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Assistive Technology & Universal Design

Reading Technology

Read & Write Gold, a screen reading software program, is available to all students, faculty, and staff for reading, writing, and studying.

Read & Write Gold highlights and reads aloud any word, sentence, or paragraph in your document, providing both audio and visual learning components as you read. Other features include:

  • Phonetic spell check
  • Verb checker 
  • Digital highlighting
  • Talking Calculator

Read and Write Gold is available for Windows as well as Apple computers.  To learn more, please contact Disability Services.

Students who use reading technology typically see positive results, such as:

  • Enhanced auditory and visual learning
  • Reduced distractions while reading
  • The ability read for longer periods of time
  • Increased interactive learning
  • Reduced fatigue while reading
  • More effective and efficient reading
  • Improved comprehension
  • Better writing skills and processes
  • Enhanced overall learning

Electronic Text

Students who are certified with Disability Services, have purchased conventional textbooks and require electronic formats of their books are eligible to receive PDF and DAISY versions of their books. These files will be provided on flash drive and are intended to be used with the Read & Write Gold software.  In order to request e-texts through Disability Services, students must provide proof of purchase for their textbooks and complete the following forms: 

Reading Technology Request Form (one for each textbook)

Reading Technology Agreement Form

Smart Pens

Students who are certified with Disability Services and require note taking assistance as an accommodation are eligible to participate in our Smart Pen program. Participating students will be provided with a Smart Pen, one digital notebook, and the accompanying software application to use for one semester.  Smart Pens allow students to record the audio of a lecture and pair it with the written notes for studying.  This assures students are able to review any part of a lecture for clarity.  The Smart Pen assists with these tasks:

  • Provides accurate note taking
  • Organizes notes chronologically and in digital format
  • Ensures students won't miss any part of the lecture due to writing notes or a lapse in attention

Other Assistive Technology

Disability Services is dedicated to creating an accessible learning environment that supports students' independence.  To this end, Disability Services continually explores new assistive technology devices and software solutions.  Disability Services works one-on-one with students to find specific software, apps, and devices when the need arises.  This may include:

  • FM transmitters for the hard of hearing
  • Audio recording devices
  • Smartphone and tablet apps for accessibility
  • Screen magnification software
  • Speech to text software

Universal Design

Universal Design is the principle of designing all products and built environments so they are aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent by everyone, regardless of ability or age. It can be applied to the design of learning experiences as well.  “Universal Design” was coined by Ron Mace, an engineer with a disability who founded the Center for Universal Design at NC State University in 1989. The Center for Universal Design is a national information, technical assistance and research leader which promotes greater accessibility for all. More information and resources related to Universal Design.


Click here for a color poster illustrating these principles

  1. PRINCIPLE ONE: Equitable Use
    The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
  2. PRINCIPLE TWO: Flexibility in Use
    The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  3. PRINCIPLE THREE: Simple and Intuitive Use
    Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
  4. PRINCIPLE FOUR: Perceptible Information
    The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
  5. PRINCIPLE FIVE: Tolerance for Error
    The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

    PRINCIPLE SIX: Low Physical Effort
    The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
  6. PRINCIPLE SEVEN: Size and Space for Approach and Use
    Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility.

Please note that the Principles of Universal Design address only universally usable design, while the practice of design involves more than consideration for usability. Designers must also incorporate other considerations such as economic, engineering, cultural, gender, and environmental concerns in their design processes. These Principles offer designers guidance to better integrate features that meet the needs of as many users as possible.

Copyright 1997 NC State University, The Center for Universal Design


Universal Design for learning is a set of principles for flexible curriculum development that can be tailored to individuals’ needs so that all individuals have an equal opportunity to learn.

The three principles are based on neuroscience research, and this is a simplified explanation. Click here for a color poster describing these principles in detail. For additional information, visit the National Center on Universal Design for Learning website.

  1. Principle I: Provide Multiple Means of Representation (the “what” of learning).
    Learners differ in the ways that they perceive and comprehend information that is presented to them and may require different ways of approaching content. There is not one means of representation that will be optimal for all learners; providing options for representation is essential.
  2. Principle II: Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression (the “how” of learning).
    Learners differ in the ways that they can navigate a learning environment and express what they know. Action and expression require a great deal of strategy, practice, and organization, and this is another area in which learners can differ. There is not one means of action and expression that will be optimal for all learners; providing options for action and expression is essential.
  3. Principle III: Provide Multiple Means of Engagement (the “why” of learning).
    Learners differ markedly in the ways in which they can be engaged or motivated to learn. There are a variety of sources that can influence individual variation in what attracts attention and engages interest including neurology, culture, personal relevance, subjectivity, and background knowledge, among other factors. Some learners are highly engaged by spontaneity and novelty while other are disengaged, even frightened, by those aspects, preferring strict routine. Some learners might like to work alone, while others prefer to work with their peers. In reality, there is not one means of engagement that will be optimal for all learners in all contexts; providing multiple options for engagement is essential.

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Contact Information
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(919) 760-8427
Fax: (919) 760-2383
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