Creating a Bridge to Learning for All: Accessing Curriculum & Content with Universal Design for Learning and Assistive Technology

By: Diana Petschauer and Dr. Luis Pérez

Interwoven throughout the newly reauthorized version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA) are references to an instructional strategy supporters think has enormous potential for reaching all learners, including those with diverse needs. ESSA defines Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as a scientifically valid framework for guiding educational practice that — (A) provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and students are engaged; (B) reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports and challenges, while maintaining high achievement expectations for all students, including students with disabilities and students who are limited English proficient.

The law also calls for states to create plans for comprehensive literacy instruction and to incorporate UDL principles in those plans. ESSA states that federal money can be used for technology that supports these strategies. UDL is for any and all learners— but how do you include your diverse students and those with disabilities? Assistive Technology (AT) makes UDL possible!

AT, Assistive Technology

AT has the potential to foster engagement, provide access and personalize learning. Students attend and respond with varied learning preferences plus personalized methods allow them to process information, engage in a learning activity, interact with the learning environment and express their knowledge in ways that accommodate their variability. With the ever-changing nature of technology and advancements in communication and learning tools, educators often feel as though they are underprepared in regards to the most effective way to support all students including those struggling with literacy and access on varied devices.


After first issuing 1:1 iPads, laptops and Chromebooks, many schools are now implementing BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) programs that provide more choice for educators and learners. Some are “Going Google” with Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education (GAFE). How do you support diverse learners on all devices, using free and low cost apps & AT solutions?

Join the Future of Education Technology Conference 2017 workshop How to Engage and Include Diverse Learners on All Devices Across Curricula. In the informative and engaging workshop, Diana Petschauer, ATP and Dr. Luis Pérez, will feature hands-on demonstrations and activities for attendees interested in building the bridge to learning through technology.  They will teach a number of built-in accessibility features. Plus provide as a number of free and low cost apps, extensions, add-ons and web resources to support students with literacy and executive function as well as math. The presenters will also show how to access textbooks and learning materials such as handouts and worksheets, research and study skills and completing assignments using technology. AT and app solutions to support students with learning disabilities including dyslexia, physical and sensory disabilities, and difficulties with executive functioning, literacy and math will also be discussed. Attendees will receive a powerful toolkit for fostering access and success across all platforms, devices and subjects!

About the Authors:

Diana Petschauer, M.Ed., ATP is a RESNA certified Assistive Technology Professional and founder of AT for Education ( Diana has more than 20 years of experience in Special Education & Assistive Technology, preK-12, Postsecondary and adult services. She presents nationally & internationally including at conferences such as FETC, ATCNE, Closing the Gap, CSUN, ACTEM, ATIA & ARATA. Diana is a faculty trainer for the Center on Technology and Disability ( as well as ATinNH at the UNH Institute on Disability. Diana manages her multi-disciplinary team of consultants who provide AT & AAC evaluations, training & accessibility services for students and adults to access education, the workplace & community.

Dr. Luis Pérez is an inclusive learning consultant based in St. Petersburg, Florida. He has more than a decade of experience working with educators to help them integrate technology in ways that empower all learners. Luis holds a doctorate in special education and a master’s degree in instructional technology from the University of South Florida, and he is the author of Mobile Learning for All: Supporting Accessibility with the iPad, from Corwin Press. Luis was selected as an Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) in 2009, as a Google in Education Certified Innovator (formerly Google Certified Teacher) in 2014. His work has appeared in publications such as Teaching Exceptional Children, Closing the Gap Solutions, THE Journal and The Loop Magazine.  Luis has presented at national and international conferences such as South by Southwest EDU, CSUN and Closing the Gap.


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