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Universal Design for Learning to Help All Children Read: Promoting Literacy for Learners with Disabilities

All children, with or without a disability, can learn to read and should have equal access to quality instruction. No single category of disability should be prioritized above others. Even as countries are still building programs, policies and structures towards the transition from a segregated educational system to one that promotes inclusion, it is important that the foundations for inclusion are progressively and responsibly realized so all students can learn.

In September 2018, the Global Reading Network launched a toolkit, UNIVERSAL DESIGN FOR LEARNING TO HELP ALL CHILDREN READ: Promoting Literacy for Learners with Disabilities. It is linked below in English, in French -- LA CONCEPTION UNIVERSELLE DE L'APPRENTISSAGE POUR AIDER TOUS LES ENFANTS À LIRE: Promouvoir l'alphabétisation des apprenants handicapés -- and in Spanish -- DISEÑO UNIVERSAL PARA EL APRENDIZAJE PARA AYUDAR A TODOS LOS NIÑOS A LEER: Promoción de la alfabetización en estudiantes con discapacidad.

This toolkit adheres to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, supporting inclusive education as the most appropriate educational setting for students with disabilities. The toolkit supports the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) educational framework, which guides the development of flexible learning environments that accommodate individuals with learning differences.

Providing evidence-based research and information on effective teaching techniques, the toolkit offers information on how to teach early literacy skills to students with different categories of disabilities, including how to best apply these theoretical approaches in practice in Low- and Moderate- Income Country (LMIC) settings. Although the toolkit provides information on multiple aspects of literacy (grammar, spelling and writing), the techniques and interventions focus on the concept of reading as taught in the early years of primary school.

Specifically, the toolkit describes:

• the phases of literacy for students with disabilities

• supports and services that can be used to gain literacy skills

• specific instructional techniques using the framework of UDL

• suggestions to monitor students’ progress

• funding practices and suggestions for a phased approach to move towards inclusive education

• a self-reflection checklist that covers many of the items in the toolkit to help educational systems recognize possible gaps and areas for improvement

For an introducation to the toolkit by lead author Anne Hayes, please click here for the toolkit's User Guide video in English.

Please click here for the toolkit User Guide video in International Sign by Christopher Tester.

The toolkit and video were created by the Reading within Reach (REACH) initiative, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and managed by University Research Co. under contract no: AID-OAA-M-14-00001, MOBIS#: GS-10F-0182T.


Anne Hayes
Norma Moran
Ann Turnbull
Global Reading Network
Date Published: 
September 7, 2018
Publication Type: 
Toolkit for Teaching Students Living with Disabilities and User's Guide Video
Teachers and Teaching
Testing and Assessment
Text and Materials
Instructional Time
Parent & Community Involvement/Support
Information and Communication Technology
Emergent Literacy
Scaling Up/Scalability
Metrics and Protocols
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