Prepared by Chuck Hitchcock and Skip Stahl
Founded in 1984 as the Center for Applied Special Technology, CAST is a nonprofit educational organization whose mission is to expand learning opportunities for all individuals, especially those with disabilities, through the development and use of innovative, technology-based resources. We pursue this mission through research, product development, and work in schools and educational settings that further Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
Through its applied research program, CAST investigates the needs of diverse learners and the effectiveness of UDL teaching tools and strategies in a variety of real-life contexts. Research is conducted in classrooms, homes and community organizations, and, increasingly, via the Internet. Support for this research comes from government agencies, foundations, corporations, other not-for-profit agencies, and individual donors. Applied research informs CAST's concept development and product design.
Product development at CAST focuses on the creation of accessible curricula and software that are defining the evolving standards of Universal Design for Learning. Current CAST products include a software tool designed to support learners of all ages who may lack the skills needed to read materials independently; evaluation tools for World Wide Web accessibility; and supported learning tools and curriculum in the areas of literacy, mathematics, science, and social studies. Products are developed in-house as well as in partnership with major educational publishers and university-based researchers.
For more information about CAST and its work: http://www.cast.org/
This page can be found at: http://www.cast.org/pd/initiatives/masterref.html.
Table of Contents
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CAST Initiatives, Resources, and Products
- National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) Development & Technical Assistance Centers
- National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum (NCAC) -- Archived Publications
- Universal Design for Learning: What is UDL?
- Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning
UDL Tools and Resources
- Thinking Reader
- Professional Development
- National Consortium on Universal Design for Learning
- The Future is in the Margins
Related Online Resources
- eText Sources
- To Learn More About Emerging Standards for eBooks
- Federal Legislation and Bills Related to Accessible Materials
- Guidance for Creating Accessible Materials
- Text-to-Speech Supported Reading Software
- Supported Reading Software with Magnification
- Talking Browsers
- Screen Readers
- Text-to-Speech Supported Reading Hardware
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CAST Initiatives, Resources, and Products
National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) Development & Technical Assistance Centers
The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs has awarded CAST two five-year Cooperative Agreements to establish two national centers to further develop and implement the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS). NIMAS guides the production and electronic distribution of digital versions of textbooks and other instructional materials so they can be more easily converted to accessible formats, including Braille and text-to-speech.
Version 1.0 of the NIMAS standard was developed in 2002-2004 by the National File Format Technical Panel comprised of forty technology specialists, educators, disability advocates, and publishers and is based on the ANSI/NISO Z39.86 (DAISY 3) specification.
For additional information, see http://nimas.cast.org
National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum (NCAC)In a collaborative agreement with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs, CAST has established a National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum to provide a vision of how new curricula, teaching practices, and policies can be woven together to create practical approaches for access to the general curriculum by students with disabilities. This five-year project brings together OSEP and five key partners: Boston College, the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), Harvard University, and the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER) to effect change that will improve learning outcomes for all students.
Now Available from NCAC
The publications listed below were developed by NCAC researchers to provide support to educators interested in learning about policies and practices related to improved access to the general curriculum. Most are available as Web pages and as downloadable Word and PDF documents.
Effective Classroom Practices
Supported by theory and research, each Classroom Practices report is written to provide the reader with a definition and description of essential features and attributes. Evidence of effectiveness is presented based on foundational and current research. The applications of each practice to the general education setting are addressed and finally, each report includes links to websites by primary researchers, developers, practitioners, and users which contain information, examples, and applications about the classroom practice.
- Explicit Instruction
- Differentiated Instruction
- Curriculum-Based Evaluations
- Classroom Management
- Peer Mediated Instruction and Intervention
- Differentiated Instruction with UDL
It is difficult to separate a course of study, media, and materials used for learning from the appropriate instructional methods; however, for clarity and to isolate selected details for study and discussion, we attempt to do so here. By querying the NCAC staff and affiliates, along with experts in the field, the Curriculum Group has selected a number of promising responses to barriers to the general curriculum (enhancements and/or accommodations) through which they have examined existing published research. The selected enhancements and/or accommodations represent a range of modalities, practices, and critical elements of Universal Design for Learning.
- Background Knowledge
- Graphic Organizers
- Text Transformations
- Curriculum Modification
- Virtual Reality/Simulations
- Background Knowledge with UDL
- Graphic Organizers with UDL
- Virtual Reality/Simulations with UDL
Teaching is a personally rewarding and increasingly challenging profession. Engaging students with disabilities in classroom instruction requires careful attention to planning for individual needs, making decisions about materials and activities, selecting fair and equitable assessments, accommodating for students' differences, modifying curriculum goals, and collaborating with families and other school personnel.
