Empower Your Students: Design Learning for Accessibility

Video Podcast June 22, 2020 16 min

Before we send you off to enjoy a well-deserved summer break, we’d like to spend some time sharing strategies and resources to help you support students who struggle to access their digital learning materials. As educators, we need to do as much as we can to support all of our students and to empower them with the skills and tools they need to overcome barriers—whether it is access to technology or learning challenges. Our hosts, Ty Stevenson and Paul Beckermann, will explore Universal Design for Learning (UDL) with our special guest, Rena Clark, and they will talk about how students can become more independent through the use of self-selected assistive technology (AT) strategies and tools.

Rena Clark is a National Board Certified Teacher who is a Digital Learning Coach in the Renton School District. She is continuing to build on the great work she’s done around incorporating principles of computer science (CS) into elementary classrooms, integrating STEM, expanding opportunities for cross-curricular learning, and engaging students in exploring and creating as modes for deepening learning. In addition, Rena is a Code.org CS Fundamentals Facilitator.

Rena Clark
Digital Learning Coach, Renton School District, WA

As you prepare to return to school in the fall, we’ll be here for you with blended and virtual teaching strategies. […] Your feedback will inform not only the content we create for AVID Open Access, but also the direction of the new online series we’ll launch in the fall.

– Paul Beckermann, Host and E-12 Digital Learning Specialist, Elk River Area School District, MN


These resources and strategies were discussed during the Livecast and may be useful to you when teaching virtually.

Strategies and Tools That Support Student Reflection

Admittedly, it can be very challenging to meet every student’s unique learning needs. Still, we need to try, and technology can help level the opportunity field. A good place to start is to design lessons that apply Universal Design for Learning principles. Another important step is to provide students with assistive technology tools and strategies. Below are tools shared during the Livecast:


  • Text-to-speech tools, often called screen readers, convert the text on a computer screen into audio.
  • Read Aloud: This Chrome extension allows you to highlight text and then right-click on it to activate the screen reader.
  • NaturalReader: Copy and paste text into this website to hear it.


  • These programs capture spoken words and convert them into typed text.
    • TalkTyper: Use this website to convert your speech into text. Then, copy/paste your text into any application of your choice. Talk Typer includes a translation feature, as well.
    • Dictation: This website will type dictations in multiple languages.

Closed Captioning

  • Students with hearing loss rely on closed captioning to “hear” the audio portion of a video. When translations are available, closed captioning can also be extremely helpful to language learners.
    • YouTube Studio: To edit closed captions in YouTube, you will need to access your video through YouTube Studio. Here, you can choose your language, review auto-captions, and update them as needed.
    • oTranscribe: This website allows you to put a video on the screen and play it while you manually type a transcript that can be exported.

Dyslexic Font

  • Students who struggle with dyslexia can benefit from a unique font style.
    • BeeLine Reader for Chrome: This Chrome extension changes the font on websites to be more readable for people with dyslexia. It can be turned on and off by clicking the extension.