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VoiceThread is an online communication tool that allows students and instructors to contribute to a discussion thread using any mix of text, a microphone, a web cam, a telephone, or uploaded audio file. VoiceThread also includes a white board tool.

Depending on the needs of your students, different accommodation strategies may be needed.

Captions for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Students

Students and Transcripts

If an assignment requires that students record a video, it is recommended that students also provide a script or transcript to accommodate deaf or hard of hearing students.

Note: Writing a transcript is considered good practice for video development in general. As Tech Smith notes, “a good script can spell the difference between a short, clear and concise video and one that rambles and loses focus.”


Below are some options for courses with deaf and hearing impaired students.

  1. For purposes of captioning, a VoiceThread video can be captioned or or exported and captioned, allowing you to save a fixed copy of a VoiceThread which can captioned. This file plays as a movie, just like the VoiceThread would if you viewed it on the VoiceThread site.
  2. If the class includes Deaf or hard of hearing students, another option is to require that all students participating in a VoiceThread only use audio-free tools such as text commenting feature, image/file upload and the "doodle" whiteboard.

Add Image ALT Text to Uploaded Slides or Images

An instructor uploading images or PowerPoint slides needs to add a descriptive title for each image/slide. This title is the ONLY ALT text available to a blind student.

PowerPoint Slides

Slides uploaded to VoiceThread will be converted to images and lose any accessibility features built into the slide deck. It is strongly recommended that instructors and students maintain an accessible PowerPoint version for any slides uploaded into VoiceThread.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts for many VoiceThread functions are available. See the list of keyboard shortcuts on the VoiceThread Support area.

Screen Reader Options

The default version of VoiceThread is currently not screen-reader or keyboard accessible and is therefore not fully usable by many blind students or a sighted student relying on a keyboard. However some options are available.

VoiceThread Universal

VoiceThread does offer VoiceThread Universal, a "Universal" version of the the VoiceThread application designed specifically for use with a screen reader and/or keyboard.

To access Voice Thread Universal, students can:

  1. Log in to the Voicethread service at with your Penn State Access Account userid and password.
  2. When log in is complete, go to the VoiceThread Universal at

Complete instructions are available in the VoiceThread Universal documentation.

Note: Many screen reader testers report usability issues with the tool. Therefore, a blind student may still need additional support. Contact Student Disability Resources if a student reports a problem.

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