- Curriculum Access for Students with Low Incidence Disabilities: The Promise of Universal Design for Learning
- Technologies Supporting Curriculum Access for Students with Disabilities
- Effective Teaching Practices and the Barriers Limiting Their Use in Accessing the Curriculum
- Teacher Planning and the Universal Design for Learning Environments
- A Glimpse at Current Teaching Practices with Preliminary Survey Results
General and special education policies clearly influence practice within our schools. The National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum was interested in determining the impact of existing policies on access to, participation in, and progress within the general education curriculum.
- The Promise of Accessible Textbooks: Increased Achievement for All Students
- Access to the General Curriculum for Students with Disabilities: The Role of the IEP
- Access to the General Curriculum for Students with Disabilities: A Discussion of the Interrelationship between IDEA '97 and NCLB
- Post IDEA '97 Case Law and Administrative Decisions: Access to the General Curriculum
- Access to the General Curriculum for Students with Disabilities: A Brief Legal Interpretation
- Access to the General Curriculum for Students with Disabilities: A Brief for Parents and Teachers
- Policy, Property & Permissions II: Summary of May 7, 2004 Meeting
- NCAC Policy Group White Paper for Policy, Property & Permissions: A Discussion of Accessible Curriculum Materials on Ordering, Producing, and Obtaining Accessible Versions of Curriculum Materials for K-12 Students with Print Disabilities
- 2005 U.S. States and Territories Accessible Curriculum Survey
- Overview of State Studies
- Policy, Property and Permissions: A Discussion of Accessible Curriculum Materials
- Schools Without Rules? Charter Schools, Federal Disability Law, and the Paradoxes of Deregulation
- Disability, Race and High Stakes Testing
- High-Stakes Testing: Opportunities and Risks for Students of Color, English-Language Learners, and Students with Disabilities
- Update on Implementation of IDEA: Early Returns from State Studies
Policy Briefs Prepared by Martha Minow, Harvard Law School
- Funding Mechanisms in Special Education
- Limited English Proficient Students and Special Education
- Teacher Training: Recommendations for Change
- Related Services: Minnesota's System of Interagency Coordination
The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) helped NCAC connect with major education associations and organizations in order to increase awareness of Universal Design for Learning and the objectives of the National Center.
- General Education and Special Education Associations: A Comparison of Priority Issues and Key Terminology
- Balanced Instructional Support and Challenge in Universally Designed Learning Environments
- Technical Brief: Access, Participation, and Progress in the General Curriculum
December 1, 1999 and November 30, 04, Agreement Number H324H990004
Bonnie D. Jones, Project Officer, U.S. Department of Education
David Rose, Principal Investigator, CAST
Chuck Hitchcock, Project Director, CAST
Universal Design for Learning: What is UDL?
Drawing on new brain research and innovative media technologies to respond to individual learner differences, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a new paradigm for teaching, learning and assessment. For UDL to become a reality in schools, we need flexible materials from curriculum developers; policies that support individualized goals, learning methods, and assessment; professional development practices that support educators in the UDL approach. But implementing UDL is ultimately the province of teachers. With true learning and engagement for each student as the goal, teachers reframe learning goals, teaching techniques, materials and assessment, individualizing for each learner with the help of flexible learning tools and media.
No single curriculum or software program can provide all of the flexibility needed to create a UDL environment. This requires assembling a variety of tools, programs, materials, and Web sites that can be used in different combinations for different learners and for different teaching purposes. The flexibility comes in part from the collection itself, which enables varied approaches for reaching a given instructional goal, and in part from the inherent flexibility of each component.
To learn more about UDL: http://www.cast.org/research/udl/index.html
Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning
This book is a comprehensive presentation of the principles and applications of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a practical, research-based framework for responding to individual learning differences in the classroom.
The book is supported with a website which not only provides the text of the book online, but is enriched with multimedia examples of UDL as well as a number of interactive tutorials, tools and templates. The Teaching Every Student (TES) Web site supports educators in learning about and practicing Universal Design for Learning.
Visit the TES website: http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent
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UDL Tools and Resources
Education requires both challenge and resistance, and Universal Design for Learning (UDL)—the framework developed by CAST for teaching, learning, and the development, selection, and use of curriculum—requires careful attention to the goals of any given learning experience when selecting curriculum materials. UDL, as conceptualized by CAST, strives to make the curriculum adjustable for students with varied abilities and learning styles rather than forcing students to work with a set curriculum with inflexible materials. The tools and resources described on these linked pages support UDL concepts.
