Service Delivery for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities: A Survey of Assistive Technology Use across Disabilities

By Ofiesh, Nicole S.; Rice, Craig J. et al. | College Student Journal, March 2002 | Go to article overview

Service Delivery for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities: A Survey of Assistive Technology Use across Disabilities


Ofiesh, Nicole S., Rice, Craig J., Long, Ellen M., Merchant, Deborah C., Gajar, Anna H., College Student Journal


As disability service providers become familiar with assistive technology (AT), some devices that were originally designed to meet the needs of a specific disability, are being used with a broader range of individuals (e.g., voice recognition systems for students with learning disabilities). To determine (a) the most frequently used AT devices in postsecondary disability services, and (b) which devices are used across categories of disability; survey data was collected nationwide from postsecondary disability service providers (n=163). Respondents reported frequent use of voice recognition systems, reading machines, frequency modulation systems (FM) and text enlargement systems. Individuals with visual and hearing impairments used AT most frequently. Individuals with psychiatric disabilities and other health impairments used AT the least. Recommendations regarding AT and service delivery are included.

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Students with disabilities attending postsecondary institutions are on the rise (Henderson, 1995) and with this trend the use of assistive technology (AT) for students with disabilities has steadily increased (Higgins & Zvi, 1995, Lance, 1996; Raskind, 1993). Legislation that spans the lives of persons with disabilities from birth through adulthood, has underscored the importance of technology for all individuals with disabilities to ensure their access to education. The 1997 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA '97), now mandates the consideration of AT for all children, including those with mild to moderate disabilities, in their education programs. At the postsecondary level the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) continue to provide access to the general curriculum, for qualified persons with disabilities, through reasonable accommodations and service delivery that include AT (e.g., books on tape, voice recognition systems). The Technology Related Assistance Act of 1988 (Tech Act) applies to both public and private human service agencies to ensure technological access in work, school, and community settings for persons with disabilities.

Together, this legislation, along with the movement to use technology to promote learning for all students, (Gomes, 2000; Orkwis & McLane, 1998; Rose, Stahl, & Sethuraman, 2000; Silver, Bourke, & Strehorn, 1998), has begun to influence service delivery of AT to a broader range of individuals with disabilities (Bryant, Rivera, & Warde, 1994; Day, 1995; Higgins & Raskind, 1995; Raskind & Higgins, 1998). The application of AT across the continuum of individuals with mild to severe disabilities marks a paradigm shift in how educators view AT, which previously had been viewed almost exclusively within a rehabilitative or remediative context (Warger, 1998), and for only persons with physical and sensory impairments (Bryant & Seay, 1998). This shift is beginning to appear in postsecondary settings. Lance (1996) found not only did postsecondary disability service providers (DSP) perceive their students with disabilities would benefit academically from the use of AT, but the students themselves expressed a need for AT training and greater accessibility to AT devices.

Legislative Impact on Postsecondary Disability Service Providers

The amendments to IDEA '97 now mandate that AT devices and services be considered in the family service plan or education program for all children from infant through twelfth grade, identified as having an exceptional educational need (i.e., who are receiving special education services) (IDEA Regulations, 1999). The Individual Education Program (IEP) team, those responsible for developing reasonable accommodations for elementary and secondary students with disabilities, must consider AT based on the individual's strengths and limitations in relation to educational access (Behrmann, 1994; Bragman, 1987). …

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Service Delivery for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities: A Survey of Assistive Technology Use across Disabilities
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