Assistive Technology (AT) is an entrenched aspect of the educational process. All individuals who play a role in the adoption, application, and acceptance of AT in the classroom must be considered. The role of the school systems and teachers who are Individual Education Team (IEP) members has long been acknowledged. Notwithstanding, the role of the family cannot be overlooked. Specifically, families can be the early identifiers of impairments, families establish expectations for AT acceptance, and families support AT use in the home. Teachers must work with impaired students as well as their families to ensure successful assistive technology adoption, application, and acceptance.
This post will share some of the basic things you need to know about assistive technologies in learning environments.
What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive Technology (AT) is a constant in the modern classroom. Beard, Carpenter, & Johnston (2011) have defined AT “as an item or piece of equipment or product system acquired commercially or off the shelf, modified, or customized, and used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capability for an individual with disabilities” (p. 4). Assistive technology covers an entire spectrum of no-tech, to light tech, to high tech.
The revision of the Rehabilitation Act in 1973 precipitated the inclusion of Section 504, dictating non-discrimination against disabled individuals. Title II of Section 504 specifically references the provision of assistive technology “when necessary to ensure that a person with a disability has an equal opportunity to benefit from programs and service provided by a public entity” (Bryant & Bryant, 2012, p. 20). In concert with Section 504, the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004 (IDEA) ensures access to instructional materials and defines accessibility standards as “changes to conditions that facilitate access to those environments” (Bryant & Bryant, 2012, p. 27).
As defined by the law, schools are responsible for providing assistive technology. This has resulted in a research focus on the role of the teacher and/or school system in working with the impaired student as evidenced by publications including Assistive Technology: Access for All Students by Beard, Carpenter, & Johnston (2011) and Assistive Technology for People with Disabilities by Bryant & Bryant (2012). Research on the role of the teacher working with the impaired students on AT adaptations has also been completed by Flanagan, Bouck, & Richardson (2013), Bausch & Hasselbring (2004), Cope & Ward (2002), Edyburn & Gardner (1999), Judge & Simms (2009), Ludlow (2001). The focus on the role of the teacher is vital but incomplete. The role of the family in assistive technology adoption, application, and acceptance must also be considered.
Futures of AT
There are also incredible opportunities for the use of AT to enable increased function and participation for individuals with disabilities through development and application of assistive, rehabilitative and regenerative technologies. The TEDx Talk from Dr. Michael Boninger helps contextualize some of these possibilities.
There are also many other uses of AT designed to help all students, not just learning disabled students. The use of technology to enhance learning, and support all learners is an effective in the lives of many individuals.
Hopefully this post gives you a quick start as you dive into these opportunities.
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