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IT Toolbox on Universal Design



The DLRP Toolbox is intended to provide online informational resources in the area of universal design applied to educational environments. The resources in the toolbox have been selected based upon the following characteristics:

  • addresses a range of applications and approaches that lessen physical and teaching/learning barriers for all learners;
  • benefits all learners by expanding the options and avenues through which instruction occurs;
  • minimizes the disadvantage that inaccessible technology and electronic communication systems can present for some learners; and
  • maximizes the abilities and skills of all learners to become marketable in the commercial environment and successful in higher education learning environments.

The DLRP Toolbox is divided into six major sections including the major sections of Universal Design Definitions, Descriptions, and Tools; DLRP Universal Design Modules DLRP Fact Sheets; NIDRR-Sponsored Research and Demonstration Projects Related to Universal Design; NIDRR Grantee Resources Related to Universal Design (Selected); and Universal Design State Initiatives

Module Introduction

The DLRP Toolbox contains four modules that are designed to provide learning opportunities for both general and special education classroom teachers in the area of universally designed learning (UDL). Module provides information, materials, and resources that can be used to self-direct learning or for use in group settings.

Topics covered by the module series includes:

  • What is Universal Design for Learning and How Does it Relate to Technology Use in Special Education?
  • Exploring Technology Resources
  • Analyzing Lesson Plans
  • Raising Awareness and Promoting Advocacy

I. Universal Design Definitions, Descriptions, and Tools

Education Perspectives

  • Accessibility and Universal Design
    This U.S. Department of Education resource provides information and links to resources related to universal design.
  • Curriculum Access and Universal Design for Learning
    With the reauthorization IDEA and the No Child Left Behind Act 2001, much emphasis has been placed on providing access to the general curriculum for all students. There are several strategies that educators can employ to give these students access, including using a curriculum that has been universally designed for accessibility.
  • Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology Services (QIAT)
    The QIAT Consortium is a nationwide effort that comprised of hundreds of individuals who provide input into the ongoing process of identifying, disseminating, and implementing a set of widely-applicable quality indicators for assistive technology services in school settings. A printable self-evaluation matrix is available on this Web site.
  • Research Synthesis: What is all the Buzz about Universal Design for Learning
    Research review on Universal Design in educational settings prepared by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education.
  • Universally Designed Instruction
    By definition, universal design for learning (UDL) is the design of instructional materials and methods that makes learning goals achievable by individuals with wide differences in their abilities. Universal design is attained by means of flexible curricular materials and activities that provide alternatives for students. As much as possible, these "designed-in" alternatives, which include different assistive technologies and cognitive supports, do not have to be added by teachers. However, effective use of the materials requires that the teacher be familiar with the various teaching strategies necessary to reach students of widely varying abilities, and many teachers are not.
  • Universal Design in the Classroom and the Computer Lab
    Ensuring access to quality instruction by utilizing the universal design for learning principles and framework will minimize the need for individualized accommodations and modifications in classrooms and other instructional settings.
  • What is Universal Design?
    This underlying principle directs the application of 'accessibility' to building structures, to public spaces, to classrooms and curriculum, and to websites. Although such accommodations are known to benefit disabled persons, they also ultimately benefit all persons, whether disabled or not.

Engineering Perspectives

Legal Perspectives

  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA)
    This resource provides basic information about IDEA and technical assistance tools for parents, teachers, and schools as well as links to laws and policy.
  • IDEA Partnership
    This resource reflects the collaborative work of the Department of Education's Office of Special Education (OSEP) with more than 55 national organizations, technical assistance providers, and state and local organizations and agencies to provide information, resources, and services related to IDEA and NCLB.
  • Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center
    This resource offers links to State E&IT Accessibility Initiatives as well as links to documents and resources on Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act, related legislation for disability access.
  • No Child Left Behind (NCLB)
    This resource provides information and guidance for parents, tools for student performance, teachers and schools, and model pilot program information for states.

Universal Design in Instructional Technologies

  • AIR for Texas High Schools
    Describes the Accessibility Internet Rally for Texas High Schools designed to expand skills of teachers and students in web site accessibility on a no-cost basis.
  • Assistive Technology Consideration
    This resource provides suggestions assistive technologies related to motor aspects of reading, reading, mobility, vision, computer access, learning/studying, activities of daily living, hearing, composing written material, math, control of the environment, communication, recreation, position and seating, and terminology and IDEA resources.
  • The Faculty Room
    The Faculty Room is a space for faculty and administrators at postsecondary institutions to learn about how to create classroom environments and academic activities that maximize the learning of all students, including those with disabilities. It includes six primary areas that address issues faced by postsecondary educators.
  • Making Educational Software and Web Sites Accessible: Design Guidelines Including Math and Science Solutions
    Students with disabilities are increasingly placed in inclusive classrooms where they learn alongside their peers. This poses a challenge to teachers and students because instructional materials may not be available in a form that is accessible to the disabled student. Inaccessible materials stigmatize students with disabilities by preventing them from using the same materials as their peers and can limit their educational opportunities. As technology becomes more prevalent in classrooms, students with disabilities face even more challenges in keeping pace with their classmates.
  • Teaching Every Student
    The Teaching Every Student (TES) section of the CAST website supports educators in learning about and practicing universal design for learning.
  • This resource, a list compiled by the DO-IT project at the University of Washington, is grouped by disability, to provide solutions for teachers and others in overcoming academic challenges. These resources include case studies, frequently asked questions, and a comprehensive list of resources for each disability.
    • Blindness
      Students who are blind cannot access standard print materials. Students who have had no vision since birth may also have difficulty understanding verbal descriptions of visual materials and abstract concepts.
    • Deaf or Hard of Hearing
      This page contains a collection of tools that will guide teachers in making their curriculum and delivery universally accessible to students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
    • Health Impairments
      There is a range of health problems that may have a temporary or chronic impact on a student's academic performance. Diagnoses include arthritis, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Asthma, AIDS, or heart disease. Health impairments are not likely to directly affect learning. However, the secondary effects of illness, including the side effects of medications, can have a significant impact on memory, attention, strength, endurance, and energy levels.
    • Learning Disabilities
      Students with specific learning disabilities may have average to above average intelligence but they may have difficulty in acquiring and/or demonstrating knowledge and understanding. This results in a lack of achievement for age and ability level, and a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual abilities.
    • Low Vision
      Individuals who are identified as "legally blind" may have some functional vision, making accommodations for students with low vision appropriate.
    • Mobility Impairments
      Mobility impairments can be permanent or temporary. They can impact students in a variety of ways. Some students may take longer to get from one class to another, enter buildings, or maneuver in small spaces. In some cases physical barriers may inhibit entry into a building or classroom. Accessible transportation is also required for students to get to fieldwork sites. A student's physical abilities may also vary from day to day.
    • Psychiatric Impairments
      Psychiatric impairments range from mild depression to chronic disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Negative stereotypes and the fact that these disabilities are typically "invisible" further complicate making accommodations for students with these disorders.

