2006 Conference General Sessions



Steven A. Timmer PhD
Premier Assistive Technology
13102 Elaisdell Dr.
DeWitt, MI 48820
Phone 517—668—8188
Fax 517—668—2417
Steve@readingmadeeasy.com OCT 03 20LE

Accommodations are a fundamental requirement for graduation, and empowerment is fundamental for success in life. It is critical to select the right types of accommodations that empower the user for success after graduation.

This sentiment was best summarized by William Snyder, a recent graduate in Business Administration. He said, “When I left high school, I was shocked into reality in the first semester of community college - they expected me to do the same work as everyone else. There was no reduced work load, no resource room, and I would not graduate unless I completed all my work. I almost gave up, and would have if my mother had not stayed up to eleven o’clock every night. I was not prepared for college. I eventually made it to a four year college that had a good disability support office that helped me get books on tape, and they read my tests to me, and in some classes they had note takers.”

“Now that I have graduated, where are my books on tape, readers, note takers?” says William. “Nobody is giving me extra time; they just are expecting me to do it - by myself. I’m confident in what I know, but I was never taught how to do it by myself.”

Part of the educational process is not only for individuals to be successful in acquiring the knowledge in a field of study but also to learn how to apply that knowledge - and to do it by themselves and for themselves.

Using Universal Design and Universal Access to empower users for success after graduation from secondary and postsecondary institutions.

Universal Design and Universal Access, when applied and supported, have been shown to have significant benefits to graduation rates and success after graduation in secondary and postsecondary environments. This success has been noted in individuals with identified disabilities as well as a substantial portion of the at-risk population.

In examining the landscape of literacy for disabled students (especially anyone with print-related challenges) in higher education, the historical trend has been to address literacy needs of this population through the use of selective tools, techniques, policies and processes, broadly classified as “accommodations,” that
• largely isolate those students from mainstream education. All too often, the result of this “separate but equal” systemic isolation is that these students are ill-prepared to deal with the rigors and requirements of the postsecondary working world and mainstream day—to-day life. Said another way, our core values must emphasize that accommodations are NOT empowerment the true capacity of an individual to be able to perform and compete with their peers and colleagues.

To achieve true empowerment of individuals with disabilities, we are seeking through the full integration of Universal Design and Universal Access to academic information, knowledge and processes that will positively impact the total inclusion and integration of individuals with disabilities into educational communities and occupational settings.

Until recently, historical constraints such as operational logistics, costs, and even organizational dynamics have precluded any practical consideration for implementation of Universal Design and Universal Access to information and knowledge in academia. However, recent developments in technologies combined with very progressive approaches to software licensing could realistically place Universal Design and Universal Access to information and knowledge well within the reach of virtually all institutions of higher education.

In addition to the positive impact of Universal Design and Universal Access for that population narrowly classified as “disabled,” we anticipate expanded residual effects of Universal Design and Universal Access for much broader demographic profiles of individuals who struggle with printed materials, but who, heretofore, have had virtually no opportunity to access solutions they so desperately need. They are denied access to assistance because the degrees of their respective challenges are not sufficiently severe to qualify for assistance. This expanded universe of potential beneficiaries is often labeled as “at risk” because they are statistically much more likely to struggle or fail without some degree of assistance. Growing bodies of research indicate that this “at risk” universe actually comprises a much larger population than the sum total of the more traditional categories encompassed under the definition of “disabled.”

Looking to the future1 we expect these technologies and paradigms to. Rapidly evolve and mature, further leveling the literacy playing field for everyone, regardless of their inherent challenges and abilities. Rather than the current culture of isolationism, the primary goal of Universal Design and Universal Access is to make solutions available that will foster a culture of inclusion in education and employment. Success in this arena will be measured and manifested through not only higher graduation rates but, ultimately, higher employment rates across ALL categories of individuals who stand to benefit from Universal Design and Universal Access.

Changing student habits
in the late l990s, it was the exception for a student to have a powerful personal computer available for studies. Now it is more the norm than the exception for a student to have a personal computer. In addition to having a personal computer, most individuals have access to high—speed Internet connectivity. This access to technology has changed students’ habits. There are fewer reasons for students to remain on campus to engage in every aspect of their education. Students are spending less time in libraries and more time online researching and accessing information. While there are substantial benefits to be gained from the introduction of assistive technologies on campus, those benefits can be further enhanced by installing technology where the students are actually doing most of their reading and writing — on their own personal computers, wherever they are located. Is having access to assistive technology only on campus fair to students with disabilities?

Distance Learning Accommodations: a unique approach by the Alternative Media Access Center “AMAC” at the University of GeorgiaAthens.
Individuals with disabilities find distance learning an attractive alternative to
traditional education because transportation is frequently a significant obstacle. Transportation can be both expensive and inconvenient. Distance learning solves that problem but creates another. Colleges frequently only make assistive technology available on campus. This creates a dilemma.

The AMAC has developed a strategic alliance with assistive technology venders to provide assistive technology to distant learners The AMAC has created a web site that students can access through their WebCT/Vista account. AMAC not only provides accessible materials through this portal, but they now provide the technology to access that material as well. This approach helps students acquire an education, and in the process students are learning how to access the material by themselves; and they are doing it by themselves, giving students the knowledge they need for an occupation and the skills they need to actually compete effectively for employment. This particular project allows students to take the tools with them once they graduate. This enables students to retain the knowledge, skills, and tools required for success in the working world.

Tools for Life:
In addition to discussing the benefits from the UD/UA approach to education, this presentation will talk about tools for life that work in the classroom and beyond. Topics will include how to quickly identify different types of tools and the features of the tools that will most likely be utilized. Attendees will be able to distinguish between assistive learning technology and assistive living technology as well as understand the fundamental differences between compulsory assistive technology and elective assistive technology.

This presentation will quickly demonstrate some of the tools provided by the AMAC Center to their distant learners. Since there will not be sufficient time to demonstrate the full benefits and features of this technology, a full working copy will be provided to all attendees to take back with them for further exploration.

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