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Adapting text-based materials


Adjustments required may vary from none to significant depending on the nature of the learner, the severity of the impairment and the nature of the resources.

The nature of the resource may be a significant factor in whether or not adjustments are required – heavy books and handouts with many cross references (requiring extensive physical manipulation of pages) will be more likely to need adapting than lighter or more straightforward resources.

The speed with which motor impaired learners can access electronic text based materials will depend on:

  • Staff skills in producing accessible resources with proper structuring (using inbuilt heading styles) and
  • Learner skills at knowing how to use the software effectively (e.g. document map view in Word or auto-scroll in Adobe Reader).

Range of adjustments

There are a range of adjustments depending on the nature of the learner and the nature of the resource.

Providing text documents in digital format compatible with the learner’s own technologies. This might include loading materials on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) or adapting text for use on a mobile phone.

Ensuring all in-house produced documents are properly structured using headings and styles so the learner can navigate the document swiftly and effectively. See ‘Writing Accessible Electronic Documents with Microsoft® Word’).

Where a learner would struggle to physically manipulate text books contact the publisher for a PDF version. This will allow the learner to read the text, search and make notes with minimal physical exertion. Advice and guidance on obtaining alternative formats is available on the Techdis Guide to obtaining textbooks in alternative formats page and a range of publishers can be contacted directly through the Publisher Lookup UK site.

Where appropriate, audio versions of text can save allow the learner to access content on their personal technologies. Many text to speech services are free including both web based services (Read the Words) and portable applications (e.g. DSpeech by Dimio).

Technical and production issues

Staff training is key to supporting motor impaired learners with appropriate content and activity. This training may include

  • Basic accessibility practices (such as creating structured documents using heading styles).
  • Effective use of Interactive Whiteboards.
  • Loading resources onto the VLE.

Synthetic audio versions of text can be easily created using text to speech software. MP3 versions of long documents or e-books can be split into several shorter MP3s using free software such as audio book cutter.

Context of use

Irrespective of intellectual ability, motor impaired learners may be slower accessing text based resources since manipulation of physical pages in a book or virtual pages on a screen may create challenges.

Where possible, provide resources in a format compatible with the learner’s personal technologies. This will generally mean having resources in electronic format on a VLE but there may be benefits in converting resources to an appropriate mobile format - advice and guidance on this is available in the mobile learning area of the JISC Techdis website.

Motor impaired learners can take longer to complete tasks and this needs to be taken into account when setting activities.


Motor impaired learners may experience barriers that make it slower for them to access, process and respond to resources. Many of those barriers can be significantly reduced by

  • Appropriate technology,
  • Staff awareness and skill in producing accessible resources,
  • The learner being trained in effective use of the technologies they use.

Futher information and guidance