Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Practices of Assistive Technology Implementation and Facilitation: Experiences of Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments in Singapore

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Practices of Assistive Technology Implementation and Facilitation: Experiences of Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments in Singapore

Article excerpt

Assistive technology is defined by the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) of 2004 as "any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability" (IDEIA, 2004). This broad definition includes devices and software that are beneficial in supporting the instruction of students with disabilities in special education (Duhaney & Duhaney, 2000). General benefits of assistive technology are evident in the literature (Alper & Raharinirina, 2006). Benefits of assistive technology are also reported for students with visual impairments (Abner & Lahm, 2002; Kelly, 2009).

IDEIA also describes the need for assistive technology services, which it describes as "any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device" (IDEIA, 2004). Services include evaluation; purchasing; selecting, designing, or adapting; coordination of device use or services; device training; or expanding the availability of assistive technology.

The number of assistive technology devices that have the potential to empower individuals with disabilities has increased in recent years. Kintsch and DePaula (2002) found that even when the devices are purchased, success with these technologies is questionable because individuals with disabilities and their caregivers are unable to integrate the devices into their daily routines. Evaluating the technological needs of individuals with disabilities and identifying the appropriate assistive technology items that will increase their functional capabilities in daily life require guidelines and models (Lee & Templeton, 2008). Broadly, consideration of devices includes a process of evaluation, acquisition, personalization, service coordination, and training (Bausch, Quinn, Chung, Ault, & Behrmann, 2009).

Three major points are evident. First, the definition of assistive technology is diverse and multifaceted. Second, there is a process by which to navigate through assistive technology consideration. Third, providing assistive technology services is best facilitated by collaboration among professionals (Watts, O'Brian, & Wojcik, 2004). Increasingly, parents are also reported to influence assistive technology adoption and usage (Bausch & Ault, 2008; Hourcade, Parette, & Huer, 1997). Yet given the general definitions of assistive technology and assistive technology services, broad interpretation is reported to pose challenges for assessment, selection, training, and service provision (Marino, Marino, & Shaw, 2006; Watts et al., 2004). Assessing and navigating among assistive technology considerations are therefore indispensable. Ultimately, deciding on the most beneficial device is not straightforward but involves a process of assessment. Beigel (2000) posits that assessment involves three strands: learners, environments, and technology.

ASSESSMENT

The purpose of assessment is primarily to provide data for team decision making (Stiggins, 2001), with the goal of achieving student attainment of specific skills and knowledge (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA], 1999; Presley & D'Andrea, 2009). Formative assessment helps teams determine learning styles of students over a period of time (Hobson, 1997). These assessments also need to reflect a post-recommendation assessment of a device to determine its effectiveness. Ultimately, assessment models must demonstrate a direct link to learning objectives and student outcomes (Silverman, Stratman, & Smith, 2000). Assessment models need to have technical adequacy sufficient to achieve valid and reliable decisions. Technical adequacy may also be achieved by using multiple assessment tools to meet specific needs. The avoidance of bias across respondents and contexts is necessary (Watts et al. …

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