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Educators & Students with Learning Disabilities: Digital Applications & Website Design

Useful for elementary and secondary administrators, librarians, classroom teachers, and parents and students with Learning Disabilities

Desktop & Laptop Environments

Summary of Findings that are Applicable to Students with Learning Disabilities Using Computers

Kumar, Shiv Nath, Sangun Baijal, Leena Chourney, Aparna Ramamurthy, and M. Sasikumar. (2012) "Conceptualizing a Desktop Environment for Cognitively Challenged People," CUBE 2012.

Computers users who have LDs need clear, simple, consistent instructions to follow. They often understand pictoral representations better than text, and remember through recreation. They find it difficult to understand when flooded with too many selections or instructions at a time. 

Issues and challenges

  • Presentation of content. Layout, text-only, cluttered format, and multiple fonts, colors, and sizes will not suit users with reading disabilities. 
  • Design & usability considerations. Conventional design and operating procedures are too complex, even with basic tasks such as opening and closing an application.
  • Task identification, selection, & execution. For users with memory and organizational issues they may easily forget where to locate and access a particular task or application, and problems will arise in sequencing when surfing the web.
  • Navigation barriers. A structure that has multiple paths of information access, a large number or decision-making points and multi-level organization of resources imposes barriers to LD users. 
  • Language barriers. Users may not be able to read printed text or input text in proper manner.

Proposed solutions

  • Provide simple  easy layout with minimum number of items on the desktop.
  • Size of items on desktop should be large enough with label in bigger font to enhance readability.
  • Frequently used applications should be put on desktop.
  • Proper spacing between items.
  • Task list can be provided to list and manage what the user is supposed to perform.
  • Provide a mechanism to list all of the activities performed by the user on a particular session, as an additional cue to recall activities and resources.
  • Prompting mechanism to help users.
  • Tagged file system--by images or simple text.

Applications, Software, Freeware

A Selection of Fee and Free Software & Applications

Students with learning differences are best taught using multi-sensory methods.  With access to technology, hardware options, software, & apps, both as subscription and free resources, even more can be accomplished.

Organizational strategies are often critical and life-changing for students.

Letting students use their best modalities to receive and present their knowledge is essential and contributes to their sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.

WebSite Design

Website Design

Keep in mind that you want to present resources in a way that makes them accessible--easy to find and use with visual cues. Minimize visual competition and among your selections provide material with audio capabilities and resources whenever possible. Many subscription databases now offer this option to the user.

Color, Contrast, Design

  • Avoid italics, cursive, serif (lines added to ends of letters) fonts
  • Use sans-serif fonts (Arial or Trebuchet)
  • Maximize white space--no long "lists" of links
  • No flashing graphics or images
  • Eliminate pop-ups
  • Use logos of websites in addition to words.

Consistency, Ease of Use

  • Consistent design and color for each page
  • Same layout for each page
  • Always have a RETURN to... on the page
  • Use "Universal Design" UDL Guidelines (National Center on Universal Design for Learning)

Minimize Choices

  • Choose the best (links, ideas) that are presented in the most accessible way
  • Too many choices can overwhelm some students with learning differences
  • Those that need more, use "see also" or "More..."

Pathfinders, LibGuides, Research Guides, Curated Pages, Pinterist

  • Teaches organization, prioritizing, helps with evaluation of sources
  • Librarian or teacher created pathfinders and research guides
  • Student created pathfinders to present knowledge
  • Free Pathfinders:
    • or other "curated" pages
    • Pinterest 
    • LiveBinders 
  • Subscription Pathfinders
    • LibGuides (also prepares for college library research)

Choose Audio Alternative Sources Whenever Possible

  • When students can select a professionally produced audio source, especially one that displays the text as well, this is the "gold standard." More and more of these resources are becoming available (for example, Cengage/Gale). Here are just a sampling of FREE resources from across the curricula:
    • Poetry Archive
    • Oyez
    • National Library of Virtual Manipulatives
    • Aesop's Fables
    • The World of Peter Rabbit