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Hello Moto: Demystifying Assistive Technology

According to the United States government website on assistive technology, “It has been estimated that 54 million people or 20.6 percent of all Americans have some level of disability.”[1] Assistive technology is traditionally defined as any item created or customized to aid in the independent functioning of an individual with disabilities.[2] I believe that this definition is slightly limited in that assistive technology often benefits any user regardless of ability. As a special education teacher for over five years, I have witnessed that instruction provided for students with disabilities is, in my opinion, true quality instruction. Although many general education students do not require that material be presented using a multisensory approach in order to access the curriculum, I can not help to reflect that many of our students would possibly perform better and possibly retain vital information if they were taught in this fashion. Thanks to Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences[3] we have opened our minds to the concept that there are many different learning styles and preferences; and, therefore, it would stand to reason that a variety of tools to accommodate these differences, such as education specific assistive technology devices, can be used for everyone’s benefit.

Many educators shy away from incorporating assistive technology in their classrooms due to an assumption that all assistance must be high tech. Assistive technology can be as low tech as creating a “focus strip” for your learning disabled reader by using colored cellophane paper to focus on one line at a time; using a cane to walk, utilizing an adapted shower or restroom when experiencing a physical impairment or debilitating illness, or simply wearing eyeglasses for limited vision. There are higher technology devices such as text-to-speech computer programs, Braille embossers, and motorized wheelchairs, which are more expensive but integral to the lives of individuals with moderate to severe disabilities.

There are several assistive technology devices that we see everyday which have been highly marketed for the “abled” consumer. Touch screen computers and Bluetooth devices are examples of high tech assistive technology that add convenience and enrich the lives of individuals with and without disabilities. We often overlook the tools necessary to lead productive lives until we need them ourselves or they are needed by those we love. I implore you to explore the many tools at your disposal; knowledge is power and the more resources we have as instructors the better we can empower our students to lead more independent lives. For a resource list of assistive technology devices, please visit the University of Iowa’s website at http://www.uiowa.edu/infotech/ATDevice.htm.

Article by Tai Collins

Photo by Digitaljournal


[1] http://standards.gov/standards_gov/assistiveTechnology.cfm

[2] “Assistive technology (AT) can be defined as any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” (29 U.S.C. Sec 2202(2)).

[3] Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.

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