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Toolkit Offers Guidance on Promoting Literacy for Students with Disabilities

Toolkit Offers Guidance on Promoting Literacy for Students with Disabilities

By: Anne Hayes

In honor of International Literacy Day, USAID’s Reading within Reach (REACH) project and the Global Reading Network will launch, on September 7th, the long-anticipated Literacy for All: How to Use Universal Design for Learning to Promote Literacy Skills for Students with Disabilities. The premise of this groundbreaking toolkit is that all children with disabilities can learn to read and should have equal access to quality literacy instruction.

Using the principles of Universal Design for Learning, the toolkit offers guidance on providing literacy instruction in inclusive educational settings for students with disabilities. The main audience for this toolkit is USAID Education Officers and implementing partners working in the area of literacy for students during early grades. This document may also be helpful to support Ministries of Education (MOEs), Disabled Persons Organizations (DPOs), families of children with disabilities, teachers, and administrators in their efforts to improve education for students with disabilities.

Although the toolkit focuses on educational techniques to support literacy for students with disabilities, these evidence-based practices are also fundamental good practices to be applied to all students. In other words, the interventions proposed in the toolkit will improve literacy skills for students with and without disabilities.

The toolkit was developed through a participatory process. This involved input from educational stakeholders through the Global Reading Network, expert interviews with more than 30 key stakeholders, extensive desk review of more than 500 articles, documents, reports and books, and findings from an Experts Meeting on Literacy and Learning. The toolkit contains the following chapters and content:

• Chapter 1 – introduction to the toolkit

• Chapter 2 - information about students with disabilities

• Chapter 3 - information on supports and services that can be put into place to promote the acquisition of literacy skills

• Chapter 4 - phases of literacy for students with disabilities, instructional techniques using the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, and suggestions for monitoring of student progress

• Chapter 5 - discussion of how to go from theory into practice, with recommendations for funding practices and suggestions for a phased approach towards inclusive education systems

In addition to the toolkit, several other complimentary documents and training opportunities will be showcased:

• A webinar on September 7 will highlight the content of the toolkit and the experiences of other stakeholders in supporting literacy efforts for students with disabilities.

• A short course will provide an overview of the toolkit and how to use the toolkit to improve literacy opportunities for students with disabilities.

• A short guide on how to use the toolkit in different low- and middle-income settings released in tandem with the toolkit.

We hope the toolkit will be used in other trainings by implementers and become a foundational and guiding document to help improve literacy opportunities for all students. The toolkit was developed by Anne Hayes, Ann Turnbull and Norma Moran.

For further information about the toolkit, please contact Deepa Srikantaiah at or Richard Felty at

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Anne Hayes