2004 Conference Proceedings

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FROM SWITCHES TO VOICE OUTPUT: ABLENET SIMPLE TECHNOLOGY AT IT'S BEST!

Presenter(s)
Mary Sagstetter
AbleNet, Inc
1081 Tenth Ave S.E.
Mpls, MN 55414-1312
Phone: 1.800.322.0956x652
Fax: 612.379-9143
Email: mary_sagstetter@ablenetinc.com

Technology has the ability to level the playing field for all individuals. Tape players, music blocks, battery controlled toys, hand held games, cellular phones, Video Camera Recorders, Digital Video Disk, Palm Pilots, hearing aids and talking watches are just a few of the countless pieces of technology that exist today. These technologies have the power to provide fun and to make life easier to manage for all those who have access to them.

There exists a segment in our population; those with disabilities, that, if provided the opportunity to access simple technology solutions would have new worlds opened that have previously been closed to them. It would empower them to gain independence and participate in daily activities that they have otherwise only wished to. It would give them a chance to realize or even chase their dreams.

In this age of technological development and advancement many simple assistive technology devices and adaptations continue to be designed that greatly benefit individuals with disabilities of all ages. These developments provide many available options to all individuals to participate in activities, communicate effectively and learn from their experiences.

Accessing simple assistive technology solutions can have profound benefits and implications for individuals with disabilities. The benefits can be gained in the home, school and community environments as individuals with disabilities now have a greater opportunity to:

"h experiencing new opportunities for interactions and communication "h gaining control over life skills "h building self-confidence "h expanding learning and life experiences "h increasing independence "h increased participation at school, home and community settings (Sheets, L. and Wirkus. M. 1997).

In addition, another benefit of assistive technology is the change in perception of others. New attitudes occur when they interact with the individual and the technology being used in a real and meaningful context. In one study, using a voice output communication aid resulted in increased interaction between peers (Meisel, 1994). In another study, students rated an individual with a disability significantly higher on an attitude scale when the individual used a voice output communication aid (Gorenflo and Gorenflo, 1991). Also a study by Fernandez (1996) indicated that both peers and staff members are more likely to talk to a student who does not speak when the student can initiate the dialogue with the help of a voice output communication aid.

In the United States, it is common to see a range of simple assistive technology available in schools. The range is from a few pieces of assistive technology in one classroom to another totally engineered for maximum student success. It is important for students with disabilities to have access to simple assistive technology to participate in the same educational instruction and expectations as their peers. Teachers engage all students in instructional lessons by having them focus on the topic, listen to new information, participate in discussions and actively practice skills.

The key factors for individuals with disabilities are to have the opportunity to learn by engaging, participating and actively practicing skills. Often a simple assistive technology solution is what is needed to make learning to their maximum potential a reality.

Assistive technology can be termed the ¡§great equalizer¡¨. Simple assistive technologies have the power to provide fun and to make life easier to manage. Access to these technologies can provide individuals with disabilities the chance to make powerful connections with others, learn in their home, school and community environments and even chase their dreams.

References:

Fernandez, L.(1996). An experimental study of non-verbal students who use a voice output communication aid. Unpublished Master Thesis, California State Polytechnic, Pomona.

Gorenflo, C. and Gorenflo, D., (1991). The Effects of Informational and Augmentative Communication Techniques on Attitudes Toward Non-Speaking Individuals. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research. Volume 34,19-26.February 1991.

Meisel, C. (1994). Increasing Interactions with voice output communications systems. Unpublished Master Thesis, San Francisco State University.

Simms, B., M.A. CCC-SLP. (2003). Assistive Technology for Early Childhood. Exceptional Parent Magazine. August 2003. P.72.

Sheets, L. and Wirkus. M. (1997). Everyone¡¦s Classroom: An environment designed to invite and facilitate active participation. Closing the Gap, Volume 16 ¡V Number 1, 1-9

Soto, G. (1997). Teacher Attitudes Towards Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 13(3), 186-197.


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