Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Digital Teaching

Questions on Inclusion

  • How do I create an inclusive online-class?

    We recommend generally, not to reduce online teaching to videoconferencing via Zoom. Especially with regards to inclusion, asynchronous teaching methods and materials have more to offer.


    Our general recommendations for inclusive online-classes:

    • If possible, please ask your students up front who needs what in order to participate in your course. Give your students the possibility to let you know their needs privately and confidentially.
    • Put all learning materials online (recorded lectures, videos, texts, presentations etc.) and make sure they are accessible at least until the final exams and second-chance exams are over
    • Hand out all necessary materials to students with lots of time before hosting a video conference, so students with disabilities have the possiblity to let their assistance software run over the materials
    • Start video conferences ahead of time to give students the possibility to check their computer settings, microfone settings, font sizes etc.
    • Invite students to reach out to you if they need help. Give them clear details on how to contact you (via e-mail, phone, chat etc.)

    We have put together some recommendations for creating inclusive online classes based on the needs of specific groups. Please check the individual questions for this.

    For more information, please also check out HU’s Styleguide on how to create inclusive online-content.

  • How can I create an inclusive online-class for students with visual impairments?

    Color, contrast and brightness all influence vision. Objects on screen appear often too little or blurred. This is a real barrier to people with visual impairments. Some people use a Screen Magnifier to read on screen, others use Screen Readers. 

    Clear contrasts and the possibility to enlarge texts and photos are essential for people with visual impairments.

    Make sure that you communicate all contents of your course not only visually (pictures, infografics, presentations using many pictures etc) but that you also communicate these contents in different forms (e.g. audio files, text files that can be read by Screen Readers etc). 

    What you need to keep in mind:

    • Use a high resolution for all photos, illustrations, tables and pictures
    • Use white background and black font to create documents with good contrasts, do not use colors
    • Keep your outlines and documents organized, so people using a mangnified screen can still orientate themselves while reading your enlargened websites and documents
    • Prepare all your documents and PDFs so that they can be read automatically with a Screen Reader
    • If you are planning to do a video conference for people with visual impairments, talk to your participants  beforehand, if possibly, to find out what they might need. We have put together some  general advice under the question “How can I include students with visual impairment in video conferences?”
  • How can I create an inclusive online-class for students with hearing impairments?

    How can I create an inclusive online-class for students with hearing impairments?
    We recommend generally, not to reduce online teaching to videoconferencing via Zoom.Especially with regards to inclusion, asynchronous teaching methods and materials have more to offer.

    Sometimes, the sound quality in video conferences is noicy and hard to hear and this makes it particularly difficult for people with hearing impairments to participate.

    Make sure that all teaching content is put online not only via materials including sound (e.g. podcasts, videos), but that you are also handing out text files. 

    • If you are recording videos, make sure to use excellent sound and picture quality. For students with hearing difficulties, the sound and picture quality matters a lot. Even better: If you are using videos, please also add subtitles to the videos. Read our FAQ item on how to create subtitles.
    • If you are offering regular office hours online, please take care that you have an equivalent service for students with hearing impairments, such as office hours via e-mail or chat.
    • If you are planning video conferences with students with hearing impairments, please ask your students beforehand, what they need to participate.  We put together some advice under the questions “How can I have a video conference with students with hearing impairments?”
  • How can I set up an inclusive class on Moodle?

    HU's Moodle-Support has made a whole online course on this issue hat you can look up here:

    The course is designed mainly for course intructors.

  • Does Zoom support assistive technology?

    HU Zoom supports all major assistive software (NVDA, JAWS, VoiceOver, Android Talkback).

    HU Zoom supports your individual contrast mode  (which you can set up in your computer settings if you are using Windows, iOS or Android) as well as Dark Mode (MacOS).

    If you are using bigger font sizes, Zoom supports these, too, if you have them set up in your computer's settings. If you have made settings for subtitles, Zoom will show these, too.

    You can use Zoom using the keyboard only. Here is an overview on all key combinations for Zoom:

  • How can I use Zoom with students with visual impairments?

    If you are going to use any additional materials in your Zoom meeting (documents, presentations etc.), then you need to make sure that your students with visual impairments can access these materials, too. We recommend to hand out all relevant meeting materials beforehand, so that students can prepare for these materials (for example using their Screen Readers).