For UDL Tools and Resources: http://www.cast.org/products/index.html
Bobby (SM) was launched in 1996 to help Web designers throughout the world analyze their sites for accessibility for all Internet users, including those with disabilities. This interactive tool examines Web pages to identify potential barriers to access. Bobby offers prioritized suggestions based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines provided by the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Access Initiative. With the release of Bobby WorldWide, Web designers can now test their sites for compliance with the U.S. Federal Government's Section 508 standards. As Web designers use Bobby WorldWide, they learn how to address problems with their own sites and learn skills to design accessible sites in the future.
For more information about Bobby WorldWide: http://www.cast.org/bobby
Thinking Reader is the first software program to use the unabridged text of core literature—popular children's novels such as Roll of Thunder and The Giver—to give students instruction and practice in scientifically proven reading strategies. Based on CAST's research into digital learning environments and the research of renowned reading experts, Thinking Reader helps struggling readers and special-needs students read the same high quality stories as their peers.
Produced and distributed by Tom Snyder Productions, a division of Scholastic.
Visit the Tom Snyder Productions Website.
The first universally-designed beginning literacy series, WiggleWorks provides an award-winning blend of technology, literature, and teacher support to help children become successful readers and writers.
Guided by the framework of Universal Design for Learning, representatives of CAST assist teams of regular and special educators, administrators, and instructional resource coordinators to effect systemic change at the district, state, and national levels.
For additional information: http://www.cast.org/pd/index.html
National Consortium on Universal Design for Learning
CAST recently announced the formation of the National Consortium on UDL, a community of educators and other professionals dedicated to developing systemic practice models that better serve the educational needs of all students, especially those with disabilities. The principles of Universal Design for Learning are central to the mission of the National Consortium.
For more information about the Consortium: http://www.cast.org/pd/consortium/
The Future is in the Margins: The Role of Technology and Disability in Educational Reform.
This paper was prepared under contract to the American Institutes for Research on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology (Contract 282-98-0029).
To read this white paper: http://www.air.org/forum/AbRose_Meyer.htm
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Related Online Resources
The Accessible Book Collection
The Accessible Book Collection is a non-profit corporation whose primary mission is to provide high interest/low reading level digital text to qualified persons with disabilities. Government and non-profit schools and others can subscribe to the very affordable Accessible Book Collection and have a large selection of e-books for all their eligible students for one low price.
Bookshare.org dramatically increases access to books for the community of visually impaired and otherwise print disabled individuals. This online community enables book scans to be shared, thereby leveraging the collections of thousands of individuals who regularly scan books, eliminating significant duplication of effort. Bookshare.org takes advantage of a special exemption in the U.S. copyright law that permits the reproduction of publications into specialized formats for the disabled.
State libraries for the blind in Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Oregon, along with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), part of the Library of Congress, have partnered to launch an innovative digital audio book service for visually impaired users.
Unabridged enables blind patrons to check out and download digital spoken word audio books directly to their computers. The digital audio books can then be played back on a PC, transferred to a portable playback device, or burned onto CDs.
The Children's Literature Web Guide
"An attempt to gather together and categorize the growing number of Internet resources related to books for children and young adults. Much of the information that you can find through these pages is provided by others: fans, schools, libraries, and commercial enterprises involved in the book world."
A directory of books that can be freely read on the Web, plus an index to thousands of online books & text archives.
With an eBookMan you can access the Franklin Free Library. Search the Franklin Free library for thousands of free titles for eBookMan. Free text and HTML files can be read in the Franklin Viewer application. Select titles are also available for purchase as Franklin Reader eBooks, which means they are searchable, require less memory, and offer additional features such as the ability to place bookmarks.
The Project Gutenberg philosophy is to make information, books and other materials available to the general public in forms a vast majority of the computers, programs and people can easily read, use, quote, and search.
A consortium of disability service providers who share electronic texts (e-texts) with each other. These e-texts are used to accommodate students with disabilities. The TTE also provides information on the creation and use of e-texts. The TTE maintains an online digital library of e-texts, accessible only by TTE consortium members.
The National Academy Press (NAP)
Created by the National Academies to publish the reports issued by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council, all operating under a charter granted by the Congress of the United States. The National Academy Press is the first publisher to provide its books entirely on-line, in full text format.
A free online library that offers thousands of free books for students, teachers, and the classic enthusiast.
