Tag Archives | assistive technology

Technology at the Florida School for Deaf & Blind

The Florida School for Deaf & Blind is an accredited public boarding and day school that offers preK-12  education for students who are hard of hearing, deaf, sight impaired, or blind.  This school is located in St. Augustine, Florida and is open to any students residing in Florida and complete the application process.   In addition to studying regular school subjects like math, science, and reading, students are also provided with the necessary support to be successful in academics and life skills.  One of the support systems that this school provides is in accessibility to technology.

The technology provided at this school includes assistive and adaptive technologies.  This link has great videos including the different examples of how they use technology at the school.

Interactive Whiteboards

On an interactive whiteboard, the information from primary whiteboard is displayed as output onto the student’s computer screen.  The students can then view the information on their own computer screen and sit as close as they need to view the lesson being taught at that time.  Another advantage to using an interactive whiteboard is that the information can be saved for later review by the student.

Laptops & Displays

At the high school level at the Florida School for Deaf & Blind, they have a 1:1 laptop program.  The laptops are preloaded with various programs and hardware to help the students utilize the computers for their specific disability.  This assistive technology includes screen readers, screen enlargement, refreshable Braille displays, Daisy Book Players, CCTV, and access to the school’s wireless network.

The Daisy Book Player plays Daisy Books which are high-quality audiobooks.   They can also play CDs and other MP3s.  One of the advanced features is if you take a book out, and then put it back in at a later date, it will start off where the student left off reading.  This is great if the Daisy Player is going to be a shared classroom resource.


The Openbook software scans a document into the computer.  The software then is able to read the written word back to the user.  The document can also be viewed on the computer screen.  There are other options available within the software to zoom the text and edit, similar to a word processing program.  This software would be good for students who have low vision, are blind, or are struggling readers.

SAL2 for the Blind

The SAL2 is a Talking Tactile Tablet, often referred to as a TTT.  It is a Braille literacy tool.  The SAL2 has books, programs, and worksheets that can connect into the computer to help students learn Braille.

Teachers can even make their own worksheets for the system.  This is a great as a center resource in the classroom since the students can use the system independently.

Braille Notetaker

The Braille Notetaker is a PDA system for blind students.  The students use the handheld device to complete a variety of tasks including notetaking and organization.  It also has the software programs Word, Excel, Access, Internet Explorer, and Email.  There is a tool for Braille translations.  The system can use either Refreshable Braille displays, QWERTY keyboards, or Braille Keyboards.  The PDA has access for a wide variety of input and output devices including USB connections and memory cards.

Handheld CCTV

The Handheld CCTV is a small device used to view written words and images on the go.  It is small enough for travel and use in everyday situations like at a restaurant or bank.  The device can magnify, increase and decrease contrast, zoom, or add lighting to written documents.

The Florida School for Deaf & Blind uses a wide variety of assistive technologies to meet the learning and life needs of their students.   These different technologies have made learning more accessible.  It has also been a great motivational tool for students to learn.

-Article by Laura Ketcham

Picture from the Florida School for the Deaf & Blind

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


Future Ideas from Students for Assistive Technology

At the end of April I had a post about how my Computer Applications students were learning about disabilities and assistive technology.  The focus of their learning was on Stephen Hawking.  One of the assignments/challenges that I had them complete was to come up with creative ideas for assistive technology tools that could be used by special education students.  The goal was for them to come up with ideas that can make learning or life experiences easier for students.  Below are some of the outcomes from this project.

The Universal Universe Remote

Alissa T. designed a technology device she coined the “Universal Universe Remote.”  She ‘invented’ this device for individuals who have been paralyzed from the waist down.  These users would still need ability to use their arms and hands.  It would be shaped like a remote control and allow the user to control household items like a cell phone, home phone, lights, doors, and household appliances like the washer, shower, toilet, and sinks.  I would be able to turn appliances on and off (or flush), or assist in completing the task from a distance.  Her idea would also be great for any other users with mobility issues or accessibility issues for reaching household items.

The Sonar Detector Suit

Corrine S. invented the “Sonar Detector Suit.”  This suit was created for individuals who are blind.  It is a waterproof wet suit that has built in technology to detect the edges of a pool.  This would allow blind people to swim laps in a pool.  When the swimmer was close to the edge of the pool or near another object the suit would vibrate.  Depending on the item detected and distance, it would vary in vibration or in intensity.  This would allow blind people to swim more independently.

The Image Creator & The E-Talk

Dan S. developed a complex device to help individuals who are blind called the “Image Creator.”  This small device would be an implant that would be surgically inserted into the brain.  It would then be connected to a video camera device that would be implanted to the outside of the skull.  It would then transmit the images into their mind.  The users would then be able to have freedom of mobility be more secure.  This would help to increase their independence.  A similar device was created by Dominique S.  Her device implanted into the brain would allow individuals with the inability to speak to share their thoughts.  The device would read the mind and then it would be spoken out through a computer device.  There would be a feature to make sure that all of their thoughts wouldn’t be heard if they didn’t want them to be.

