Access to the Curriculum: The Use of Assistive Technologies

I remember being in Elementary school, complaining my hand was tired of writing so much, and my teacher talking too much about the issue she discussed until some of us almost fell asleep. I also remember that two of my peers had learning difficulties. One was mostly deaf and the other had a physical deformity, which caused her severe fine and gross motor problems. Both of them had little opportunities to gain access to the curriculum, let alone “equal”. That was in the mid 1980s. We are now approaching the “mid 2010s”, and the picture has dramatically changed. Computer-based technology has allowed people with disabilities to gain access to information, to manipulate objects and information, and to express themselves in ways other people can understand, relate to, and appreciate. Such technology is called “Assistive Technology”.

Assistive Technologies is defined by the American Assistive Technology Act of 1998 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 individuals with disabilities.” (Pinantoan, 2012).

There are many types and degrees of “disabilities”, and designers and creators of Assistive Technology have been creating more and more tools as solutions for the variety of ways individuals struggle. The PBS Parents website divides these devices into 8 categories: access and environmental control, aids to daily living, assistive listening, augmentative/alternative Communication, computer-Based Instruction, mobility, positioning, and visual aids (“Assistive technology devices,” 2013).

A variety of computer companies, such as Microsoft and Apple, have recognized the need to develop such tools, and have pledged a commitment to ensure accessibility for their users. The Accessibility sections of their websites are easily accessible, organized, and simple to navigate (“Apple’s commitment to,” 2013; and “Guides by impairment,” 2013). In addition, they ensure that many of the accessibility functions come built-in and easily accessible, so users are able to make use of such features without needing to go out and purchase additional software.

In order to get a better idea of what my computer is offering as part of its built-in Assistive technology features, I played around using the excellent “Spotlight” feature on my Mac, found different features, tried them out, and went on the Apple Education website to find out more about what these features include which I did not discover. The link to the document below outlines the different features I found and tested.

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B-ehNQLgxQlNWGc2Z242QUFQTWM/edit

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References:

Apple in education. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.apple.com/education/special-education/

Apple’s commitment to accessibility. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.apple.com/accessibility/

Assistive technology devices. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/learning-disabilities/strategies-for-learning-disabilities/assistive-technology-devices/

Guides by impairment. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.microsoft.com/enable/guides/default.aspx

Pinantoan, A. (2012). Learning difficulties: What can technology do for disabled learners?. Retrieved from http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/what-can-technology-do-for-disabled-learners/

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3 thoughts on “Access to the Curriculum: The Use of Assistive Technologies

  1. Rohen,
    Nice summary post. One of the thoughts I’ve had through this week’s work has been how well suited many of these “accessibility options” are for all learners – not only those with clearly defined learning difficulties. I have started to use Premier Literacy as a reader myself when I have a heavy amount of reading to complete for school of for my studies at Boise – I think schools need to be thoughtful about providing wider access to these types of tools.

    Nice work.

    Like

  2. I like how you referred to a personal experience when you were in elementary school. Although I went to elementary school in the mid 1990’s, I can hardly remember having any peers that had noticeable disabilities–students with disabilities were contained mostly in separate classrooms. It’s amazing how things change– now they are included in the regular classroom and in order to provide them the best education possible with the same opportunities for success, assistive technologies can be used. There are many assistive technologies for various disabilities. I like how you mentioned some sites like PBS parents and the Apple and Microsoft sites where information can be found about different disabilities and how to use assistive technology.

    The Google doc you provided is awesome. I have a Mac and honestly didn’t know some of those things existed on it! Great post!

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  3. I got my first MacBook Air this summer and absolutely love it. The accessibility features are so easy to access under system preferences but I never had before. After reading Paul’s post about how these options are for all learners I thought about how I have really been limiting myself and my students, especially in Kindergarten, by not utilizing these options with my whole class.

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