1999 Conference Proceedings

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ADAPTIVE TECHNOLOGY: A Strategy for Acquisition, Education and Vocation

Rycharde P. Martindale-Essington

(This work is strictly the property of the author. No part may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission. Copyright 1990, 1998. All rights reserved.)

INTRODUCTION

This paper addresses three specific topics. The first deals with adaptive equipment and my philosophy concerning this matter. The second topic lists the specific types of adaptive equipment necessary for a blind college student to successfully complete college. Finally, the third topic formulates a three-pronged strategy for obtaining such equipment. By way of presentation, personal anecdote and audience participation, I will not only address the various strategies involving adaptive technology which enabled me to obtain several degrees, but also probe the possible implementation of a model enrichment InterNet training program for the soon-to-be visually impaired college student.

The technology exists which can enable blind college students to read their textbooks via the use of optical scanners-- with the proper training, they can also competently conduct their own library research on the InterNet. A problem exists today in which blind and visually impaired high school seniors are ill equipped to gather information and conduct research using the InterNet because they are not trained to do so within their high school curriculum.

This lack of training often results in such blind students facing insurmountable problems at the college level in conducting research and processing information-- activities easily accessible and utilized by their sighted college peers.

The Martindale-Essington, Inc., InterNet Research Trainer (MIRT, for lack of a better name!) Program is a model enrichment course established to teach library research skills using the InterNet to perspective blind college students prior to their arrival. The MIRT program is designed to take place at a central location-- either at the local Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DR) office or at the DR client's home, if absolutely necessary. A daily two hour session over an eight week period is recommended for completion of the MIRT program.

Ideally, over the period of a summer-- twelve (12) weeks, making use of three (3) shifts, twelve (12) DR clients can thus be certified as "ready for the InterNet." At the conclusion of the MIRT program, these clients/customers will be able to use the InterNet and assistive technology to complete a research project within one of the social sciences-- thus, giving these individuals a competitive edge when they arrive at college.

The basis of the presentation is a discussion aimed at the would-be visually imapiired college student. I intend to foster a discussion between these perspective students, D.R. counsellors who must shepherd such students through an academic program and high school and college educators. As first, a successful college student who is blind and second, as a Consumer Advocate for a southern California Independent Living Center, I am uniquely qualified to facilitate this discussion. My formal training regarding AT began with CalState Northridge in 1987 when its Assistive Technology Computer Lab first showed me that adaptive technology and academics could form the basis for a good partnership. I earned my Bachellor's Degree in 1991 and after a successful stay at the Los Angeles Air Force Base as a civilian historian, obtained my Masters Degree in 1995. While at the Claremont Graduate University from 1996-98, I successfully completed 40 of 72 doctoral courses before holding my current position as Consumer Advocate, working within the fields of Public Benefits, ADAcompliance and paratransit transportation issues.

None of these successes could have have been feasible without adaptive technology and thus, I would like to entertain a discussion concerning how this technology can be better integrated into the collegiate academic experience. It is no longer the expensive ordeal it once was. I propose nothing more than the sharing of ideas and the establishment of a dialogue which must occur. Adaptive Technology has more than proved itself as an equalizer in both academic and vocational endeavors. I am passionately convinced of its worth and place within the hands of those who depend upon it most.


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