Guideline 1: Provide options for perception

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To be effective in diverse classrooms, curricula must present information in ways that are perceptible to all students. It is impossible to learn information that is imperceptible to the learner, and difficult when information is presented in formats that require extraordinary effort or assistance. To reduce barriers to learning, therefore, it is important to ensure that key information is equally perceptible to all students by: 1) providing the same information through different sensory modalities (e.g. through vision, or hearing, or touch); 2) providing information in a format that will allow for adjustability by the user (e.g. text that can be enlarged, sounds that can be amplified). Such multiple representations not only ensure that information is accessible to students with particular sensory and perceptual disabilities, but also easier to access for many others. When the same information, for example, is presented in both speech and text, the complementary representations enhance comprehensibility for most students.

1.1 Options that customize the display of information

In print materials, the display of information is fixed, permanent, one size fits all. In properly prepared digital materials, the display of the same information is very malleable; it can easily be changed or transformed into a different display, providing great opportunities for customizability. For example, a call-out box of background information may be displayed in a different location, or enlarged, or emphasized by use of color, or deleted entirely. Such malleability provides many options for increasing the perceptual clarity and salience of information for a wide range of students and adjustments for preferences of others. While these customizations are difficult with print materials, they are commonly available automatically in digital materials.


Information should be displayed in a flexible format so that the following perceptual features can be varied:

  • the size of text or images
  • the amplitude of speech or sound
  • the contrast between background and text or image
  • the color used for information or emphasis
  • the speed or timing of video, animation, sound, simulations, etc
  • the layout of visual or other elements

1.2 Options that provide alternatives for auditory information

Sound is a particularly effective way to convey the impact or “energetics” of information, which is why sound design is so important in movies and why the human voice is particularly effective for conveying emotion and significance. However, information conveyed solely through sound is not equally accessible to all students and is especially inaccessible for students with hearing disabilities, for students who need more time to process information, or for students who have memory difficulties. To ensure that all students have equivalent access to learning, options should be available for any information, including emphasis, presented aurally.


  • Text equivalents in the form of captions or automated speech-to-text (voice recognition) for spoken language
  • Visual analogues for emphasis and prosody (e.g. emoticons or symbols)
  • Visual equivalents for sound effects or alerts

1.3 Options that provide alternatives for visual information

Graphics, Animations, or Video are often the optimal way to present information, especially when the information is about the relationships between objects, actions, numbers, or events. But such visual representations are not equally accessible to all students, especially students with visual disabilities or those who are not familiar with the graphical conventions employed. To ensure that all students have equal access to that information, provide non-visual alternatives that use other modalities: text, touch, or audition.


  • Descriptions (text or spoken) for all graphics, video or animations
  • Touch equivalents (tactile graphics) for key visuals
  • Physical objects and spatial models to convey perspective or interaction

Text is a special case of visual information. Since text is a visual representation of spoken language, the transformation from text back into speech is among the most easily accomplished methods for increasing accessibility. The advantage of text over speech is its permanence, but providing text that is easily transformable into speech accomplishes that permanence without sacrificing the advantages of speech. Digital synthetic text to speech is increasingly effective but still disappoints in the ability to carry the valuable information in prosody.


  • Properly formatted digital text (e.g. NIMAS, DAISY). Such text can be automatically transformed into other modalities (e.g. into speech by using speech by text-to-speech software or into touch by using refreshable Braille devices) and navigated efficiently by ScreenReaders
  • A competent aide, partner, or “intervener” who can read text aloud as needed

19 Responses to Guideline 1: Provide options for perception

  1. Kerri Crocker says:

    When I think about alternatives to auditory information, I think about song. In Preschool, we use songs to teach routines, gain focus or even increase memory. I’m always amazed at how quickly students will stop and attend when they hear music. This is even true for a hearing impaired student that I work with. When I incorporate song into daily routines such as hand washing and he will rock his body along with the tune. Does anyone else have experience using music or song as an alternative means of sharing information?

  2. Bernie says:

    I found very interesting how this simple strategies can reach better our diverse learners.

  3. Understanding that we are all very different and receive information in different ways is key. Showing educators and parents the varying ways to receive this information is helpful. This is an amazing resource for my educational organization.

  4. Rachel Graham says:

    So many aspects of UDL can be applied to early childhood education. The area of providing options for perception is one of the easiest ways to connect UDL to the early childhood student. Including visual, auditory, and customizing the display of information is essential. I find that it can also be really fun to provide a lesson in multiple forms, with a variety of ways for children to connect to the information. In my classroom, I try customizing the size and color of text to help students connect to the display. I also try changing up the audio and sound I use, as well as providing different examples of visual materials.

  5. Susie Thomas says:

    I feel that offering information in many different ways benefits all students. The more a student goes over information the more it becomes theirs. Small group teaching really seems to help most of my students. Some subjects are easy to speed more time on and thus the teacher has time to offer the same material in different forms. Some students need more than one type of information download. I have to see, hear and do to retain information.

  6. Tara says:

    This is very interesting, learning in the different types of styles, truly help the learner become more knowledgable.

    • Susie Thomas says:

      I leaned more about the learning styles when I was working toward my Exceptional Ed degree but not so much with my Regular Ed degree.

  7. Tracie Swann says:

    I think I will experiment and have students evaluate me orally and written after a random selection of lessons and find out if they thought the lesson was effective. I also want to experiment having students re-teach the material in small groups to each other. Using different sensory modalities takes much time and effort. It would be nice to have a published teaching companion that gave examples and web addresses for appropriate graphics, animation and video clips for each standard of practice.

  8. Jeff Steward says:

    This is a great way to help those with learnings issues. I have used some these concepts with students and have found great success. Especially adding color for those with dyslexia etc. Slowing down sppeed with those who are auditory. I have learned some things. great stuff.

    • Susie Thomas says:

      My area of Exceptional Ed is visual impairments. Many times verbal and tac tile clues are important to help my students succeed in the classroom. I try to observe my students in the regular classroom to offer suggestions to the teacher. Students can be a great resource to what they need to do well.

  9. Felicia says:

    This information was valuable. While I had considered the 5 sensory (auditory, visual, etc.) modes for representation, I never considered so many ways for each one. For example, learning about the varying the size of text, background color, etc. are a means for providing many more variations, thus means for learning.

    • Susie Thomas says:

      I agree. I like the information that was presented about changing size, background color, etc for students other than those with visual impairments. I had not thought of that.

  10. Das steigerte Ralfs Erregung natürlich nur noch, und während er noch überlegte, ob Melanie überhaupt klar war, in welcher Situation sie sich hier befanden, begann er, sich zu befriedigen;unter seiner reibenden Hand wuchs der Penis noch ein Stückchen, wurde vollends hart und prall.

  11. Speaking of fonts, layout and text – I find this difficult to read 😉 I was able to copy and paste into notepad and make due. Good article and thoughts – thank you.

  12. […] 1. Provide options for perception (examples) […]

  13. […] 1.     Provide options for perception (examples) […]

  14. Cam Caldwell says:

    How does touch apply to online learning? Finding sound bites is tough enough!

    • Jennie Cantrell says:

      I was taking it to mean via a device such as smart board or ipad and it is for all teaching curriculums not only online courses. New to this so could be mistaken.

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