Have you ever been projecting a website onto a screen to show students or other teachers and had someone say “can you enlarge that/make the font bigger?” or have you wished that you could have your device read something out loud to you while you’re taking notes? Are you one of those people who prefers dark mode on your mobile device?
All of these issues have something in common. They all allude to the reality that there are as many types of technology users in the world as there are people and something that works well for one person isn’t at all helpful for another.
Lucky for us, the people who design and create technology and well-versed in accessibility and universal design. They (generally) understand the idea that technology should be created so that it has built-in adaptability that will allow users to change settings in any device to make it work better for them.
I’m a little biased here, but I think Apple products do a great job of this! When I click on System Preferences on my Macbook, there is a whole section called “Accessibility”. These go way beyond the helpful, but kind of creepy, Siri! I can choose simple shortcuts to zoom in and out on my screen, I can enlarge just what is under my cursor, I can increase the size of that cursor, I can get the device to allow me to edit text and give commands with just my voice…the options go on and on and many of these same types of options are available on Apple mobile devices, too! To learn more about Apple’s accessibility features, click here.
Not to be outdone, Windows devices have many of the same features. Click here to get started on learning more.
Chromebook also has universal design features, which you can learn about here.
For those of us lucky enough to teach in a district that has any version of TextHelp’s Read and Write, we’re….well, lucky!! Read and Write has many of these same types of accessibility tools. (Here are a few blog posts about Read & Write for Chrome, here and here) Best of all, they’re all in one easy-to-navigate toolbox and kids love them. I have worked with numerous students who found these tools to be real game changers. I will never forget the look on one little grommet’s face when he told me that Read & Write’s voice to text feature made him feel like all the other kids because he could “write” just as much as they could. For the first time in his life. (I’m not crying – you are!)
Universal design and accessibility features are there to support everyone. From the little writer who finally felt like his classmates to my aging-but-still-techie parents who like being able to increase the font. Take some time to learn which accessibility feature on your device might help you out and then help your students do the same thing!
As Martha Stewart would say….universal design and accessibility…it’s a good thing!