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Addressing the literacy learning needs of persons with disabilities of all ages.

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.


Writing With Alternative Pencils

Writing is undeniably an essential component of literacy instruction for students without disabilities. Without question it is a part of their daily instruction. In order for students with significant disabilities to develop as readers and writers, daily writing is equally, if not, more important. However, this becomes a challenge when most students with significant disabilities are unable to hold a traditional pencil. To address this challenge, the CLDS has developed a variety of free “alternative pencils” for students with the most significant disabilities, including deaf-blindness.

Learn More About Alternative Pencils


Current Projects

Project Core

a universal core vocabulary book is held in front of a student in a wheelchair

Teachers are at the center of Project Core implementation teams and lead the delivery of instruction using the Universal Core vocabulary and implementation model. Project Core is aimed at students with significant disabilities who do not yet use speech, signs or symbols to communicate in flexible ways.

Project Core Website

DLM Professional Development

Smiling young man with a woman in the background

Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) provides an instructionally relevant assessment and report assessment results to help guide instruction. The CLDS is a key partner, taking the lead in creating and testing a multi-modal, universally designed professional development program to accompany the DLM assessment.

DLM PD Website

Tar Heel Reader

Tar Heel Reader is a large library of open-source, accessible, texts for individuals with disabilities of all ages.  Tar Heel Reader addresses the extreme shortage of easy-to-read books on topics that appeal to older students. Books are contributed to the site by teachers, students, parents, and others from around the world.

Tar Heel Reader Website


Tar Heel Shared Reader

an adult and student read a book on a computer

Tar Heel Shared Reader provides free access to quality professional development, materials, and technology that support the implementation of shared reading for school-aged students with significant cognitive disabilities (SCD) who do not read connected text with comprehension above a 2nd grade level.

Tar Heel Shared Reader Website

Building Bridges

a teacher points at a page from a tar heel reader book

Building Bridges will provide resources for teaching reading, writing, language and communication as integrated parts of comprehensive literacy instruction. The model will align with 3rd-5th grade ELA standards and address the needs of students with significant cognitive disabilities and complex communication needs.

Building Bridges Website

Project Open

a student with an aac device

Project Open is aimed at improving in-person expressive communication for individuals with complex communication needs (CCN) who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Target groups include individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Project Open