1999 Conference Proceedings

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ADAPTIVE TECHNOLOGY: Evaluation and Training

Mike Wardin
Adaptive Training Specialist
Adaptive Computing Technology Center (ACT Center)
Information and Access Technology Services (IAT Services)
University of Missouri (Columbia)
200 Locust building
Columbia, MO 65211
or University of Missouri (Columbia)
24 Arts and Science
Columbia, MO 65255
(573) 882-5657

Adaptive Technology is finding the right equipment so that people with disabilities can utilize technology on an equal basis with their peers. This enables then to have equal access to education, jobs and achieve self-worth through independence. The purpose of this paper is to give a basis of evaluation and then of training for Adaptive Technology assessment.

These are the two steps that we use in the ACT Center at the University of Missouri.


What is the importance of an evaluation?

A good evaluation consists of a well written and thought provoking application which not only gets the client the best equipment for use at this time, but the evaluator also looks down the road at what the client may need one year or more from now. An evaluation also introduces the client to several new technologies that may not have been explored by the client, or they may have a set idea of what would work the best, and once having seen what is available, may change their mind, for something better.

The technology needed for each person is different, each person may use different equipment or combinations of equipment according to their need. For example People with Visual Impairments or People that are Blind may need Screen Readers, Screen Enlargement, Synthesizers, Closed Circuit Televisions, or the Accessibility Options that come with Windows. They may need a PC or an Apple; it could be Windows 95, 98 or 3.1 or even Dos, or even a different Operating System on the Apple. Another issue is which Software would work the best? This can only be determined through an evaluation and application.

Does anyone evaluate the different types of software, and what resources might be available? Yes there are many independent places evaluating different software, the best may be educational institutions that do not have software to sell. People with Mobility Impairments may need Voice Recognition, Adjustable Tables, or Accessibility Options. There is not a great amount of software for Hearing Impairments but the Accessibility Options in Windows has things such as visual keys. Learning Disabilities are now being recognized as a disability, and in turn manufacturers are starting to produce software programs which will meet this growing need. Things such as the Accessibility Options in Windows, software like Kurzweil 3000 and Wynn for the post secondary generation and many other programs are available. An evaluator needs to look at each individual impairment and use a combination of the above tools to maximize the abilities of each client so they can succeed in college, or their career.

What qualities are desired in an evaluator?

Each Person with a disability has different needs, a teacher or evaluator both need to have a multi-disciplinary background. A multi-disciplinary background is vital, not to look at only the overall disability, but also each individual aspect or complication of the disability. For example a person may have lost their sight to Diabetes and the evaluator needs to be aware of complications such as changes in vision, neuropathy, blood sugars, seizures, and mood swings. Multiple training or Disciplines are needed for Evaluators and trainers, where this is not always possible; a group session could provide this. An evaluator, would need to plan for all issues in the evaluation, and pass this information on to the trainer.

These issues need to be addressed by the evaluator or evaluation team. Evaluators need to look at many different directions such as what equipment is needed now? What equipment is needed in three years? What program are they going into? (Is the software or equipment they need now, capable of being used in the final desired goal). What is the estimated training time needed? Trainers look at what capabilities they have and how long it would take to complete each step? Is repetition needed, and do you have to stick to a Agency set Schedule? Many questions will be answered during this evaluation process.

What Instruments might you use as an evaluator to achieve the best overall answers in the least amount of time? At the University of Missouri/Columbia we have developed an Evaluation tool consisting of release of information, permission slip, general assessment, and then a specific disability form . First the client needs to sign a release, clarifying who will receive the information and reports and giving the client information on who will be getting copies. Next the client signs a permission slip stating they are giving answers to the best of their ability.

The General Assessment form includes general information, goals, work and academic history, learning experience, and technical assessment. The last form relates to a specific disability category such as Mobility, Visual, Learning Disability or Other, this form gives us specific information on that individual disability. Your Application, should be designed so you get as much feed back with the least amount of questions to be answered. Design each question so it will lead into longer answers. So that as much information and client feedback can be involved in as short a time frame as possible.After the evaluation is completed with the client, and the ACT staff has developed a technological and training report, the report is sent to the clients agency and/or used to develop a training program. The report includes recommendations to purchase or obtain equipment needed by the client.