University of Virginia's Electronic Text Center
The Electronic Text Center provides access to over 5,000 texts (1,000 of these are available for the Microsoft Reader format), including classic British and American fiction, children's literature, and books on American history.
Audible's broad collection of audio books, audio magazines and daily audio digests of leading newspapers from over 100 content providers will be available for seamless PC- based playback using the Windows Media Player, representing a significant addition to the listening options available to users of Windows Media. In addition, downloaded programs are played back through the Audible MobilePlayer or MobilePlayer-Plus, 3.5-ounce, handheld playback peripherals, or through a computer's sound system.
Bartleby.com houses an online collection of copyright-free books that come with navigational and cross-referencing tools. E-book versions for personal computers or handheld devices can be downloaded for $1 per title.
RosettaBooks claims to be the leading electronic publisher of quality backlist books focused exclusively on the electronic medium. RosettaBooks delivers content in a range of e-book formats compatible with all emerging e-book platforms, i.e. MS Reader, Acrobat eBook Reader, Adobe PDF, Gemstar REB1100, Gemstar REB10, Peanut for Palm, Peanut for P.P.C., and Night Kitchen TK3.
To Learn More About Emerging Standards for eBooks
Open eBook Forum
The purpose of the Open eBook Forum (OEBF) is to create and maintain standards and promote the successful adoption of electronic books. The Open eBook Forum (OEBF) is an association of hardware and software companies, publishers, authors and users of electronic books, and related organizations whose goals are to establish common specifications for electronic book systems, applications, and products that will benefit creators of content, makers of reading systems, and most importantly, consumers, helping to catalyze the adoption of electronic books; to encourage the broad acceptance of these specifications on a worldwide basis among members of the Forum, related industries and the public; and to increase awareness and acceptance of the emerging electronic publishing industry.
Specifications for the Digital Talking Book - ANSI/NISO Z39.86 - 02
HTML version: http://www.niso.org/standards/resources/Z39-86-2002.html
PDF version: http://www.niso.org/standards/resources/Z39-86-2002.pdf
Abstract: This standard defines the format and content of the electronic file set that comprises a digital talking book (DTB) and establishes a limited set of requirements for DTB playback devices. It uses established and new specifications to delineate the structure of DTBs whose content can range from XML text only, to text with corresponding spoken audio, to audio with little or no text. DTBs are designed to make print material accessible and navigable for blind or otherwise print-disabled persons. ANSI Approval Date: 03/06/02, Status: Approved and Published Standard.
The DAISY Consortium is establishing the International Standard for the production, exchange, and use of the next generation of "Digital Talking Books." The DAISY Consortium is made up of organizations world-wide serving persons who are blind or print disabled.
World Wide Web Consortium
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops interoperable technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and tools) to lead the Web to its full potential as a forum for information, commerce, communication, and collective understanding.
Federal Legislation and Bills Related to Accessible Materials
National Library Service Factsheet Information about Copyright Law Amendment, 1996: PL 104-197
"Under the Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, H.R. 3754, Congress approved a measure, introduced by Senator John H. Chafee (R-R.I.) on July 29, 1996, that provides for an exemption affecting the National Library Service program. On September 16, 1996, the bill was signed into law by President Clinton. The Chafee amendment to chapter 1 of title 17, United States Code, adds section 121, establishing a limitation on the exclusive rights in copyrighted works. The amendment allows authorized entities to reproduce or distribute copies or phonorecords of previously published nondramatic literary works in specialized formats exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities."
Guidance for Creating Accessible Materials
American Council of the Blind (ACB)
"A Guide to Making Documents Accessible to People who are Blind or Visually Impaired" is available from The American Council of the Blind (ACB) at their Web site, and can be downloaded free of charge. A grant allowed ACB to develop the publication which can be purchased in print, large print, audiocassette, or braille (at minimal cost). The guide also contains links to other blindness organizations where readers can find additional resources concerning braille, large print, audible formats on tape and CD, and electronic and online publishing guidance to assure accessibility.
Read & Write
TextHelp, now known as Read & Write, is a text-to-speech software program available in Windows format for users grade 2 to adult.
This all-purpose text-to-speech software reads any text you see on your screen and is available in free and "plus" version.
This Internet Explorer add-on reads any web page aloud to you, highlights words in Internet Explorer, creates .mp3 or .wav files from web pages, generates text only version from any web page, magnifies objects (pages, text, pictures and scrollbars), and translates web pages into four languages. In addition there is a dictionary function and capability to add your own pronunciation.
