Universal Design for Learning and Assistive Technology: Promising Developments

Universal Design for Learning and Assistive Technology: Promising Developments

Brian R. Bryant (University of Texas – Austin, USA), Kavita Rao (University of Hawai'i – Mānoa, USA) and Min Wook Ok (The University of Texas – Austin, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8789-9.ch025
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Universal Design for Learning (UDL) has become a popular and effective way to help all students access what is taught in the classroom. Modeled after universal design, which enabled people with disabilities to access multiple physical environments, UDL provides access to the curriculum via three guiding principles: (a) multiple means of representation, (b) multiple means of expression, and (c) multiple means of engagement. This chapter looks at UDL and Assistive Technology (AT) for students who have specific Learning Disabilities (LD). Further, the authors examine AT research that has been conducted with students who have LD in reading, writing, and mathematics, and they provide case studies wherein UDL and AT are used to enhance accessibility in U.S. schools, specifically Grades 1 and 6 as well as high school.
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Assistive Technology Devices And Services In Universal Design For Learning

Although UDL lessons can reduce barriers, increase access, and build in supports for a range of learners, accommodations may still need to be made for individual learners who have specific needs. Such accommodations often include the use of AT devices and services. Years ago, an International Business Machine (IBM) training program for AT stated, “For people without disabilities, technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible” (1991, p. 2). In this case, “things possible” means having access to the general education curriculum.

The role of AT and UDL has been discussed at length by, among others, Rose et al. (2006), Edyburn (2010), and Bryant, Bryant, and Ok (in press). Edyburn correctly argued that UDL is not AT, but he also noted that AT and UDL may co-exist, and there is a possibility that UDL may pre-empt the need for certain AT devices, depending on the student and the lesson. Many times, the technology used during instruction is helpful technology for students without disabilities, yet AT for students with disabilities (Bryant & Bryant, 2011). In this section, AT and UDL are explored further by presenting an overview of AT and discussing how research has validated its use for students with LD.

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