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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Teaching AssistiveTechnology

I am making my students post on their blogs every week, so I shall do the same. One of the problems I have when teaching this course is the same as for every technology course. There is so much out there and developments are occurring at the speed of light. A simple search for my students' blogs returned eight million, one hundred forty thousand results. Where do I start? Well, if you are new to AT, as we say, I will start with a simple overview. Assistive technology is "…any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. (29 U.S.C. Sec 2202(2)) (Assistive Technology Act of 2004,, 1/14/14). In other words, any device that helps you do things you couldn't otherwise do. A good example of a device we all use is the TV remote. The laws have gradually over the years grown to specify what schools and the government have to do for individuals with disabilities.  Some people object to this - I remember hearing a church goer complaining about the money that had to be spend to bring the bathrooms up to new regulations for wheelchairs. I could only comment, "Yes, it's hard to imagine what it must be like to be confined to a wheelchair." Some of the students I have taught have been the most courageous people I know. 
At any rate, students in P-12 are protected by the laws to the extent that school districts comply with them. I first took this class in 2008. Needless to say, there has been an explosion of growth in this field. Gratefully, many teachers who have been even minimally exposed to this information get hooked and find ways to expand these methods.
Assistive technology is generally categorized in three levels: low-tech, mid-tech, and high-tech. Low-tech tools are things such as pencil grips or pictures for language communication. Mid-tech tools are things such as electronic dictionaries and tape recorders. High-tech tools are computer programs that read eye scans or hearing aids that magnify only the sounds within voice range. If you know someone who is disabled, follow along and maybe you'll discover something of use.
You can find my two students' blogs here:Assistive Technology and Assistive Technology. Leave them a comment!

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