Universal Design for Learning at the University of Vermont

August 6, 2010
by Holly Buckland Parker

CAST UDL online modules

I was in a consultation with a faculty member who told me that the UDL online modules by CAST were very helpful in learning more about UDL.  I thought this would be a good time to link to them on the blog while it is fresh in my mind.


These modules are written for pre-service and in-service K-12 teachers.  However, the content can be applied to the higher education setting as well.

You might also be interested in CAST’s YouTube channel.


Enjoy and let me know what you think.

Holly Parker, UDL@UVM grant team member

August 6, 2010
by Jacob Z. Klein
1 Comment

PDF Accessibility: a rough guide to making accessible forms

As someone who has illegible hand writing, learning how to use PDF programs has been so useful! To me, it is the difference of never having to stand over someone’s shoulder to translate the scribbles I made on their application form. Instead I can fill out a form from my computer, making it universally easy to read, professional and grammatically correct. People notice my work for the right reasons saying, “wow, that is easy to read”, rather than for the more embarrassing reason of how difficult to read my hand writing is.

When I try to write, I sometimes forget words, punctuation and make frequent spelling errors, and correcting all those mistakes ends up making forms vary mssy very messy. If PDFs are made the right way, they allow users to fill in necessary information, edit and proof without making a mess. The number one reason I care enough to make my own PDF forms is for the spell check. People really judge you if you use incorrect spelling. Also, the abillity to erase, save, copy/paste and use a dictation program such as Dragon Naturally Speaking. Dictation programs are great for eliminating contextual errors,  like writing “right”, instead of “write”. Another technique I use is employing the use of a text-to-speech program so that I can listen to my own writing, spoken by the computer, which helps me improve my paper further.  A typical example would be to listen and find pronouns that I forgot to put in, e.g. “going the store”, where I meant to say, “going to the store”.

The goal of the UDL at UVM grant is provide resources to incorporate Universal Design principles in to UVM courses. One place on campus to find help making accessible material is the UDTL. The Universal Design Technology Lab (Bailey Howe Library on the 2nd Floor, Monday-Friday 8am-4:00pm, 802-656-5537). The Universal Design Technology Lab (UDTL) specializes in assistive technologies that help with reading, writing, studying and information access. Also don’t be shy, ask for another format when you are given a form that is difficult to fill out. If you are making a form please make it accessible and don’t be afraid to ask for help and for feedback.


The rough guide starts here, you will need have intermediate understanding of personal information laws, scanning, OCR text recognition, general computer accessibility and adobe acrobat professional in you mental tool belt to get the most out of it, but I encourage all of you to read through it.

How I make PDFs forms accessible for myself starting with a normal printed form:

  1. Scan the form as a pdf (72 dpi min, 200 max. is my suggestion)
  2. Open form in adobe acrobat professional
  3. If the your scan looks bad (fuzzy, tilted, unclear, etc.) start over
  4. Run OCR text recognition
  5. Run Find Form Fields
  6. With the form menu add form elements it did not find
  7. Fill in the form with by typing
  8. Print the form and mail it in.

How I make basic pdf forms:

  1. Start in adobe acrobat professional
  2. Make new blank pdf
  3. Add your form fields
  4. Be sure label each field with what you want to be typed or hand written inside of it
  5. Listen to form using to read out feature in acrobat
  6. Set security to limit use of form to only the way you intend. Check with your IT person if you are not sure.     uvm.edu/it

What are PDF? Portable Document Format were developed by Adobe in 1993, the format is designed work on any computer with any operating system. It can read-documents out loud, provide text equivalents for pictures and accept computer typing into documents while providing a level of security similar to a printed and hand written legal document. It has become a very popular format for medical, corporate and government offices which have set up paperless system. I have even heard about how some doctors offices will higher a company to use machines to open and scan all their mail into PDFs because they are flooded with insurance claim documentation.

