The Understood Blog

Get Understood updates, expert insights, personal stories, partnership announcements and more

How technology can help diverse learners thrive


May 18th is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, a day to spotlight the importance of making sure that technology is accessible for those with disabilities - including diverse learners. This year, Understood partnered with Google for Education to spotlight how technology can help diverse learners thrive.

The past 30 years I’ve spent in education has shown me that assistive technology has the potential to shape the world, and change the educational experience for students and teachers. And I’m so excited to see what Understood and Google can do to help kids, parents, and teachers better understand learning and thinking differences.

What it means to be a diverse learner

Being a “diverse learner” means a student doesn’t learn in ways that others might expect. Differences can be based on many things. That includes race, ethnicity, culture, language, and socioeconomic status. It also includes neurodivergence. So, kids with learning and thinking differences like dyslexia and ADHD are diverse learners.

Today's classrooms are often frustrating and confusing for kids with learning challenges and ADHD. Schools need to provide more support and flexibility to help these students succeed. Otherwise, they risk developing low self-esteem and a negative attitude toward learning.

Accessibility in the classroom

Classrooms are more accessible than ever, but we have a long way to go. There are still many misconceptions; many educators and families think accessibility is only for people with disabilities. The reality is it benefits everyone.

Some believe accessibility measures and tools are expensive. Or that they create an unfair advantage if everyone isn't using them. In fact, there are lots of low-cost or no-cost solutions, and solutions with assistive technology built in, like Chromebooks and Google Workspace for Education. And supports like assistive technology don’t create advantages. They level the playing field so every student has access to learning. Finally, many educators believe that you have to be a specialist to figure out how to make learning accessible for all students, but the tools are easy to learn, and there are many trainings and resources available.

In this episode of Teaching for Tomorrow, Bob Cunningham shares his vision for the future of education and accessibility.

What can help

Technology allows activities to be tailored to each student. Text-to-speech software, like ChromeVox and select-to-speak on Chromebooks, lets students with dyslexia have text read to them in a human voice. A learning management system (LMS) like Google Classroom can help kids with organization challenges keep track of assignments, due dates, and grades. Teachers and families need to get to know kids as people and learners. Be flexible, clear and supportive about what you want a child to learn. Accept that there are many ways to learn it and to show learning, which will help you problem-solve together. Assistive technology can help, but it's important to teach kids how to use it.

Editor’s note: For Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Understood partnered with Google For Education. It was originally posted on Google's site. Google builds accessibility features into Chromebooks and Google Workspace for Education. They are adding more to Chrome browsers in the coming months, like reading mode, typo detection in the address bar, and image-to-text conversion to make previously inaccessible PDFs more accessible for screen reader users. They also added more Google Fonts that are intended to help readability, legibility, and text accessibility. Find resources on, including training videos.

Related stories

  • ArtboardUnderstood_article_23_image.png

    The mindset that helps us design for everyone

    The product team at Understood is responsible for building digital experiences like websites and mobile apps. But we have an even greater responsibility. It’s our job — our mission — to make our products fully accessible for people with disabilities.

  • ArtboardUnderstood_article_31_image.png

    World Usability Day

    November 11 is World Usability Day. It’s a day to celebrate progress toward equal access to digital technology. It’s also a day to set goals to improve access. For 2021, the focus is on designing the online world for trust, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

  • ArtboardUnderstood_article_22_image.png

    The accessibility that’s often overlooked

    One in five people in the US has a learning and thinking difference, like ADHD or dyslexia. But many designers don’t realize the ways they might be letting this substantial user base fall through the cracks — sometimes to the point where they can’t use a product at all.

Show your support

1 in 5 people have learning and thinking differences. Your tax-deductible gift will help us in our mission to shape a world for differences and help millions of people.

Donate now

Visit our Media Center

Our Media Center includes Understood’s latest research and surveys, press releases, and information on our thought leaders and experts.

Visit our Media Center

Get in touch

Send us an email, and one of our Understood team members will get back to you.

Contact us