Academic journal article The Technology Teacher

Assistive Technology in the Classroom

Academic journal article The Technology Teacher

Assistive Technology in the Classroom

Article excerpt

There is a continued need to provide information about the availability of assistive technology, advances in improving accessibility and functionality of assistive technology, and appropriate methods to secure and utilize assistive technology in order to maximize the independence and participation of individuals with disabilities in society.

Perspective

A new teacher or one who has been on the front lines for a number of years soon recognizes that not all children learn the same way or have the same needs for successful learning experiences. Through undergraduate teacher training or in-service workshops, teachers gain useful skills in using technology to plan, prepare, and provide instruction. Technology and career and technical education teachers frequently have the skills, knowledge, and tools to provide successful learning experiences for children with wide ranges of abilities beyond what may be expected of traditional teachers. However, as we look at federal and state laws and regulations regarding children identified with special needs, we will find that there are a number of resources that are available to assist in acquiring or purchasing special technology for class members who have unique needs.

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It is easy to recognize that computer and information technologies play a major role in business, industry, and education. Additionally, communication and information technology has become a required tool for academic achievements and participation in activities. All students, including students with disabilities, need to be able to access this technology. As career and technical education teachers, we can use information technologies to create and enhance the learning experiences.

What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology is any piece of equipment or device that may be used by a person with a disability to perform specific tasks, improve functional capabilities, and become more independent. It can help redefine what is possible for people with a wide range of cognitive, physical, or sensory disabilities. (RESNA)

Very simply, assistive technology may enable a person with a disability to do something they normally would not be able to do on their own, such as fishing or boating, talking on the phone, opening a drawer, cooking dinner, buttoning a shirt, or reading his or her bank statement. Assistive technology may include cognitive aids, adaptive toys, communication aids, alternative computer access, aids to assist with walking, dressing, and other activities, visual aids, or aids to augment hearing that facilitate activities typically done as part of daily living.

This technology may range from very low-cost, low-tech adaptations (such as a "battery interrupter" to make a toy switch accessible) to high-tech, very expensive devices (such as a powered wheelchair and environmental controller operated by tongue-touch). An example alternative means of operating a personal computer and interacting with software is the "Natural Point" hands-flee alternative mouse-pointing system.

People with disabilities may use assistive technology to participate in everyday activities encountered in learning, recreation, and work. Assistive technology can help individuals become mobile, communicate more effectively by seeing and hearing better, and participate more fully in learning activities. Screen and reading magnifying technologies can be used to magnify computer applications and software as well as print physical objects such as shown in Figures 2 and 3. Computer-screen magnifiers allow the user to "split" a screen into two views--one normal view along with a magnified view. The degree of magnification can be controlled by the user to suit his or her needs. Further, screen magnifiers also may have a full-screen magnification mode as opposed to a split screen. Low-vision devices such as HumanWare's Smart View[c] is an example of a video magnifier and can be used to magnify static and moving objects, e. …

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