Tex-Edit Plus is a scriptable, styled text editor that fills the gap between Apple's bare-bones SimpleText and a full-featured word processor. It's fast, efficient, and has a clean, uncluttered interface. It's also great for cleaning up text that is transmitted over the Internet.
E-Text Reader is designed to be a reading tool. You can use it for opening up and reading existing documents in your computer or you can cut and paste from any program on your computer. You can even insert pictures into the text. It is an “easy to use” reader that gives you the ability to change voices, read at any speed, and even allows you to make notes into the document you are reading.
Microsoft Reader is a free software application designed to deliver an on-screen computer reading experience that for the first time approaches the convenience and quality of paper.
Microsoft Reader is the first product to include ClearType display technology. ClearType greatly improves resolution on LCD screens to deliver a print-like display. Microsoft Reader also pays strict attention to the traditions and benefits of good typography. It offers a clean, uncluttered layout; ample margins; proper spacing, leading, and kerning; plus powerful tools for book marking, highlighting, and annotation. Support for SAPI 4 and SAPI 5 voices is included.
Adobe® Reader® 7.0 is free software that lets you view, print, search, and share Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files more securely using a variety of platforms and devices. Commenting tools enabled by Adobe Acrobat® 7.0 Professional software let you actively participate in document reviews. Adobe Reader 7.0 features a faster launch time and real-time zooming and panning.
Supported Reading Software with Magnification
(No Text-to-Speech Support)
An Open eBook (OeB) Reader application that exceeds the low vision requirements for both the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508. Installed as a downloaded application, the eMonocle Reader will offer standard features of word and phrase search with navigational controls (either keyboard or mouse commands). Page turning commands mimic the real life book turning experience; no scrolling or page manipulation is required to read text or graphics from one page to the next. Any graphic may easily be enlarged or rotated for improved viewing at a click of a button to fill the entire screen or larger than screen size for full detail disclosure.
Similar to the eReader but designed for those with visual impairments.
IBM HomePage Reader brings the world of the Internet to users who are blind or have low vision. It is an award-winning talking Web browser that uses the power of speech to aid users in exploring the World Wide Web. Originally created as an assistive technology for users who are blind or have low vision, HomePage Reader's visual user interface and easy-to-learn keyboard navigation make it a popular accessibility test tool for Web developers.
Firefox is a fast, full-featured browser that makes browsing more efficient than ever before. FoxyVoice is a free extension to FireFox that adds text-to-speech capabilities.
Jaws for Windows
JAWS (Job Access With Speech) provides speech technology that works with your Windows 95/98/Me or Windows NT/00 operating system to provide access to today's popular software applications and the Internet. JAWS uses an integrated voice synthesizer and your computer's sound card to output the content of your computer screen to speakers. JAWS also outputs to refreshable Braille displays. This technology provides access to a wide variety of information, education, and job-related applications.
Window-Eyes is a screen access program for Windows 95 and 98 that allows a blind or visually impaired person access to Windows and Windows applications. Window-Eyes includes a free copy of the Microsoft text-to-speech. If you are using Windows 9X and have a compatible sound card this speech is an alternative to expensive dedicated voice synthesizers.
Text-to-Speech Supported Reading Hardware
AudioPlus BooksRecording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D)
Celebrating their 50th Anniversary as the nation's educational library for people with print disabilities, RFB&D has a 77,000-title library of taped textbooks, reference and professional materials for people who cannot read standard print because of a disability. Internationally, they serve nearly 78,000 people with "print disabilities" (which include blindness, visual impairments, learning disabilities or other physical disabilities) and have titles available for students in kindergarten through post-graduate studies. The library includes a broad selection of titles from literature to history to math and the sciences. They also have a large selection of reference and professional materials available for members.
RFB&D has developed its digitally recorded textbooks in cooperation with two standard-setting organizations: an international group known as the DAISY Consortium (Digital Accessible Information SYstem) and NISO (National Information Standards Organization).
AFB Talking Books
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has recorded tens of thousands of titles for the U.S. Library of Congress onto millions of records and cassettes. AFB's full digital and analog recording, editing, duplication, and packaging services are now available to a whole new audience that has recognized the reach and convenience of a spoken-word audio product.
CAST, Inc., 40 Harvard Mills Square, Suite 3, Wakefield, MA 01880-3233 USA
Voice +1 781-245-2212
TTY +1 781-245-93
Fax +1 781-245-5212
Chief Education Technology Officer and Director, NIMAS Technical Assistance Center
Voice +1 781-245-2212 Ext. 233
Director of Technical Assistance and Director, NIMAS Development Center
Voice +1 781-245-2212 Ext. 249