1998 Conference Proceedings

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ACCESSING TECHNOLOGY THROUGH AWARENESS IN INDIANA (ATTAIN) ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY HIGHER EDUCATION (ATHE) PROJECT MAKING THE TECHNOLOGY CONNECTION

Cris Fulford
Director of ATTAIN

Hope Clausman
Prof. of Psychology
Assistive Technology Coordinator

Vincennes University
1002 North First Street
Vincennes, Indiana 47591
Fulford(812)888-5809
cfulford@vunet.vinu.edu 
Clausman(812)888-4149
hclausma@vunet.vinu.edu

In 1990, Indiana was chosen to participate in the second round of federal funding for the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act, as a "tech act project." Accessing Technology Through Awareness in Indiana (ATTAIN) is Indiana's project. One of the ATTAIN initiatives is the ATHE Project at Vincennes University. The goals and outcomes of the ATHE Project will be the focus during this one-hour presentation. This partnership has been responsive to the urgent need for pre-service training in assistive technology across all disability-related curricula and professions (e.g., education, rehabilitation, allied health, etc.)

Beginning in 1995, the ATHE Project identified the status of assistive technology instruction within the realm of higher education and developed formal recommendations for assistive technology curricula. The presenters will discuss the evolution of the project, beginning with the infancy stages, collaboration among universities statewide, and conclude with the outcome of a series of ten pre-service training modules entitled "Making the Technology Connection." Each participant will receive a Table of Contents from each module. The presentation will also include information about the development of an Assistive Technology Certificate and future Associate Degree Programs.

ATTAIN is the only statewide assistive technology organization that serves individuals of all ages with disabilities. ATTAIN'S mission is to provide and increase access to assistive technology. Under the guidelines of the "tech act" ATTAIN has worked on four primary initiatives for the past seven years: Awareness and outreach to rural un/underserved populations, training and technical assistance, systems change and individual advocacy activities, and coordination among state agencies.

Vincennes University (VU) was selected to implement the ATHE Project because of its unique position as a model comprehensive community college offering over one hundred fifty technical and academic educational programs along with a variety of community service programs. VU has a statewide mission and is a full state-support college, recognized as being unique in Indiana. The main campus is located in southwestern Indiana with four extension sites located throughout the state.

Assistive technology empowers and removes barriers for people with disabilities. However, what individuals with disabilities can do with technology depends upon the guidance and training that they receive from professionals. The focus of the ATHE Project was on developing post-secondary assistive technology curricula and instruction.

The goals were achieved through the efforts of a consortium of individuals representing several of Indiana's institutions of higher learning and assistive technology-affiliated organizations. Representatives from different disciplines with an interest in assistive technology instruction were recruited. The driving force of the consortium membership was the desire to ensure that present and future professionals working in disability-related careers are well trained and possess the necessary knowledge to provide quality services to consumers with disabilities. The consortium consensus was that the educational foundation of disability-related professionals should include at least fundamental knowledge of assistive technology if not advanced skills. Guidance to the consortium was provided by an advisory board. Leadership was provided by a part-time Project Coordinator. The goals of the project included:

With the emphasis of the Tech Act on systematic change and with the increasing need for expansion and usage of technology among people with disabilities, the time had come to examine the educational foundation of professionals. During initial meetings the consortium began by analyzing the status of assistive technology instruction. The natural transition of the project was to stretch beyond the existing level of instruction and address the needs of pre-service students preparing for disability-related professions.

Consumer recommendations were also critical to the outcomes of the ATHE Project. The third ATHE Consortium meeting included a consumer panel presentation that involved students from Indiana/Purdue University, Vincennes University, IVY Tech State College, and Ball State University. Each had first-hand experiences with disability-related services and professionals. Each student focused on experiences during their educational years at the secondary and post-secondary level. Along with their unique experiences, the consortium heard enlightening recommendations about how consortium members could and must better prepare future disability-related professionals:

On July 1, 1996, consortium members conducted a telephone conference with Jean Minkle, RESNA Consultant. The conference gave consortium members the opportunity to ask direct questions about the RESNA credentialing process of Assistive Technology Practitioners and Suppliers. Ms. Minkle explained that the overall purpose of the credentialing process is to improve the quality of assistive technology services and additionally improve the potential of people with disabilities through technology. The credentialing exam offers professionals involved in assistive technology service delivery the mechanism to demonstrate their competence needed to provide safe and effective services to people with disabilities. The value-added credential communicates to consumers that the provider has met the criteria for a foundation level of knowledge. The charter credentialing exam was administered at the annual Closing the Gap Conference in October 1996. The consortium agreed to make recommendations that would complement the RESNA guidelines.

