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This content was published: December 2, 2014. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.

Happy Universal Design Monday!

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Are you an early adopter of technology? Do you like to try out the newest and grooviest devices and apps? I saw a picture on Twitter (check out Alexa Maros’s post on how to Tweet) that said, “People with disabilities are early adopters.” I thought it should be a t-shirt slogan because it’s so true!

When you are out perusing the Cyber Monday deals, think about how technology has made things easier for you. So many technological advances originated from assistive technologies but have also been found useful in the mainstream.

Speech to text technology/ Voice recognition software: originally designed to help someone who can’t type or write is now used by many to send texts while driving and to ask Siri to dial your Mom.

Captioning: originally developed to help people who are deaf, but also used by aging baby boomers, people learning English, and people in a noisy setting. And captions make video content searchable. Search a phrase on YouTube, and you’ll see what I mean!

text to speech

Text to Speech. Image Credit: Wikicommons

Screen reading / text to speech technology: Many of us (me included) thought screen readers were just for people who are blind. But that’s not true. When Siri or Google reads your text message aloud, that’s the technology they are using. Adobe Acrobat Reader has a read aloud function built right into it (View > Read Out Loud).

Zoom and Reflow: If you are reading a PDF on your phone or computer and you can’t see it well, you probably zoom in on the text. Well not only is that an assistive technology in itself, but did you know that you can also choose View > Zoom > Reflow from the Adobe menu and that will reflow the text so you don’t have to scroll horizontally? Try it out!

This is the idea behind Universal Design. If you design with diversity in mind, more people will find the product useful, right? No more does it make fiscal sense to design for the typical user, whoever you may think that is.

The same is true for online course design. There is no typical student to design for. It doesn’t make fiscal or pedagogical sense to design for the typical student. As educators, we need to consider diversity when we design our classes. We are legally required to make our course content accessible for students with disabilities, but diversity includes more than just content and more than just students with disabilities. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) provides a framework to think about how to make content and pedagogy accessible and flexible to meet the needs of a diverse student body through:

  • Multiple means of representation
  • Multiple means of expression
  • Multiple means of engagement

This winter, Disability Services and Distance Learning will be starting a UDL interest group. Let me know if you are interested. We will also send out email announcements. In the meantime, you can learn more about UDL at Cast.org .

About Karen Sorensen

Accessibility Advocate for Online Courses more »

Poppe with speech bubble


There are 2 comment for this article. If you see something that doesn't belong, please click the x and report it.

x by Alexa Maros 6 years ago

Thanks for posting this info Karen. In reviewing the assistive technologies you shared I realized how many of them I’ve come to rely on just to make things easier for me in the digital world. And thanks for the shout out too! ~Alexa

x by Peter Seaman 6 years ago

Hi Karen: I’ve realized that I actually prefer to read on a device like an iPad or laptop, since I can adjust the text size. I will now get a newspaper, scan the headlines to see what I’m interested in reading, and then look up and read the articles online. The info is the same, but the access is easier online. Thanks. – Peter

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PCC offers this limited open forum as an extension of the respectful, well-reasoned discourse we expect in our classroom discussions. As such, we welcome all viewpoints, but monitor comments to be sure they stick to the topic and contribute to the conversation. We will remove them if they contain or link to abusive material, personal attacks, profanity, off-topic items, or spam. This is the same behavior we require in our hallways and classrooms. Our online spaces are no different.