With increasing numbers of K-12 students in special education programs, the need for new, advanced assistive technology in the special education classroom is vital.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of disabled students in the public school system is between 6 and 7 million. These students can benefit from technology in the classroom. In the past, assistive technology included wheelchairs, visual aids, assisted listening devices, Velcro, etc. In today’s digital age, assistive technology is extremely advanced. With many innovative apps and devices, students have a wider array of assistance than ever before.
New Forms of Technology
iOS devices offer a collection of apps like Live Listen, Guided Access, VoiceOver, Safari Reader and Speak Screen to name a few.
- Live Listen assists those with hearing impairments to hear better in crowded, noisy environments by linking hearing aids to a microphone in the phone. The phone can be moved closer to the speaker.
- Guided Access helps students with autism and sensory challenges to stay on task by restricting apps and limiting touch input on other parts of the screen. This limits distractions and wandering taps.
- VoiceOver offers those with visual disabilities many forms of assistance. It can describe anything that is on the screen from battery life, to what app you are touching, to what you are taking a picture of. It also offers a Braille keyboard.
- Safari Reader helps declutter the screen. It eliminates visual overstimulation and creates a single focus.
- Speak Screen can help many students by reading websites, messages and books aloud. This can increase comprehension. To watch videos on how some of these apps work, visit https://www.apple.com/accessibility/.
According the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 68 children exhibit characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder. ComminicoTool offers non-verbal students a way of communicating. In March of 2017, CommunicoTool had planned to launch a head-tracking tool which will help those with ALS and muscular dystrophy to communicate easier.
Nova Chat is an assistive option for students with reading disabilities. It allows text to be read aloud and also for speech to be converted to text. The device can be configured to meet the individual needs of a student.
LabQuest2 gives visually impaired students the ability to perform science labs and collect data independently. It uses a wireless system to collect the data and now offers text-to-speech technology.
Texthelp gives assistance to students in reading and writing at any stage of their educational journey, from Kindergarten through higher education and even into the workplace. Struggling readers in younger grades have the opportunity to record their reading and then receive immediate feedback from a teacher. In higher education, Texthelp assists students with reading and independent study, even improving retention of material. It also helps make the workplace more inclusive by helping those with disabilities to increase their productivity.
Finding funding for assistive devices can prove challenging. However, there are options. Some devices are covered by the individual’s insurance plan. School systems have funding set aside to meet needs of individuals. There are government and rehabilitation programs that can provide assistance. Finally, organizations like the ATIA (Assistive Technology Industry Association) provide resource guides for finding funding.
Using assistive technology can benefit students, teachers, school systems and even the workplace, as it prepares students of all ages for an active, successful life.