The Sign-Phone

Josefina B. created a device that has a lot of potential given today’s current developments of technology.  She designed a cell phone that has the ability to include a video phone/web cam style feature.  This would allow individuals with hearing impairments to ‘speak’ over the phone using sign language.

I hope you enjoyed these inventive ideas. Please feel free to pass along any of these great ideas to any inventors and entrepreneurs out there!  My students and I would love to see them help out individuals with disabilities all around the world in the future!

Article by Laura Ketcham

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


Creative Teaching Strategies in the Special Needs Classrooms

I was browsing through YouTube last evening, searching for videos to show my students about new and emerging technology.  I was quickly side- tracked by looking to see if there were any good videos made by teachers about how they use technology in their special education classroom.  I was quite surprised to see the number of results , in-depth explanations, about variety of assistive technologies being used, and how many teachers are going to YouTube to share their creative teaching strategies.  Below is a synopsis of links to great videos with great ideas!

Great Videos!

Lace Cook, a vocational program teacher from Campbell Collegiate, posted a video on YouTube about how she uses technology in her special education classroom with students who are nonverbal or have physical and cognitive limitations.  She believes that technology helps the students to participate in class.  She demonstrates the ways that the students had to complete class assignments before and after the implementation of the new technology.  Students use laptops for communication and to magnify text and iPods with audio books for students to use during silent reading time.  It is very apparent from the videos that the students are far more engaged in learning when using the technology!

Lance Huebner, a Special Services Teacher from South Valley Junior High, posted a presentation on YouTube about Technology and Special Education.  His presentation includes information about how he uses Blogs, Blackboard, Interwrite Pads, MP3 Players, Audacity, United Streaming, Extranormal, and Photo Story 3 to engage his special needs students in learning.

A student from Towson University taking a Special Education Courses created a video about Assistive Technology.  It includes a definition of assistive technology and provides examples, definitions, and photos of different technology tools.

Kathy is a Special Education Teacher at the Holland School.  In her video she shows different assistive technology devices in her classroom.  She demonstrates and explains the different technology she and her students use including TextSpeak, Sign Language Videos, Partner 4 (for making choices), 7 Level Communicator (interchangeable choices for retelling for stories), step-by-step communicator (helps children participate in class), and switches.

Another interesting view I found was from the news channel WTNH who posted a video on YouTube with a special news segment on assistive technologies that make life more independent for individuals with disabilities.

There are many more great special education videos on YouTube on a variety of topics including assistive technology.  If you find any other great videos to share, feel free to leave on comment on this post!

Article by Laura Ketcham

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


There’s an App for that! | Special Education Apps

The iPod Touch®, iPhone®, and iPad®, are a great innovative technology tools for educators and students to use in the classroom.  These devices all have access to the App Store, which now contains a wide array of easy to use, fun and functional applications for education.  Access to the App Store is readily available through iTunes or over wireless and 3G connections on the various ‘i-devices’.  Since the release of the iPad, there has been an increase in creation of educational apps.  While not all students may have access to Apple’s portable devices, it may be time to put in wish-list requests to administration for tools like these to be included in the budget for your classroom next year.

Where to find Apps for Special Education

Scribd is a social publishing and reading site.  On this site I found a Scribd page devoted to special education apps.  The interactive list contains 24 mini-pages of useful apps for special education students including descriptions and links for download.  The apps are organized by topics and include communication, organization, reading, writing, math, music, art, accessibility, and games.  Most of the Apps that are in the list are free or low cost, typically not costing more than $5.00 per App.  When you select on an App, the link will take you into iTunes where there is a full description and screen shots of the App along with user feedback is available.  The App can then be purchased and downloaded the portable Apple device you own.

Beth Kintle is a K-12 Technology Integration Specialist who maintains a blog about various educational happenings.  One of her posts from March included a new open-access Google Docs document for individuals to add information about iPod apps that they have used in their classrooms.  The list contains the title of the App, a link, description, subject, level, comments, and user feedback.  Users with a Google account can add their favorite Apps to the lists.  This is a great way for the special education community to join together in building the best apps that will help special needs students.

One app that I really liked was the My Homework App.  Using this app on an ‘i-device’ allows the student to create a list of their classes and add specific details about projects and assignments.  They can be viewed by all classes for individual days, for a week, or a month-at-a-glance.  Text can easily be added, deleted, and modified into the program.  There is also a feature to then send their updates to their email account.

One last location to find Apps for special education is to directly search using iTunes either on a laptop or your ‘i-device’.  If you go to the iTunes store and search ‘special education’ and then select App store from the left-hand menu, you will get a comprehensive list of Apps currently denoted as being specifically developed for special education.  When you select on the App you can learn more about the App through a description, screen shots, and user feedback.

Upon my searching I found many flash card systems that teach functional skills that can be integrated with the iPhone.  Since the device is portable, it can lead to students living more independent lives.  Another cool set of Apps I found was the Jammit games where students can learn to play drums and guitar and then make a mix based on actual artists’ recordings.  Fun and learning all wrapped into one!