What are the reasons for training?

The ACT staff's primary goal is to train students, staff and faculty that have disabilities. We also expand our services to include off campus training and reports to state and private agencies along with private individuals. Our goal is to provide services and insight to people of the University of Missouri and to those people with a disability who desire to further their academic and work environments as a service of Information and Access technology Services.

Many questions should be asked about training issues, such as:

These questions will be answered as training programs are being developed and implemented with the clients. Our philosophy has always been of client self determination.

Issues involved in Training

Client needs are varied, client needs may include repetition, training on basic to complex levels, client self determination, etc..

At the University of Missouri, we have found that one major issue is self-esteem, and feeling able to do computing and research on their own. Another major issue is access to information, for example being able to access equipment to obtain information in a timely manner and knowing how to utilize that information. You need to explain why you are training, what you are training, and how you are going to train, but you also need to sometimes just sit and listen.

Whose goal is this anyway, yours, the clients, or an agency?

The ultimate goal is that the client needs to feel secure in their choice and get the chance to succeed or fail on their own volition.

What is the time frame?

The trainer, evaluator, client or agency, each may have a differing time frame.

The evaluator/trainer may want to know how soon this knowledge is needed? How soon might they graduate, or how soon before they go out into the workforce?

The client may want to know, how long, the training may take, what will they learn, how much time can I schedule, when can I schedule time and can I apply this training to my ultimate goal.

The agency will want to know how long this training will take and what will it cost them? Also will the client need more training or will the existing training provide enough knowledge for an extended period of time.

Finally, preparation needs to be done prior to a training session with the client. It is important to develop lesson plans based on the individual client. Multiple lesson plans give you the opportunity to teach one lesson or ten lessons depending on the pace the client can work. Setting a time frame for training is an important step in the process. The ACT Center at MU trains 1« hours per session. This seems to work the best, by giving time to learn, but not so much time that you overload the client.

Secondary Implications need to be considered.

On the evaluation form we have assessed the client for their disability, but what else should we be looking for? Secondary issues that a trainer must be aware of may be setting the time of day for training and physical health issues. For example, does the client have Neuropathy, a deadness of the extremities, or does the client have frequent seizures from diabetes or epilepsy because of the computer screen flickering? Many secondary implications need to be addressed. It is to the staff's advantage to ask the client or possibly a counselor or relative (if there is a release). This gives the client a chance to state a problem and not be embarrassed if something happens. Being aware of secondary implications would prepare staff in advance for situations that may arise and will maximize the training abilities of the client.

Who certifies evaluators and trainers; so they are credible? Following is a statement direct from RESNA's web page.

RESNA is the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America. We are an interdisciplinary association of people with a common interest in technology and disability. Our purpose is to improve the potential of people with disabilities to achieve their goals through the use of technology. We serve that purpose by promoting research, development, education, advocacy and the provision of technology and by supporting the people engaged in these activities. RESNA's membership ranges from rehabilitation professionals to consumers. All members are dedicated to promoting the exchange of ideas and information for the advancement of Assistive technology.

In January 1995, the RESNA Board of Directors established the Professional Standards Board in Assistive and Rehabilitation Technology. The purpose of the Standards Board is to develop policy for standards of practice and to adjudicate in the areas of certification of service providers. The Board will issue a certificate to successful candidates, who may present themselves to the public as professionals with demonstrated competence in technology and disability.

For the purposes of the University of Missouri/ Columbia, RESNA seems to be the best agency for certification . At present we are sending two people for the certificate from RESNA. While RESNA is one of the better sources, there are others. In our circumstances, RESNA seems to be the one to answer our needs for certification.

At the ACT Center at the University of Missouri we work on improving our resourses, technology, training and knowledge so that we may continue to be current and capable of helping our clients. Kevin Price and I will soon be attending RESNA for certification as adaptive technologists. We hope to continue on the forefront in the Adaptive Technology field. And thus benefit ourselves, the University and especially our clients. http://www.loriens.com 

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