Layering Assistive and Educational Technology to Support Universal Design

By Cathy A. Buyrn, M.Ed., and Mary Murray Stowe, M.Ed.

The various mandates facing today's educators can be overwhelming.  While universal design for learning (UDL) offers a framework for differentiating and implementing technology integration in a way that helps to level the playing field for most students, some students with disabilities still require specific assistive technology (AT) supports as designated by their individualized educational program (IEP) or 504 plan. 

Schools are required to consider the AT needs of students with disabilities during the development of the IEP or Section 504 plan.  A specific technology may serve as an AT support for a student with a disability while at the same time serving as an educational technology for other non-identified students (Virginia Department of Education [VDOE], 2008a).  As such, schools need to have a structured process in place for balancing specific AT needs with educational technology resources available to all students. 

Fortunately, teachers and other service providers do not have to sort through the various requirements and resources on their own.  A variety of regional, state, and national organizations are available to provide resources and technical assistance to teachers and administrators as they develop assistive and educational technology supports and programs.  VDOE has established Training and Technical Assistance Centers (T/TAC) across the state to assist school divisions as they employ strategies and practices to support students with disabilities.  Schools in Regions 2 and 3 can request technical assistance support for assistive technology evaluations and resources from T/TAC at Old Dominion University and educational technology from T/TAC at The College of William and Mary.  Other supports and resources are detailed in the table below.

Click here for table below and access links



Ellis, K. (Producer). (2005, February 2). Assistive-technology: Enabling dreams [Online video]. Retrieved from

Virginia Department of Education. (2003). Educational technology plan for Virginia 2003-2009. Retrieved from

Virginia Department of Education. (2008a). Assistive technology: A framework for consideration and assessment.  Retrieved from

Virginia Department of Education. (2008b). Educational technology guidelines:  Designing and maintaining instructional technology systems. Retrieved from

Virginia Department of Education. (2008c). Virginia assistive technology consideration guide. Retrieved from