VoiceThread Docs / Web Application / Accessibility / VoiceThread Universal (for screen readers)

VoiceThread Universal is an HTML version of VoiceThread that is made for full screen readers. Websites designed for a visual experience can be difficult to use with screen readers because there is a great deal of extra information to make it visually pleasing.  VoiceThread Universal is different. Its clean interface and clear instructions make using it with screen readers a pleasant experience.

Navigating  to Universal

There are several ways to access VoiceThread Universal:

  • If you’re using the standard VoiceThread site, click on “Universal” at the bottom of the VT Home page.
  • Enter http://voicethread.com/u into your address bar.
  • Make VoiceThread Universal your default site.

Setting Universal as your default site

If you know that you always want to view VoiceThreads using VT Universal, you might want to set it as your default site. Any time you visit VoiceThread or click on a VoiceThread share link when signed into your account, the page will open at VT Universal.  There are two ways to change your preferences.

From the standard site:

  1. Go to your VT Home page.
  2. Click on your email address in the top-right corner of the page.
  3. Select “Display Preferences” from the menu.
  4. Under the Accessibility section, select “VoiceThread Universal” from the menu.

From VT Universal

  1. Go to VT Universal.
  2. Click the button that says “Use VoiceThread Universal as my default site”.

Viewing VoiceThreads

In VT Universal, you can view any VoiceThreads that you have created, that have been shared with you, or to which you have subscribed.

  1. Go to VT Universal.
  2. Sign into your VoiceThread account.
  3. Click “Go to My Threads”.
  4. Click on the category where you can find your VoiceThread.
  5. Click on the VoiceThread you want to view.
  6. Click “Start playing this thread” to play the whole VoiceThread. To view a specific slide and comment, click on the slide you want to view, and then click on the comment you wish to hear.


VT Universal allows you to make text comments using your keyboard or a audio comments using a microphone or telephone.

  1. Open your VoiceThread.
  2. Navigate to the slide on which you want to comment.
  3. Click on the type of comment you want to record at the bottom of the slide.
  4. Type your comment if it’s text, follow the directions to record if you’re using your microphone, or enter your phone number if you’re using audio, and wait for VoiceThread to call you so you can record.
  5. Click “Post Comment” for text, or simply speak into your phone and hang up when done for audio.

Creating a VoiceThread

From your main landing page after signing in, click “Create a new VoiceThread”.  There are three steps to creating your VoiceThread.


1. Click “Add media” to add your slides.  You can upload from your computer, record audio or video directly onto the slide, or import from a URL.

2. Click “Change the title, description, and other settings” to give your VoiceThread a title and change its settings.  Be sure to click “Save” when you’re done.  Note that the settings apply to how people interact with your VoiceThread on the standard site.  They do not apply to viewing the VoiceThread in VT Universal.

3. Click “Show the slides” in order to open your VoiceThread and begin recording comments on your slides.

A VoiceThread share link takes a viewer directly to a particular VoiceThread. This is often the quickest way to direct someone to an individual VoiceThread. Click here to learn how to obtain a share link.

The share link for a VoiceThread is structured as: http://voicethread.com/share/#####. The numbers at the end of the share link are the identification number for that VoiceThread. This share link will always open in the standard application at voicethread.com.

If a person would like to visit this VoiceThread in VT Universal instead, he can restructure the share link using that same identification number. The link would be strutcured as: http://voicethread.com/universal/thread/#####.

Sample standard share link: http://voicethread.com/share/409
Sample VT Universal share link: http://voicethread.com/universal/thread/409/

Adding alt tags or alt attributes to central media

To make visual media truly accessible to visually impaired users, it’s important to describe that media verbally. The creator of a VoiceThread can include a description of the central media that will be read by a screen reader when viewed in VT Universal.

To add the description of the central media, use the Title field when editing slides. This will need to be done from the standard application at voicethread.com. Click here to learn more about how to title a VoiceThread slide.

As a person views this VoiceThread slide at VT Universal, the description text will not be visible; it will be “behind” the visual media. A screen reader, however, will read that text describing the media so that the participant understands what is being discussed.

Current limitations

VT Universal has many optimizations, updates and improvements to come.  Until then, here’s a list of some known limitations:

  • Sharing must be done using the standard site.
  • No deletion of VoiceThreads or comments.
  • Comments must be moderated using the standard site.
  • VoiceThreads cannot be exported in Universal format.