(J. Minkle, Telephone Conference, July 1, 1996)

During the same meeting, a subcommittee of the consortium presented and reviewed proposed assistive technology-related competencies for General Educators, Special Educators, and Speech-Language Pathologists. A final copy of the proposed competencies was submitted to the Indiana Professional Standards Board in September 1996. The recommended competencies for General Educators, Special Educators, and Speech-Language Pathologists addressed the need for a scope of knowledge of assistive technology devices, services, and systems. The assessment of individual strengths and needs, evaluation of individual outcomes and progress, and applications of low and high technologies in various environments were also identified as mandatory professional skills to successfully assist individuals with disabilities to progress into the twenty-first century. Official action from the board is pending.

The ATHE Project supported the research by Colleen Thoma, Ph.D. of out-of-state assistive technology educational projects. The purpose of the research was for ATHE representatives to assimilate the successes of other states providing pre-service education and training in assistive technology and consider the possibilities for implementation in Indiana. Information was acquired through interview and questionnaire process and review of program literature. Dr. Thoma identified and reported the respective strengths and weaknesses of each program and provided a written summary of all the projects that she had researched. Five educational approaches were recognized:

Major outcomes of the ATHE Project include the development of a series of training modules, faculty training and technical assistance, an assistive technology conference and exhibition, and the development of an assistive technology certificate program.

The series of ten assistive technology training modules were developed to be used as faculty resources for development of new courses on assistive technology, to incorporate assistive technology into existing related courses, and also to be used for training of professionals. The training modules along with technical assistance are available to assist faculty with the development and implementation process. The series complements five other training modules developed through ATTAIN. Each module is entitled Making the Technology Connection with a specific subtitle: An Overview of Assistive Technology, Assistive Technology and Communication, Assistive Technology and Accessibility, Assistive Technology and Medical Issues, Assistive Technology and Sensory Issues, Assistive Technology and Daily Living Aids, Assistive Technology and Recreation, Assistive Technology and Computers, Assistive Technology and Social and Psychological Issues, and Funding Assistive Technology. The modules were written by the ATHE consortium members and affiliates. Additional modules available through ATTAIN to be used in assistive technology-related courses and professional training include Assistive Technology for Infants and Toddlers, Assistive Technology for People who are Elderly, Assistive Technology on the Job, and Accommodation, Accessibility, and Assistive Technology: A Guidebook for Empowering Persons with Disabilities.

An Assistive Technology Funding Conference and Exhibition have been scheduled for May 18 - 20, 1998 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The proceedings for the conference will include a keynote speaker, multiple sessions addressing assistive technology funding issues, a variety of workshops on assistive technology devices and related topics, and a vendor exhibition. Conference information will be mailed to universities in Indiana to invite faculty participation.

As a result of the ATHE Project, Vincennes University decided to aggressively address the need for assistive technology training with the development of two academic options. Beginning this fall students will have the opportunity to participate in a twenty-eight credit hour Assistive Technology Certificate Program. A proposal for an Associate of Applied Science Degree (sixty-eight credit hours) will be presented to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education this spring. The program will be offered once approval is acquired.

The proposed assistive technology academic and training programs are designed to prepare the student to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to assess and recommend assistive technology applications. Assistive Technology Specialists, Practitioners, and Suppliers play a vital role as members of the transdisciplinary team serving individuals with disabilities. These professionals are needed in educational, rehabilitation, health care, business, and a variety of related settings. As assistive technology advances at an exceptionally rapid pace, so does the need for trained and knowledgeable professionals. Participating students will study multiple applications of new and old technologies from computer access to assistive devices, adaptations, and modifications that assist people with disabilities at home, school, work, and in the community. The associate degree program is designed to prepare the traditional student for an entry-level position and the certificate option is available to serve as professional development for individuals with experience in assistive technology or those who have degrees in related fields. Upon completion of the academic requirements (with combined experience) the student will be prepared for a career in assistive technology and disability-related professions. Additionally, once the student has met all necessary requirements and completed the required work experience, they will be eligible to take the RESNA credentialing exam.

The five core classes for the programs are Fundamentals of Assistive Technology; Assessment, Selection, and Evaluation of Assistive Technology; Funding and Policy Issues in Assistive Technology; and Applications in Assistive Technology. An Internship/Special Project in Assistive Technology will also be required. Courses will be instructed in both a traditional classroom and laboratory setting.

Through the collaborative efforts of professionals and consumers involved in the ATHE Project the need to infuse assistive technology instruction into the undergraduate and graduate disability-related curricula, is being aggressively addressed in Indiana.

The ultimate commitment of those involved is to improve the quality of life of Hoosiers with disabilities.

References

Accessing Technology Through Awareness in Indiana. (1997, July). "Assistive technology higher education project final report." Indianapolis, IN: Author.

Cook, Albert M., & Hussey, Susan M. (1995). "Assistive technologies: Principles and practice." St. Louis, MO: Mosby.

RESNA. (1996). "Credentialing examination in assistive technology: Candidate's information bulletin." Arlington, Virginia: Author.

Thoma, Colleen. (1996, July). "Assistive Technology Projects and Programs in Other States." Paper presented at ATHE Consortium Meeting, Vincennes, IN.


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