Selected references referring to PDF Accessibility from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portable_Document_Format, Retrieved on 2010-08-06

  1. “PDF Accessibility”. WebAIM. http://www.webaim.org/techniques/acrobat/. Retrieved 2010-04-24.
  2. Joe Clark (2005-08-22). “Facts and Opinions About PDF Accessibility”. http://www.alistapart.com/articles/pdf_accessibility. Retrieved 2010-04-24.
  3. “Accessibility and PDF documents”. Web Accessibility Center. http://wac.osu.edu/pdf/. Retrieved 2010-04-24.
  4. “PDF Accessibility Standards v1.2”. http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/futuremedia/accessibility/accessible_pdf.shtml. Retrieved 2010-04-24.
  5. (PDF) PDF Accessibility, California State University, http://www.csus.edu/training/handouts/workshops/creating_accessible_pdfs.pdf, retrieved 2010-04-24
  6. “Adobe Reader 8 – Read a PDF with Read Out Loud”. http://help.adobe.com/en_US/Reader/8.0/help.html?content=WS58a04a822e3e50102bd615109794195ff-7d15.html. Retrieved 2010-04-24.
  7. “Tip of the Week: Adobe Reader’s ‘Read Aloud’ Feature”. http://gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/10/tip-of-the-week-adobe-readers-read-aloud-feature/. Retrieved 2010-04-24.
  8. (PDF) Accessing PDF documents with assistive technology: A screen reader user’s guide, Adobe, http://www.adobe.com/accessibility/pdfs/accessing-pdf-sr.pdf, retrieved 2010-04-24
  9. Chris Rusbridge (2008-04-29). “Why PDF is a Hamburger”. http://wwmm.ch.cam.ac.uk/blogs/murrayrust/?p=1056. Retrieved 2010-04-24.

August 2, 2010
by zahrens
1 Comment

A Quick Introduction to Voice Recognition Software

Three easy to use applications for translating your spoken voice into text:

A chart of three voice recognition softwares

A chart of voice recognition software that assist people with writing by processing spoken voice and translating it into digital text.(speech to text)

Click on the image to get a clearer view.

Who is the user?

Doctors and lawyers are known to use voice recognition software to quickly ‘type out’ patient instructions and the like. Individuals with limited arm/hand functions; individuals with learning disabilities, such dyslexia, auditory comprehension/processing, written expression difficulties; individuals with ADD/ADHD all can benefit from speech to text applications.

Things to keep in mind about Voice Recognition software:
•    Voice recognition systems require consistent vocal control, pronunciation and diction.
•    Natural language functions will allow the user to issue verbal commands without memorizing awkward command syntax.
•    Natural language support may not be available on computer systems with unsupported hardware.
•    Voice files can be moved between computers, installed with compatible Dragon Naturally Speaking versions, for greater access to campus-wide resources.
•    Voice recognition systems require  continued correction.
•    Voice recognition systems are best suited for use by patient and motivated individuals willing to commit the time to properly correct misrecognition errors.

This information was taken from a  presentation  at an AHEAD conference.  For a full list of materials and more detailed information on the conference go the AHEAD conference website.

Continue Reading →

July 23, 2010
by Jacob Z. Klein

Blackboard Accessibility

Blackboard Accessibility Home Page
The videos linked below are recorded sessions in which a blind user is using JAWS to interact with and complete various tasks in Blackboard Learn including submitting an assignment, taking a test, building content and grading students.

JAWS Demo Links
Student Submitting an Assignment
Logging into Blackboard Learn
Incorrect Login Messaging
Student Using “My Places” to Locate Course
Student Navigating the Course Homepage
Student Navigating Course Content
Student Taking a Test
Student Viewing Grades
Instructor Adding Course Content
Instructor Creating Assignment
Instructor Grading Assignment

Another interesting find on their site: The Blackboard Accessibility Grant organized in coordination with the National Federation of the Blind, Download the Grant Application.

July 19, 2010
by Jacob Z. Klein
1 Comment

New UDL and CDCI are going Google about web accessibility

CDCI and UDL are going on a content frenzy to put as much of our great training material online. We are also going adding more navigational links to make our website easier to navigate. We realize that content is most important part of our website and the more the better. Since google is basically a hyper-advanced screen reader, making our website more google friendly make it more accessible over all. Happy googleing!


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