Academic journal article Information Technology and Disabilities

A Regional Profile of Assistive Technology Services: Assessment of Service Delivery and Suggestions for Improving Post Secondary Transition

Academic journal article Information Technology and Disabilities

A Regional Profile of Assistive Technology Services: Assessment of Service Delivery and Suggestions for Improving Post Secondary Transition

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Assistive Technology (AT) teams currently exist in both K-12 and postsecondary institutions in the southern Illinois region. The K-12 teams were developed in seven Special Education Cooperatives (SECs) as a result of efforts supported by an Illinois State Board of Education grant (JAMP, 2000). In order to address the needs of students with disabilities at the postsecondary level, Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Disability Support Services (DSS) has established a working AT team with the support of a short-term grant obtained through the Illinois Board of Higher Education (Whitney, 2005). This team delivers AT training workshops throughout the southern Illinois region in addition to supporting students enrolled at the university.

Transitioning from the K-12 environment to the postsecondary level can be difficult for any student. This is especially true of students with special needs. Many times they need AT devices that require specialized training and expertise to use and to maintain. AT services are available to these students through the public school system from the time the student turns three years of age. There are also numerous agencies that assist with AT services for even younger children. When a student with special needs moves on to college, it is important that they continue to receive support from AT professionals. Without the necessary AT devices and equipment these students are at a high risk for failure at the postsecondary level.

In order for there to be a smooth transition between K-12 special education and post-secondary disability support services, there needs to be effective communication and collaboration between the agencies involved in helping these students. The following study was designed to assess the type and quality of AT service delivery systems currently used with K-12 students in the southern Illinois region as perceived by the Special Education professionals involved in the SECs AT teams. Understanding how services are being provided to students at the K-12 level will help postsecondary AT personnel provide for the needs of these students as they continue their academic endeavors.

A survey of the seven SECs in southern Illinois was conducted using a modified version of the School Profile of Assistive Technology Services (Reed, 2004) (Attachment 1). This instrument was designed to assess the type and quality of AT services that are currently being used to support students with special needs in the public school setting. The original instrument was modified to reflect differences in how Special Education services are provided in a more rural area, like southern Illinois, where the SECs deliver AT services.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Since the 1980s, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services has supported efforts to improve transitional services for students with disabilities throughout their educational careers and into the workforce. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1990 and the IDEA Amendments of 1997 include specific language and requirements in regard to transitional services. Regulations have been enacted from this federal legislation that require state and local education agencies to address the school and postschool transition service and technological needs of students with disabilities. A more recent effort by the Bush administration, the New Freedom Initiative (2004), has highlighted the importance of providing access to assistive and universally designed technologies.

Access to Services and Technology

Despite all of these efforts, significant challenges still remain in regard to creating comprehensive and responsive transitional services for secondary (Johnson & Sharpe, 2000) and postsecondary (Johnson, Sharpe, & Stodden, 2000) levels of education. There also remain significant difficulties in transitioning students into the community, securing jobs, and living independently (Johnson, Stodden, Emanuel, Luecking, & Mack, 2002). …

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