As most of us take a much-needed break for summer what better time to rest, recharge, and reflect. Summer provides the perfect opportunity to make mental notes on what worked well, what fell flat, and areas of needed growth. One goal that comes up in many school libraries is to create programs that are more inclusive and support all students, regardless of their ability. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a way of thinking about teaching and learning that gives all students equal opportunity to learn (Understood n.d.). Many of the digital platforms available in school libraries provide assistive technology built right in. It is important that we let everyone know about these features. In my district, we subscribe to Gale databases and have access to OverDrive, MackinVIA, and Follett. These platforms offer accessibility features that enhance learning for all students, features such as read aloud, text-to-speech, translation to multiple languages, and adjustable color, size, and font. Specifically, MackinVIA offers Open Dyslexic font, audio books for students with visual impairments, highlighting, and built in glossaries in some books to support learners. While the aforementioned platforms do not represent UDL in and of themselves they do play a role in supporting the principles of UDL in that students can elect to read information, listen to it read aloud, or watch videos. Students are given the opportunity to interact with information in the manner that best addresses their needs and capabilities.
Part of our plans for the upcoming school year could be to coach not only students, but teachers and staff on how to use the tools. All students, even those who may not be differently abled, can benefit from having text read aloud, for example. We can offer support to parents whose native language may not be English by showing them the translation features in our databases and online resources.
Here are a few other ideas you may want to consider:
- Promote the accessibility tools to your school and parent community.
- Conduct mini how-to workshops that highlight the tools’ features and functions.
- Create short 1-3 minute videos demonstrating the use of the platform’s accessibility tools. House these videos on your library’s YouTube Channel or webpage.
- Distribute one pagers that describe the accessibility features of the platforms you provide.
- Model the use of features in your instructional practices.
- Use Google Chrome’s built-in features to help students with low vision. Directions for increasing and decreasing the zoom level of web pages is available at https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/96810.
- Give your students the option to type using voice to create Google Docs. Detailed directions are located at https://support.google.com/docs/answer/4492226.
Author: Michelle Easley
Michelle Easley is the author of How to Increase Diversity in School Library Collections and Programs. Michelle is a national presenter, diversity and library advocate, consultant and speaker. Michelle spends her free time volunteering with homeless youth.