I can really see this type of technology being the future of education for special needs students!

Article by Laura Ketcham

Photo from myHomework

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


How does Technology Help People with Special Needs?

Next week, my 7th grade Computer Applications classes will be learning about how technology can help people with special needs. Year after year, this has become one of the most interesting and intriguing lessons for my students. They learn about the ADA, hearing impairments, sight impairments, mobility challenges, and learning disabilities. This lesson opens their eyes to the struggles of individuals with special needs and how they overcome their disabilities with the advancement and use of technology.

This lesson is based around the famous scientist Stephen Hawking. He has ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. He was diagnosed with ALS at age 21 and as he has aged, he lost movement of his muscles and is now almost completed paralyzed, including his vocal cords. Stephen Hawking uses technology to help him communicate, for mobility, and for him to complete day-to-day tasks. Over his life time, the technology advances have helped him to maintain a level of independence that he might not otherwise have. I believe that a lot of the advances in technology for individuals with special needs stems from his involvement and persistence with technology companies to come up with the next best tech tool.

One technology device that Stephen Hawking uses is an electronic voice synthesizer. He uses this to communicate. This system works through his wheel chair which has an infra-red ‘blink switch’ connected into his glasses. By scrunching his right cheek up, it actives the ‘blink switch’
and he is able to talk, compose speeches and research papers, browse the Internet, and write e-mails.

His wheel chair houses all of the technology tools need to run his communication system along with assisting him with mobility. His current computer, a laptop, can run up to 7 hours or longer if switch to run off of his wheel chairs battery. There are also various external peripherals, a touchscreen LCD, and speakers which project his hardware-synthesized voice. The computer also has wireless Internet access that connects through cell phone towers. Through this system he can also make and receive phone calls. Lastly, he has a radio transmitter that opens doors from him in his home and office increasing his ease of movement around home and work.

All of the information that the students learn about Stephen Hawking is then connected into other disabilities and how those technologies that he uses could be adapted for students their age to help them communicate, learn, and be independent. At the end of the informative section of the lesson, which includes a reading passage from their textbook, an informal discussion & presentation, and a recent video interview with Stephen Hawking, the students are challenged to come up with their own futuristic technology that could help students their age to overcome their disabilities. Look back next week for their inventive ideas!

Article by Laura Ketcham

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


iPods & iPads are Innovative Tech Tools for Special Education

The iPod Touch and iPad, are great innovative technology tools for educators and students to use in the classroom.  There are many applications and features of these tools that may potentially increase learning outcomes and motivation for learning in the classroom.  While not all schools or students may have access to these tech tools, it is time to add these innovative devices as a wish-list request for next school year!

Functional Skills System for the iPod Touch

The Conover Company has a great package for special education classrooms that includes a classroom set of iPod Touches pre-loaded with age-appropriate videos setup into a functional skills system.  This system allows the students to learn functional skills to gain more independence in society.  The videos include an instructional phase, review phase, and generalization phase for life, literacy, math, social, and work skills. Some of the topics for the videos are learning about money, safety signs, tools for work, manners, social skills, describing words, clothing, entertainment, transportation, restaurants, shopping, labels, hygiene, grooming, and groceries.

The advantage of the iPod system is that the students can travel with the functional skills system to assist them in their day-to-day lives.  The touch screen capability of the iPod allows access to this system for students who may have limited hand movement or motion.  There is also a feature to modify the iPod into a single switch compatibility mode.  The videos include high-quality audio which used in conjunction with the vision impaired features of the iPod, allows access for students with low vision to utilize the functional skills program.  Closed-captioning is also available for the videos for students with hearing impairments.  This system can also be used on the computer instead of using iPod, but it would limit the use of the program outside of the classroom.  Another addition to the program is that there are print exercises that accompany this software for students to learn the functional skills in the classroom without the technology.

Videos of Special Education Students using iPods in the Classroom

Click Here to view a great video about how iPods can be used by teachers, students, and parents in the special education classroom.    In this video the teacher and sign language interpreter use the iPod as a communication device between the teacher, student, and parents.  The teachers also created videos of vocabulary in sign language and student accomplishments.  The parents can then see what the students are learning in class and become more involved at home.  The voice memo feature of the iPod is used to send information back and forth from families to teachers.  They have expanded the roll of the iPod in the classroom by video taping the stories that are being covered in class including audio, sign language, and photos from the books.  The stories can then be read at home to increase reading comprehension.

This video shows hearing impaired students utilizing the iPad for science education.  The teacher has the students completely engaged in their lesson combing the use of the iPad with sign language.  The video shows that the iPad is an innovative tool where the students can interact with each other in conjunction with their online textbook.  The features of the iPad that the students felt were helpful include the flip the screen, easy ability to scroll, enlarge images, search the net, and load their textbook.

Article by Laura Ketcham

Photo by FHKE

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon



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

Article by Tai Collins

Photo by Digitaljournal


[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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