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Posted: 11/4/2011
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Loudoun County Public Schools School District Uses Familiar Technology to Make Learning More Accessible for All Students

The Assistive Technology Team for Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) uses Microsoft Office applications to help educators incorporate accessibility best practices into the curriculum. Now, teachers provide familiar, powerful tools to help students with diverse learning needs—including students with disabilities—stay more engaged so they can reach their fullest potential.

A Reputation for Innovative Use of Technology
Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) in Virginia has earned a nationwide reputation for excellence, particularly for its use of technology to enrich learning for its 66,000 students. The district’s 10-person Assistive Technology (AT) Team works tirelessly to support teachers in their application of technology for students of all abilities and learning styles. The team’s work also includes developing curriculum support resources to help students with disabilities and creating multimodal training opportunities for every educator in the district.  

Need for Easy-to-Use-Accessibility Tools
AT team members find that teachers are excited about the prospect of reaching more students through this approach. “We often hear teachers say that they want to adopt assistive technologies but that they don’t have a lot of time to learn new software,”says Mark Nichols, Supervisor of the Assistive Technology Team at LCPS. Nichols and his colleagues also hear teachers express the need for a versatile set of tools that students of all ability levels can use to complete the same activities. ­
* The accessibility options in Microsoft software programs are tightly integrated with the product design. This means that students with disabilities can use the same tools as the rest of the class and still benefit from a personalized learning experience that meets their needs. *

Sally Norton-Darr
Assistive Technology Trainer, Loudoun County Public Schools


The LCPS Assistive Technology Team finds that accessibility features in Microsoft products align closely with two important educational principles: least restrictive environment and Universal Design for Learning. “The accessibility options in Microsoft software programs are tightly integrated with the product design,” says Sally Norton-Darr, Assistive Technology Trainer for LCPS. “This means that students with disabilities can use the same tools as the rest of the class and still benefit from a personalized learning experience that meets their needs.”

Strategies for Making Concepts Come Alive in Math, Science, and More
The team has developed dozens of tutorials that demonstrate how teachers can use tools in Microsoft Office applications to add an interactive dimension to practically any classroom exercise. For example, AT trainers recently created a popular set of strategies for customizing math and science lessons to accommodate diverse learning styles. Examples of these include: illustrating concepts of money through the use of item banks created with clip art in Microsoft Word to form virtual manipulatives, and creating a ‘talking’ periodic table of elements that uses the Sound Recorder feature in the Windows operating system to aid auditory learners.

Teachers also use built-in accessibility programs in the Windows operating system to assist students with disabilities. For instance, teachers use Windows Magnifier to enlarge text and images so students with low vision can see things more clearly, and they take advantage of easily adjustable personalization options, such as display, sound, keyboard, and mouse settings. “One of the most popular features is the Sound Recorder in the Windows operating system, which lets users insert an audio recording directly into a document,” explains Cynthia Feist, an Assistive Technology Trainer for LCPS. “Students can record their ideas as a prewriting activity or provide responses on worksheets and assessments in audio form, instead of typed or written form. And teachers can place audio prompts or provide text-to-speech options on interactive worksheets and assessments.”

Real World Benefits the Entire Community Can Enjoy
By using familiar Microsoft products to create multimedia instructional materials, the AT team for Loudoun County Public Schools has helped the district enhance the quality of education for its entire student population. “Loudoun County Public Schools brings the Microsoft vision for accessibility in education to life every day through its innovative use of technologies, such as Microsoft Office,” says Andrew Ko, Senior Director of US Partners in Learning at Microsoft. “We’re proud to support their continued efforts to create personalized learning experiences for all students.”

Image of the Sound Recorder program in Windows, used to create interactive learning experiences.
Figure 1. Teachers can use the Sound Recorder program in the
Windows operating system to create interactive learning experiences.
Rapidly Build a Nationally Recognized Assistive Technology Program
To help support the maximum number of teachers and students throughout the district, the AT team deliberately chose to build instructional strategies around familiar, easy-to-use technologies. “Microsoft provides such a wealth of accessibility tools,” says Nichols. “These capabilities, together with the best-practice guidance that Microsoft offers, gave us a huge edge in getting our program started.”

Empower Students to Develop Skills for the Future
In addition to helping to ensure that children with disabilities have the same educational opportunities as their peers, the LCPS Assistive Technology Team plays an important role in encouraging students to build real-world skills and strengthen technology proficiency. “We’re proud to play a part in helping prepare all kinds of learners to be productive twenty-first-century citizens by better integrating technology into the classroom,” says Norton-Darr.

Transform Classrooms into Places of Interactive Learning for All
Because Microsoft Office applications align with the core principles of least restrictive environment and Universal Design for Learning, LCPS teachers can use these tools to make instruction more accessible for diverse learners and students with disabilities. “The power lies within the use of familiar tools to build extraordinary bridges to learning for all students,” says Judith Schoonover, an Assistive Technology Trainer for LCPS.

Microsoft Partners in Learning
Microsoft recognizes that accessibility empowers and enables people of all abilities to realize their full potential and has a long history of accessibility innovation. Learn more at the Microsoft Accessibility website:

Accessibility in Education
Microsoft builds accessibility features into our products, empowering students with accessible technology that enables personalized learning.
Solution Overview

Organization Profile
Loudoun County Public Schools is the administrative body that oversees 80 schools in Loudoun County, Virginia. The school district serves 66,000 students and employs 8,000 teachers.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Office
  • Microsoft Powerpoint
  • Microsoft Word

Vertical Industries

United States