Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Power of Assistive Technology

Curtis Article: Disabled Bodies, Able Minds

Curtis' article highlighted assistive technology and the role that it can play in the lives of students with special needs. It highlighted cases where technology has allowed students to advance far beyond the what people with the same disability could imagine from 25 years ago. The article introduces "DO-IT" (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) and TACLE (Technology and Augmentative Communication for Learning Enhancement) which are advocacy programs for students with disabilities. These programs help students obtain the technology that they need to communicate, move, and work through their academic lives. This technology allows students to function in a classroom on their own and even do activities that they may have never thought that they would be able to do.

Technology has brought many abilities to all students. The kinds of activities that can be done using technology is really quite amazing. This article gave us quite a number of examples, like systems that are sensitive enough to track the motion of eyes, eyebrows that can ultimately translate that into spoken word to modifying a musical instrument to be played with a joystick. Having this technology makes a world of difference to these students who may feel that they are unable to do anything on their own or accomplish anything.

A Personal Perspective on Adaptive Technology: An Interview with Dr. Richard Keller

One important aspect of this interview is understanding the difference between assistive technology and adaptive technology. I found Dr. Keller's description of adaptive technology to be an important one, as he believes in "changing the technology. Change the environment. Change the interaction" instead of changing the person with the disability. I have a more firm understanding now after hearing these points as they are brought from a personal perspective. I feel sometimes we take things for granted and maybe forget by trying so hard to "change a person with a disability" to adapt to the environment instead of changing the environment to adapt to the person's needs.

Another important aspect is when Dr. Keller talks about awareness. Awareness is an important piece that individuals must understand and appreciate when including people with disabilities in society. As a society everyone should try to make the environment as accessible as possible to include everyone and to have people with disabilities overcome any obstacles they may experience.

Dr. Keller also mentioned how many technological devices offered to people with disabilities often lack necessary training or information on how to use these devices. It is especially important to not only provide the technology, but to provide instruction and training in the use these devices.

Adapting Classrooms for AT Users: Challenges and Solutions

This presentation provided commentary by experts in the field of assistive technology as well as videos of students discussing their experiences in their schools/classrooms. The panelists stressed how it is not too complicated or challenging for teachers to make adaptations or utilize assistive technology with students who have disabilities in their classroom. The student interview videos were important as they exemplified that participation in any way is so crucial to student self-esteem.

The experts provided a wealth of information and recommendations related to assistive technology planning and use. They also pointed out that students are good at adapting on their own, so it is important for teachers and administrators to maintain open communication channels with students about assistive technology.

All constituents - students, parents, educators, administers - play an important role in this process. Teacher preparation and collaboration between all constituents and stakeholders effect successful implementation. Also, all non-technology environments should first be considered when thinking about adapting a classroom. If it is not possible to provide an inclusive learning environment without technology, then one must next consider minimal (or low-tech) technology before considering a full gamut of technology use/incorporation.

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