2004 Conference Proceedings

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COMPUTER SOFTWARE AND ACCESS FOR LEARNERS WITH VISUAL AND ADDITIONAL DIFFICULTIES

Presenters
Roger Bates
Inclusive Technology
Gatehead Business park
Delph, Oldham, OL3 5BX, United Kingdom
Phone: 01457819790
Email: roger@inclusive.co.uk

Students who have a visual impairment and additional physical and/or cognitive difficulties are often unable to use resources designed solely for people with a visual or physical impairment. Their restrictions can often hinder their development, as they are unable to learn by exploring their surrounds in a meaningful way. By introducing suitable technology at an early age we can give them enhanced opportunities to begin to play and to develop skills in using equipment that may be vital to their future learning.

This session will present a range of equipment and software that offers possibilities for this group of learners. This will include switch software that offers bright stimulating responses designed to interest learners with visual difficulties and suggest ways in which off-computer activities can be used to enhance learning. The IntelliKeys board and associated software provides an ideal way to create exciting tactile interactive activities. The session will also feature resources that have been developed to use IntelliPics Studio alongside tactile overlays.

The computer, with is bright and controllable display offers an ideal resource for learners with visual difficulties. Those users who have additional physical or cognitive difficulties can further benefit by being able to use alternative inputs such as switches, touch monitors and the IntelliKeys keyboard. This group of learners with multiple disabilities are often very restricted in their ability to interact with and make sense of their surroundings. This often leads them to give up trying and maybe even become tactile defensive. In effect, because their surroundings offer them little they give up trying.

By using appropriate software and switch operated devices they can find that their efforts at movement can bring pleasure and offer rewards. Bright visual displays on the computer will encourage them to look and they can then be introduced to the idea that, by using a simple input device they can influence the rewards.

They presentation will begin by showing a selection of software that has been developed to provide stimulation visual and auditory rewards and suggest ways in which users can be introduced to the idea that they can control the reward. Simple speech output devices can also be very useful at this early stage of awareness and a range of these will be considered along with ideas for their use.

The presentation will continue by looking at how the IntelliKeys keyboard and associated software can be used to provide tactile computer inputs to encourage students to explore and give meaning to their surroundings. For those students with severe visual difficulties this can also be an ideal way to introduce them to making use of their hearing and developing their listening skills. Ideas for using IntelliPics Studio to create activities that provide both auditory and related visual feedback will be shown. Once the student has begun to make sense of simple cause and effect further activities can be introduced that encourage them to explore the area of the IntelliKeys. The quiz feature of the Intellipics Studio program can be used to provide opportunities for the student to develop their listening skills that will be important for their future learning and development.


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