a campus disability service provider, remarking that “Once you see the impact of departments like the DRC, it is easy to become passionate about accessibility.”

New Tools to Help Individuals with Disabilities

Solutions like SensusAccess, integrated into Canvas in winter quarter 2021, are good because they empower students (and faculty for that matter) to convert files into a format that they prefer. This relieves the student from having to make a specific (and overt) request of the faculty member to provide an accommodation. For some individuals with disabilities, that level of independence carries significant value.

Another solution recently made available in Canvas is Microsoft’s Immersive Reader, which allows users to customize the color scheme, font size, and reads text aloud. Immersive Reader really helps students with disabilities like Dyslexia and can also increase reading speed and comprehension for all learners. 

But, not all students who have a disability make themselves known to the DRC. And, in fact, that silent minority also may include faculty and staff. It has been estimated that 11% of the general population have some sort of disability. That is why services like the Accessibility Corps are so important: well designed instructional materials that adhere to universal design standards carry tangential benefits for the broader population of students.

Student Perspectives on the Power of Accessibility

Accessibility Corps student technician Andrew Giles agrees: “The power of accessibility, especially in regards to education, is to lessen the barrier between teaching and learning. If we can help even a single student understand a professor more easily, or help a single professor communicate in a more effective way, then we know we're doing what we've set out to do.” 

Ana Lebron, another Accessibility Corps student technician, echoes this: “I’ve become more and more aware of the need on campus for these kinds of services. A lot of people rely on captions, whether they require accessibility services or not, so being able to provide polished captions feels great.”

Of course, there has been tremendous growth in the need for such services since the pandemic. Faculty and students have had to endure a lot of technical rollouts, and the requirement to come up to speed quickly on how to best deliver accessible instructional content remains a challenge. 

Looking Ahead

Heading into spring 2021, Dana looks forward to more instructors using the service. “There will always be a need to make course materials more accessible for all students. One can’t underestimate the importance of having adequate support in place so that students can learn effectively. And that need is magnified when it comes to overcoming challenges related to accessibility.” Fortunately for UCSC, the student technicians of the Accessibility Corps are here to serve as liaisons who can bring it all together and help faculty connect in meaningful ways with all of their students.

To request services from Accessibility Corps, please fill out the Request form or email 

Still want to learn more? Take this challenge: Discover what it is like to have a low vision visual impairment and how assistive technology can help - 

This is the first in a series of three articles that are focused on digital accessibility in honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The UC Electronic Accessibility Committee is hosting a systemwide webinar on May 20, 2021 at 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM: Accessibility Is for Everyone: Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2021. Register for the GAAD webinar.