    If you are sharing your screen while teaching, please tell your students verbally, what you are doing and what students are seeing, so that everyone can follow.

    Use a high contrast setting for screen sharing. You can adapt your level of contrast in your computer’s settings (for Windows, iOS, Android) or you can chose the dark mode (MacOS). 


    We do not recommend using the white board if students participate that use Screen Readers or access Zoom while using the keyboard (and not the computer screen and a mouse).

  • How can I use Zoom with students with hearing impairments?

    For people with hearing impairments picture and sound qualities are extremely important. If you hear little, it is more difficult to know in a video conference, who is speaking.

    Any background noices and feedback effects should be avoided.

    Keep in mind, however, that not all people with hearing impairments can understand voice over headphones. In particular, people who rely on lip reading, may not be able to fully participate in video calls (due to poor sound and picture quality). Live subtitles can help. Please also read our FAQ item: “How can I set up subtitles in Zoom?” 

    In some situations it may make sense to invite a sign language interpreter into the meeting. Interpreters can join your Zoom meeting as a participant. Students, who rely on the interpreter’s service, can pin the interpreter’s video to their screen so it will be shown permanently. In the same way, the interpreter can pin the videos of deaf participants to his or her screen, so he or she can see the participants and take up their questions.

    You can find further information on how to do video conferences for people with hearing impairments on the website of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Technology Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center.

  • How can I set up subtitles in Zoom?

    There are several possibilities:

    1) Typing in subtitles manually

    If subtitles are activated, session hosts can manually type subtitles, which are shown to participants. They can also delegate this task to participants. It could be a good solution that several students with good typing skills take turns on this task.

    How to activate subtitles:

    1) Log into Zom Web Portal:
     2) My Settings --> In Meeting (Advanced)

    3) Activate "Closed Caption"

    4) Start the meeting, you will see "CC" in the bottom menu

    5) Click on “CC” and choose, if you are typing yourself or if you are nominating participants for the task

    6) In order to show the subtitles, participants need to click on “CC” in their bottom menu


    2) Using an external subtitle provider:

    You can incorporate an external subtitle provider (CART provider) live into the meeting on Zoom. Support for integrated captions within Zoom can be accomplished as long as the CART provider is able to use a captioning platform that supports Zoom's Closed Caption REST API (e.g. VITAC, Streamtext, 1CappApp)


    3) Automatic subtitles of a recorded Zoom session in English:

    If you have recorded a Zoom Meeting that took place in English, you can produce subtitles automatically for the recorded video. Unfortunately, Zoom does not have German speech recognition software, so this service cannot be used for meetings held in German.

    Once the recording is done, go to “My Recordings” to create automatic subtitles for your meetings held in English.

  • Where can I learn more about Inclusive Online Teaching and Learning?

    For further information and personal advice please contact HU’s Disability Advisory Service.

    There is also a guide (in German) on inclusive teaching published by the Disability Advisory Service. You can access the guide on this website:

    Students can also use the advisory service of the students’ association RefRat as well as the Advisory Service of Studierendenwerk.

    All HU staff can also contact the representative for employees with disabilites and the employer’s representative for inclusion.

  • How can I create a subtitle for a video?

    The CMS aims to include automatic subtitles in Opencast as a long term solution. However, this service will be implemented in the winter semester 2021/22 at the earliest.

    Automatic subtitles rely on speech recognition services and turning speech into written language. Technical solutions take time because the software needs to be trained thoroughly in the respective language (usually by machine learning). Further, much computing power ist needed, especially for synchroneous subtitles. So far, providers of subtitle-software do not comply with Europrean Data Protection standards (DSGVO). This is why there is no short term software solution.

    In principle, you can create subtitles for screen casts with Microsoft Office 365 Powerpoint. The subtitles can be created while you record your presentation. However, we need to point out: 


    1. For the above mentioned reasons, the software does not comply with HU's data protection regulation. Teaching staff, who opt for creating subtitles with Powerpoint, do this on their own responsibility of their data. 
    2. Only the cloud based form of Powerpoint has this function (Microsoft Office 365). Because the software does not comply with HU's data protection regulation, it is not supported by the CMS. If you want to use this software, you will need to use it on your private computer. However, if you have a staff number ("Personalnummer") at HU, you can get a cheaper version of Microsoft Office 365  for approximatetly 5 euros per year. Unfortunately, this discount software license is not available for "Lehrbeauftragte".