2004 Conference Proceedings

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A TECHNICAL LOOK AT ACCESSIBILITY THROUGH ASSISTVE TECHNOLOGY IN POST-SECONDARY SETTINGS

Presenters
Carolyn P. Phillips
Tools for Life - Dept. of Labor
1700 Century Circle, Suite 300
Atlanta, Georgia 30345
Phone: (404) 638-0389
Fax: (404) 486-0218
Email: carolynpphillips@mindspring.com

Students with disabilities are still experienceing major access hurdles in the post-secondary settings. Assistive technology offers solutions to these access hurdles, yet many instutions have not explored the many options available. When asked about the lack of assistive technology available in these settings professionals in the field suggest it is due to a lack of knowledge about people with disabilities, assistive technology, accomodations and the laws regarding accessibility. Funding is also a major concern of the professionals we interviewed.

Assistive technology is an important piece of the whole support system individuals with learning disabilities require to achieve success. Exactly what is assistive technology (AT)? AT is any item, piece of equipment, or product that is used to increase, maintain or improve the abilities of individuals with disabilities: tools to promote independence across all areas of daily living. These common tools extend from low-tech, low-cost items to high-tech, more expensive devices. Low-tech devices require little or no training; high-tech devices may require extensive training.

Technology can affect the lives of people with disabilities in daily living, whether it's in the classroom, at work, in the home, or in other social settings. Technology provides, in other words, valuable tools for life. The simplicity and ready availability of low-tech devices should not be overlooked. Inexpensive color highlighters, for example, can help individuals with reading difficulties distinguish words that appear the same, like proud, pound, and pond. Providers help the student highlight the troublesome words in different colors and make the reader visually aware of the differences between these words. High-tech devices, such as an optical character recognition (OCR) system, provide a means of entering text or printed material directly into a computer by use of a scanner. Once the text has been scanned into the computer, it can be read back to the user by means of a speech synthesizer.

Technology in itself is not the answer to all problems faced by students with disabilities. Technology does, however, provide valuable tools for life. Those seeking technological assistance should focus not on the device, but on what the device can do for the individual in need. The fit must be right. The biggest or most expensive may not always be the best fit. The key to selecting the most appropriate tool involves many elements: seeking a thorough team evaluation, finding the resources to obtain the technology, customizing the technology to make the best fit, and providing the time as well as the patience for training.

Without reasonable accommodations, the student with disabilities is presented with innumerable barriers. The inability to demonstrate skills adequately results in poor performance evaluations; stress related health problems, and job instability, not to mention the unrealized productivity standards of the student.

However, with appropriate accommodations and training strategies, the student with disabilities can learn to take advantage of strengths and minimize weaknesses, and thus enhance the potential of success in learning environments.

Research has shown that assistive technology and computer technology can have a positive effect on people with disibilities by assisting them in writing, reading, accessing online resources, performing academic tasks independently and even in communicating with others. It is extremly important for students with disabilities to have equal access to information and resources that will assit them in meeting their academic goals. Post-secondary learning envirionments are faced with a significate challenge of implementing the most effective assisitve technology solutions to meet the needs of the majority of the needs of their students with disabilities

This presentation, " A TECHNICAL LOOK AT ACCESSIBILITY THROUGH ASSISTVE TECHNOLOGY IN POST-SECONDARY SETTINGS ", will also give participants a model of how to assess the needs for AT in post-secondary settings. Participants will also have a better understanding of the laws regarding accessibility. Three case-studies of successful implimentation of assistive technology in a large university, small vocational tech school and a rural public library will be examined. We will:


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