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Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning

Technology can be a great equalizer for students who need a more visual or hands-on approach to learning, and there are several effective and free resources now available to assist struggling learners. This web page will review a few that we found to be particularly helpful, and provide an overview of how much technology has evolved to help our neediest students.

Universal Design for Learning
Universal design as used in IDEA is based on the definition found in the Assistive Technology Act of 1998:
“The term ‘universal design’ means a concept or philosophy of designing and delivering products and services that are usable by people with the widest possible range of functional capabilities, which include products and services that are directly accessible (without requiring assistive technologies) and products and services that are interoperable with assistive technologies.”

UDL definition from CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology):
“Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for designing curricula that enable all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning. UDL provides rich supports for learning and reduces barriers to the curriculum while maintaining high achievement standards for all.”

Apple Assistive Technology Resources

Apple Accessibility Web Site –

Apple Resources for Special Education –

Apple Article on Assistive Technology (courtesy of The Guardian)-

Google Chromebook Assistive Technology Resources

Google’s Accessibility Web Site –

Chrome & Assistive Technology –

Using Chromebooks in Special Education (video):

Microsoft Assistive Technology Resources

Study Skills Resources

Free Rice – – this site is an example of a “mash-up”; it combines 2 good ideas: expanding vocabulary and donating to a worthy cause at the same time!

KidsClick! – – the advanced search includes searching by reading level

Spelling City – – free online tool for reviewing spelling words in a variety of formats

Study Stack – – use pre-existing word lists or create your own using this free online tool that transforms vocabulary words into a variety of fun and engaging activities

Study Jams – – Free animated videos and activities for math and science from Scholastic.

Thinkfinity – – this free resource offers excellent content, interactive tools, and printable study guides aligned to state standards

Literacy and Math Skill Builders – –  a variety of free tutorial resources organized by grade and skill.

SweetSearch – – provides a safe search tool with expert reviewed resources.

XtraMath – — provides a motivational platform for math skill reinforcement.

Quizlet – — a customizable program so you can create digital flashcards for your students.  This works well with iPod Touch handheld units, laptops, and other devices.

Digital Text Tools

EasyBib – – free citation tool for use with 55 types of resources in MLA or APA format

MS Word AutoSummarize Tool –  This tool works in Word 2007, but was removed from the Word 2010 version.

Readability Calculator – – just paste in text to get a reading level

Online Books and Reading Support

Students with disabilities who cannot read standard print effectively and are unable to meet grade level standards in reading fluency due to a disability require appropriate and accessible instructional materials to participate in and progress in the general curriculum. Below are some resources that can help:

StarFall – – extensive interactive materials and resources for early literacy dev elopment

Tar Hill Reader – – collection of free, easy-to-read and accessible books

Storyline Online – –  celebrities reading stories aloud. – – free digital library for all qualifying students in the US

Read.Write.Think – – online resources of highly interactive lessons and engaging student materials from the International Reading Association

StoryPlace: Children’s Digital Library – – customizable digital stories available in English and Spanish versions

UDL Editions by CAST – – online books with flexible supports for ages 10 and up.

Scholastic –  — Storia offers many selections for interactive books, and they have interactive whiteboard activities as well. $$

Parkland Community Library: shares Tumblebooks with us.

Reading A-Z-  — each reading specialist has an account for access to leveled readers and benchmark selections. Most titles have an interactive whiteboard version available.