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The Center for Literacy and Disability Studies is a unit within the Department of Allied Health Sciences, School of Medicine, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Formerly known as the Carolina Literacy Center, the CLDS was established in September, 1990 to address the literacy needs of individuals with severe speech and physical impairments in North Carolina. The CLDS has expanded its focus since then and now addresses the needs of individuals with a range of disabilities in response to the demands of families, educators, and health care professionals across the United States and the world. The CLDS has concentrated most of its resources on individuals with severe and multiple disabilities, an estimated 70-90 percent of whom read and write at levels significantly below their non-disabled peers.

Read the USSAC Newsletter article regarding the Center’s re-establishment and first 15 months in operation.


The Center’s mission is to promote literacy and communication for individuals of all ages with disabilities. It is the belief of the CLDS that disabilities are only one of many factors that influence an individuals ability to learn to read and write and to use print throughout their life and across their living environments. All individuals, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, have the right to an opportunity to learn to read and write in order to increase and enhance their educational opportunities, vocational success, communicative competence, self-empowerment capabilities, and independence.


Five principal goals guide the interdisciplinary efforts of the Center to:

  • Improve literacy of children, youth, and adults with disabilities by developing research-based strategies, tools, curricula, and model programs.
  • Increase the development and use of appropriate assessment and instructional strategies and materials to provide a wide range of educational opportunities for families and professionals.
  • Increase the understanding of the relationship between literacy and communication through research and development.
  • Improve the understanding and use of literacy learning strategies to enhance communication competencies of all persons with disabilities.
  • Support the development and implementation of new and existing policies that improve literacy learning opportunities for persons with disabilities by collaborating with local, state, federal, and private agencies and organizations.