Technology Tuesday-Readability for All

During my Library Services for Students with Disabilities class last week we completed a simulation aimed at simulating the effects of cognitive overload on our students. During the simulation, we were simultaneously attempting to move a stick figure back and forth catching bombs and, searching for information on a website to complete a checklist of tasks. There were two levels to the simulation, easy and hard, and every time you dropped a bomb and failed to complete the tasks you had the option to slow the bombs down. Below is a screen shot of that simulation but I highly encourage all of you to follow this link and try the simulation out yourselves.

The goal of the simulation is to give participants a more thorough understanding of how frustrating it can be for students with an intellectual disability to complete a task. Several of my classmates admitted to giving up on completing the tasks and many of us (myself included) admitted that the only way we were able to complete both the easy and the hard level was to blindly click on the screens, without paying attention to the content, until we found the correct answer. Not a single person in class could provide more information about the website we were exploring in the simulation beyond, “it had something to do with penguins”. We could all see how students with intellectual disabilities could become frustrated with assignments and give up on them because, “I can’t do it and I’m not learning anything anyways.”

After sharing our frustrations and exploring how students with intellectual disabilities may feel when presented with distraction while working we brainstormed strategies that we, as school librarians, might be able to employ to make the library more accessible for our students with intellectual disabilities. One of the ideas was to download and install Readability on library computers.

What’s Readability you ask? Well allow me to fill you in: “Readability is a free reading platform that aims to deliver a great reading experience wherever you are” by turning “virtually any web page into a clean, comfortable reading view” (, FAQ, 2012). To use Readability, you simply go to the website and download the Readability add-on.  After downloading the add-on, you can change almost any webpage into a cleaner, easier to read page by clicking the readability add-on button. Here is a before and after example I took from the Today Show website:

The article about Twitter’s new profile page, before using Readability

Now, let’s look at that same page after running it through Readability’s add-on:

The same article, after using Readability

Ahhh, so much better. Using the Readability add-on makes the page cleaner, free of distractions, and allows the content to take center stage. So there you have it: a quick, free way to make websites easier on our students with intellectual disabilities. I’ll admit that I’m tempted to use it with all students just so they have less temptation to follow links and pay attention to things other than the assignment/task at hand.

Do you have any suggestions/strategies to make the library more accessible for students with intellectual disabilities?

See you tomorrow,



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