Technology May Help Redefine Students with Disabilities

Jan 21, 2011
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Assistive technology devices enable students with disabilities to express what they know, and rapid advancements in technology are helping to “redefine ability and disability,” says Milton Chen, senior fellow and director emeritus at the George Lucas Educational Foundation.  Chen says he hopes that in the near future, observers will be able to peer into a classroom of students and will not be able to identify students with disabilities.

Assistive technology may also help motivate students with disabilities who might otherwise become discouraged by traditional learning methods by giving students with disabilities more choice in how they would like to learn.

Because of its potential significance, it is important that teachers know what assistive technology is available and how to use it.  One service that can help in this area is the National Center for Technology Innovation’s TechMatrix, a website that provides free information about educational and assistive technology products for students with disabilities.

Other resources include:

  • “ACTIV 2.0: Adapted Captioning Through Interactive Video” from the Helen A. Kellar Institute for Human disAbilities.  ACTIV project is aimed to develop, refine, and test the feasibility of an innovative technology-based approach enforcing the principles of universal design for learning that enables access and participation of students with various disabilities in appropriate challenging academic curriculum. This technology will allow enhancing existing content-based videos in any subject area with adapted and interactive features such as regular text, highlighted text, and/or picture-symbol captioning; verbal and visual cuing; interactive hyperlinks in order to search the video for answers; and built-in testing activities in various formats.
  • TERC and Vcom3D showed how incorporating accessibility software called SigningAvatar into web-based and iPod Touch versions of illustrated 3D science and math dictionaries can help K-12 students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Center for Literacy & Disability Studies demonstrated a new software program called “Big Words”, which has the primary goals of developing a new instructional technology aimed at teaching multisyllabic word decoding and conducting research to determine the effectiveness of the technology.

I was kind of surprised to find all this in existence already, and with the rate of advancement in technology these days, there has to be even more stuff coming soon.  I know I’m not a teacher, so I may just not be aware of the system that keeps our teachers informed, but is there a way to make sure they all know about these great resources??

Author: Blythe

  • Ruth B.

    I think you would be even more surprised to learn about the lack of awareness regarding assistive technology (AT) among the teachers that teach students with disabilities. Continuing education in this area for teachers who serve students with disabilities is a definite must – but what worries me more is that many teachers don’t even have a beginning education in this area. Please raise your hand if you are a parent who has had to go to school and teach your child’s teachers how to operate a new device! (Only after spending hours figuring it out yourself)

    Teachers in our country today are already so overwhelmed and cover so many issues, it doesn’t seem like a solution to this problem will be easy to come by. Imagine how that could change if more people knew what assistive technology was, and how it could help others. I think parents and teachers across the country would rejoice if the Best Buy Geek Squad handled AT requests!

    Thank you for sharing these resources – it’s time to help spread the word and work together as parents, families, teachers, and engaged community members to make sure that as many children as possible can reap the benefits Milton Chen predicts are possible when everyone understands and can access AT.