Photo of Jonathan Hooper with tech-themed background.

Multimedia accessibility: The multimodal toolbox approach

How does your student choose which device/application/accessibility feature to use for a specific task? Jonathan shares his tips!

How does your student choose which device/application/accessibility feature to use for a specific task?

In the 21st-century classroom, it is no longer about teaching just one device, application, or accessibility feature for each academic task. As educators, we should consider utilizing a multimodal approach and intentionally creating opportunities for students to explore many tech options available for tasks. When doing this, the student and teacher are focused on identifying the most efficient tool(s) for each activity. In the Perkin’s summer course, Multimedia Accessibility in the Digital Classroom: Strategies for Students with Visual Impairments, Jonathan Hooper is diving deep into the use of a multimodal approach when selecting tools used for accessibility in the classroom.

Jonathan’s Approach

Jonathan shared his thoughts about the multimodal approach which will be taught in his upcoming course. He likes to think of the students’ toolbox in terms of “being open-minded and utilizing a multimodal, student-centered approach.” When a student has a toolbox that is rich in multimodal options to access materials and complete tasks, they can thrive. For example, a student might utilize speech output for certain types of books and read others visually. Additionally, a student using screen magnification might switch to using screen reading software when interacting with a program with tiny buttons. Using a multimodal approach and giving students many options for access allows for greater flexibility.

Student Identifies Efficiency

When deciding what tool to use for a given task, the most appropriate tool is often the most efficient tool. However, in addition to efficiency, it is important to keep in mind student preferences and situational details as well. Jonathan explains that when thinking about helping a student explore efficiency, he will sometimes challenge them to do the task two different ways. For instance, he might ask a student to use screen magnification to read a passage of text visually, and then he might say, “Okay now let’s use voice output to read it.” This will be followed by a discussion about what felt easier and why. It has been Jonathan’s experience that there is also an element of social pressure to keep in mind and address. For instance, the student might not want to use screen reader because everyone in the class can hear it, so they would talk about headphones and options to address those concerns.

A “one size fits all” approach does not apply to many students. This means that one tool will typically not work for everyone in every situation. Selecting tech for each educational task is heavily individualized. Jonathan’s focus is about opening minds and thinking about the learner not as a “print reader” or “braille reader” but really thinking about the learner in terms of the intersection between their classroom needs, their preferences, their functional vision, and the most efficient way to do a given task. Jonathan says, “I do not just lump students in a box with one mode of access. I think of it as more of an art – an evolving decision-making process between the student, the vision teacher, and the classroom teacher.”

Tasks with Different Modes

Jonathan does not use set rules for deciding what tools to use. What might not be efficient for one student might be an efficient tool for another student because of preferences, motor abilities, functional vision, or classroom expectations. When working with teachers, Jonathan finds that when he provides set guidelines, sometimes teachers take it to heart as rule of law. So instead of checklists, Jonathan shared common tech tasks that can be accomplished in different ways. Pick the examples that are appropriate for your student and have the student accomplish the task in different ways. Talk about what worked best and why. The tasks provided are examples; expand these tasks to fit your student!

Students can compare and determine what method works best in different scenarios. Here are some things to consider. Does your student agree or disagree and why?


This is just one tip from Jonathan. Want to learn more? Sign up for the full course! Multimedia Accessibility in the Digital Classroom: Strategies for Students with Visual Impairments

Course description: Expand your knowledge of current tools to access multimedia content, along with ways to integrate technology into a student’s workflow in the classroom.

Dates: June 19 – August 13, 2023

Course Objectives

Participants will learn how to:

Credits for course: Graduate, CEUs, Professional Development, ACVREP, CTLE, OSPI. Yes, this course has been approved for CATIS credits!

Jonathan’s bio

Jonathan Hooper is a TVI who has worked with the New York City Department of Education’s Educational Vision Services for ten years, having previously taught at the Tennessee School for the Blind. He holds a master’s degree in working with students with visual impairments from Vanderbilt University, and his graduate research has been published in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness. Jonathan previously taught the braille course in the TVI program at Hunter College in New York. He routinely leads professional development in a variety of areas including curriculum adaptations for students with visual impairments, making distance learning accessible, creating materials for students with cortical visual impairment, and braille literacy programs for students with visual impairments. Jonathan was named 2020 Teacher of the Year by the Braille Institute. For more information about Jonathan and how to contact him, his website is

Co-written by Jonathan Hooper and Diane Brauner

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