You might be thinking, “What is assistive technology and why is it important?” or “I have a student with a disability – how can I make sure that his educational process is the same as anyone else’s?” or “Why should I bother learning about this?” Well, just sit back for a moment and think about what you do during the day. Do you surf the Net, access e-mail, send text messages, or update your blog or other social media? Do you do online banking, upload pictures, play online games? What about work activities online?
Now, how in the world would you be able to do this if you started to lose your vision or not be able to access the keyboard and mouse because of a physical issue such as repetitive stress syndrome? Or, maybe you know someone who has difficulty reading because of a learning difference and could benefit from something that could make information more accessible. Let’s face it, we’re all getting older and we should know about this technology so we can continue to blog and surf the Net well into our 90’s and beyond. Nearly 26 million Americans are classified as "severely" disabled, requiring personal or technological assistance to perform daily activities. People with disabilities represent the largest minority group in the U.S.
You will be amazed at the types of technology available that makes it possible for someone with a disability (physical, sensory, or learning) to interact with a computer. These modules will introduce you to the world of assistive technology and you will learn about people who use it on a daily basis to be able to blog, communicate, surf the Web… Along the way you may start thinking about people in your own life that can benefit from it.
The Internet is constantly evolving and is no longer a means of just receiving information. It is increasingly becoming a form of exchanging information and interacting using Web 2.0 tools as you may have learned if you took the “Learning 2.0” tutorial. The only flip-side to the vast pace of technology is that the content must remain accessible for those using access technology. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if audio on websites were captioned, and visual content spoken aloud? In that way, more persons with disabilities could have the same experience as anyone else when using the computer and any other device.
Here’s an outline of each module. The links below will take you to the specific learning session. Work at your own pace to explore and do activities to increase your understanding.
Module #1: Types of Disabilities and Accommodations
- Check out different websites and videos to learn about various disabilities. Learn about famous people with disabilities and how they accommodate to be successful.
- Explore the Job Accommodation Network to make the learning process better for a student with a disability.
- Learn about Assistive Technology hardware solutions such as adaptive keyboards, mice, and alternative cursor control.
- Visit some websites that demonstrate the technology.
- Discover Assistive Technology software programs, such as low vision, blindness, learning disabilities, virtual keyboards, and more.
- See the impact of these software solutions.
- Learn about disability etiquette and awareness.
- Locate more resources to increase your knowledge about the world of assistive technology.
Have a great time learning and exploring and see how assistive technology makes the world a better for us all. Each summer, an award is given at the American Library Association conference to a library program that makes libraries more accessible to persons with disabilities. See what libraries have done and continue to do to provide better access.