2002 Conference Proceedings

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Increasing Access to the Curriculum through Assistive Technology

Jill Ethridge, OTR/L
Janie Cirlot-New, M.S., CCC-SLP
T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability
Mississippi State University
Camille Yates, Ph.D.
Institute for Disability Studies
University of Southern Mississippi

The use of technology in the schools allows students with disabilities to access the general curriculum in regular education classrooms and promotes literacy among students with disabilities (Craver & Burton, 1998). Technology increases successful outcomes for students with disabilities in an educational setting by providing students the necessary means for meeting educational goals. "Through technology, students with disabilities are identifying new options for participation, exerting more control, making more choices, and interacting more effectively" (United Cerebral Palsy Association, 1994). However, a recent report by the ARC noted that assistive technology is underutilized because of a lack of training for teachers and lack of awareness on the part of families (Wehmeyer, 1999).

Many applications of assistive technology are available for assisting students with disabilities in benefiting from the general curriculum. Deciding how these applications can effectively be utilized in daily lessons to assist students in reaching IEP goals and objectives is not always easy. Consideration must be made for environmental adaptations, access, specific disability, specific curriculum objectives, and evaluation criteria.

Public Law 105-17, the IDEA Amendments of 1997, specifically addresses assistive technology mandating that teachers must now consider the appropriateness of assistive technology as a tool or intervention (Lahm & Nickels, 1999). However, as Mississippi's Master Plan for Educational Technology (1996) notes, "There is currently little systematic integration of technology into the curriculum in the majority of schools"(p.1)

This proposed presentation will focus on increasing knowledge and understanding of effective strategies for improving the results of education, access to, and participation of students with disabilities within the general curriculum through the use of assistive technology. Strategies for providing access to technology such as identifying task requirements of students within the classroom, making modifications within the curriculum, and steps for identifying appropriate technology will be discussed. Components necessary for successfully integrating assistive technology into the classroom setting will also be discussed. These components will include utilizing peers to assist students with disabilities within the classroom, requirements for training teachers in the use of assistive technology, and the provisions essential for ongoing support to school districts and teachers.

Access to assistive technology within the classroom setting is vital for obtaining optimal educational success. Allowing access to assistive technology throughout the daily classroom routine will encourage the utilization of the assistive technology. Many factors for positioning technology within the classroom must be considered. One of the main considerations is for removing environmental barriers. This can be done by positioning assistive technology in a manner that allows students appropriate access. Table heights, visual access and other factors need to be considered.

Providing assistive technology training to teachers and families is an integral part in assuring successful integration of assistive technology into the classroom. Teachers must first achieve a working knowledge of the assistive technology in order to incorporate the assistive technology into the educational plan. Another focus of training should be to provide methods and strategies for incorporating the assistive technology into the daily routines of the students. Daily implementation of the assistive technology encourages and promotes utilization by the students. Ongoing and follow-up training may be a necessary part of the overall training plan.

References

Craver, J. & Burton-Radzely, L. (1998). Technology Links to Literacy: A Casebook of Special Educators ' Use of Technology to Promote Literacy. Maryland: Handicapped and Gifted Children.

Laun, E.A., & Nickels, B.L. (1999). Assistive technology competencies by special educators. Teaching Exceptional Children, 32 (1), 56-63.

Mississippi Department of Education. (1996). Mississippi master plan for educational technology. Jackson, MS: Author.

United Cerebral Palsy Association, (1994). Hand in Hand: Technology Inclusion. Access Group, Atlanta, GA.

Wehmeyer, M.L. (1999). Assistive technology and students with mental retardation: Utilization and barriers. Journal of Special Education Technology, 14 (1), 48-58.


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