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Offering Alternatives for Visual Information in Universal Design for Learning

Offering alternatives for visual information is a universal design for learning (UDL) guideline that supports multiple means of representation. The UDL guidelines were developed by an organization called CAST. This article will explore how teachers and other educators can offer visual information in ways that learners can access using their other senses.

Offering Alternatives for Visual Information in Universal Design for Learning

Offering alternatives for visual information means presenting visual information in other ways, such as:

  • Audibly
  • Tactually

These alternatives benefit many learners, including those who:

  • Are blind or visually impaired
  • Are unfamiliar with the type of information being shown, such as multiple forms of:
    • Graphics
    • Art


Teachers can use many strategies to provide alternatives for visual information. For example, they can read aloud all text that they write on a white board or other surface. Similarly, they can create audio versions of any texts they create, such as:

  • Course outlines
  • Handouts
  • Assignments

Alternatively, learners may use screen reading or magnification software to read these texts. For instance, if school boards provide learners with computers or tablets, these devices may include read-aloud or magnification functions. Therefore, teachers should know how to use these functions to support their students. Furthermore, to make text that these types of software will read well, teachers should know how to use:

Similarly, teachers can use textbooks created to be accessible with screen reader and magnification software. Alternatively, teachers can source textbooks from publishers committed to providing accessible-format versions of their textbooks for students who need them.

Descriptions for Visuals

In addition, teachers can verbally describe any visuals they show in class, such as:

  • Slides
  • Graphs
  • Maps
  • Diagrams
  • Works of art
  • Other images

Teachers may provide these descriptions aloud during class, or provide learners with written image descriptions. Moreover, teachers writing their own descriptions have the chance to think in advance about:

  • Background information about the visuals that learners should have
  • What elements of the visuals they want to draw learners’ attention to
  • Possible interpretations of the visuals, depending on context
  • Why the visuals are important to the lesson

Alternatively, teachers can find audio or tactile ways to represent visuals. For example, teachers could show tactile models of math or science concepts, in addition to diagrams.

Videos and Animations

Similarly, teachers should create audio descriptions and transcripts for any videos or animations they play in class. On the other hand, teachers can use videos that already have audio descriptions and transcripts.


Finally, another support for access to text, for print materials or transcripts, is Braille. Some texts may already be available in Braille. Otherwise, teachers can work with Braille transcribers to create Braille copies. Currently, many learners who could benefit from Braille are not taught to read it. However, if classroom teachers expose their students to Braille in class, students who do not read it yet may want to learn.