Universal Design in the Curriculum

Universal Design-Related Tools and Toolboxes

Web Design Perspectives

  • Section 508 Tutorial: Developing Accessible Software
    This tutorial illustrates the application of the Section 508, 36 CFR 1194.21, requirements for Software Applications and Operating Systems, Technical Provisions (a)-(l). A program for a six-function calculator is developed, named SFCalculator. The accessibility requirements of 1194.21 are illustrated during the development of SFCalculator.
  • Speech Synthesis (Text-to-Speech)
    This text-to-speech system converts selected text to artificial speech and reads text aloud through the computer's sound card or other speech synthesis device. Selected text is analyzed by the software, restructured to a phonetic system that calculates its pronunciation, and said in its context.
  • WebAIM
    This resource provides information about a variety of tools used for accessible web development and evaluating web content for accessibility. In addition to general purpose accessibility tools, video caption tools, colorblindness simulator, and HTML/CSS validators are among some of the resources available.
  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
    This is a reference document for accessibility principles and design ideas. Some of the strategies discussed in this document address certain Web internationalization and mobile access concerns.

II. DLRP Universal Design Modules (in final development)

IV. NIDRR-Sponsored Research and Demonstration Projects Related to Universal Design (Selected)

  • ABLEDATA: Your Source for Assistive Technology Information
    ABLEDATA provides objective information about assistive technology products and rehabilitation equipment available from domestic and international sources.
  • Analyzing Universal Design Resource Needs for Practitioners in Industry and Government
    This project draws from past human factors research which has examined the quality of design guidelines, the design process in general, and needs/task analyses to support design-tool creation. Lessons from the human factors field are considered in relation to studies of universal design practice in industry, and needs analysis to support universal design resource creation.
  • Inclusive Indoor Play
    The purpose of this project is to research indoor play environments, develop universal design play guidelines, and design models of play environments that are safe and accessible to all children.
  • Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center (ITTATC)
    The Center promotes: (a) widespread use of accessible and useable electronic and information technology in the home, school, and workplace; and (b) the benefits of universal design to multiple stakeholders, including technology manufacturers, product designers and engineers, technical writers, marketers, distributors, and purchasers of information technology.
  • Mainstreaming Web Accessibility: Making it Cost-Effective, User-friendly, and Attractive to Non-Technical Audiences
    This project develops a product that improves web accessibility and makes it cost-effective and attractive to non-technical audiences. Universal by Design tests and evaluates the usefulness and effectiveness of the resulting prototype, eliciting key issues including, but not restricted to, key user interface, technical features, and functionality.
  • National Center on Accessible Information Technology in Education (AccessIT)
    The National Center on Accessible Information Technology in Education (AccessIT) at the University of Washington serves to increase the access of individuals with disabilities to information technology in educational institutions at all academic levels nationwide. Popular resources include Web Course: Introduction to Accessible Information Technology in Education, Information Technology in Education Accessibility Checklist, Accessible University Mock Site, and Surfing the Web with a Screen Reader.
  • National Public Web Site on Assistive Technology
    This is a resource featuring a searchable database of assistive technologies and disability-related informational materials.
  • Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Telecommunications Access
    This Center identifies telecommunication access barriers in current and future technologies, work with others in the field to identify solution strategies, test them, implement any necessary standards, and assist industry in transferring the ideas into their commercial products. Activities of the Center include research, applied research and development, training and technical assistance, and dissemination and utilization.
  • Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Universal Design and the Built Environment at Buffalo
    The RERC on Universal Design and the Built Environment promotes the adoption of universal design. The Center's activities also include universal design education and technical assistance, along with publication and dissemination of universal design resources.
  • Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Universal Interface and Information Technology Access
    The focus of this RERC is on both access to information (e.g., content) in its various forms, as well as access to interfaces used within content and by electronic technologies in general. The research and development program is carefully designed to provide an interwoven set of projects that together advance accessibility and usability in a fashion that takes into account, and supports, the full range of access strategies used by manufacturers and people with disabilities.
  • RESNA Technical Assistance Project
    This site provides information about the services and assistance available through the assistive technology projects located in each state. Locate your state's assistive technology project review list of projects.

V. NIDRR Grantee Resources Related to Universal Design (Selected)

VI. Universal Design State Initiatives

VII. DLRP Online Survey

Please take a moment to answer a couple of questions in our online survey.