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Optimizing Access to Tools and Assistive Technologies in Universal Design for Learning

Optimizing access to tools and assistive technologies is a universal design for learning (UDL) guideline that supports multiple means of action and expression. The UDL guidelines were developed by an organization called CAST. This article will explore how teachers and other educators can support learners using assistive technologies to access course content.

Optimizing access to tools and assistive technologies in Universal Design for Learning

Optimizing access to tools and assistive technologies means supporting learners using assistive technologies to meet their learning goals. For example, the hardware or software learners may use includes keyboard or mouse alternatives, such as:

  • Ergonomic keyboards or mice
  • One-handed keyboards
  • Large-key keyboards
  • On-screen keyboards
  • Braille keyboards
  • Trackballs
  • Touch pads or touch screens
  • Light pens
  • Joysticks
  • Switch devices
  • Head pointers
  • Mouth sticks
  • Eye-tracking systems
  • Speech recognition software

In addition, learners may use technology to view or interact with course content, such as:

  • Screen reading software
  • Screen magnification
  • Large monitors
  • Word prediction software

Teachers can use many strategies for optimizing access to tools and assistive technologies their learners need. For instance, some websites work well with assistive technologies, while others do not. Therefore, when school administrators create or partner with websites, the websites must be compatible with assistive technologies. Similarly, software programs that teachers require learners to use must be operable with keyboard commands instead of mouse clicks. Moreover, programs operable with keyboard commands often work well with other input methods, such as switches or speech-to-text.

Furthermore, teachers should have ways to support students learning to use assistive technologies. For example, a teacher might tell their class how to find a webpage on a site. These instructions might direct learners to look for and click a button on the bottom left of their screens. However, learners using screen readers or alternative mice might need different instructions. However, the teacher may not know exactly how these learners would find or select the button. Nevertheless, the teacher should know how to look up this information. As a result, their instructions can benefit all learners, not just learners without assistive technology.