Access to the Curriculum: The Use of Assistive Technologies
I remember being in Elementary school, complaining my hand was tired of writing so much, and my teacher talking too much about the issue she discussed until some of us almost fell asleep. I also remember that two of my peers had learning difficulties. One was mostly deaf and the other had a physical deformity, which caused her severe fine and gross motor problems. Both of them had little opportunities to gain access to the curriculum, let alone “equal”. That was in the mid 1980s. We are now approaching the “mid 2010s”, and the picture has dramatically changed. Computer-based technology has allowed people with disabilities to gain access to information, to manipulate objects and information, and to express themselves in ways other people can understand, relate to, and appreciate. Such technology is called “Assistive Technology”.
Assistive Technologies is defined by the American Assistive Technology Act of 1998 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 functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” (Pinantoan, 2012).
There are many types and degrees of “disabilities”, and designers and creators of Assistive Technology have been creating more and more tools as solutions for the variety of ways individuals struggle. The PBS Parents website divides these devices into 8 categories: access and environmental control, aids to daily living, assistive listening, augmentative/alternative Communication, computer-Based Instruction, mobility, positioning, and visual aids (“Assistive technology devices,” 2013).
A variety of computer companies, such as Microsoft and Apple, have recognized the need to develop such tools, and have pledged a commitment to ensure accessibility for their users. The Accessibility sections of their websites are easily accessible, organized, and simple to navigate (“Apple’s commitment to,” 2013; and “Guides by impairment,” 2013). In addition, they ensure that many of the accessibility functions come built-in and easily accessible, so users are able to make use of such features without needing to go out and purchase additional software.
In order to get a better idea of what my computer is offering as part of its built-in Assistive technology features, I played around using the excellent “Spotlight” feature on my Mac, found different features, tried them out, and went on the Apple Education website to find out more about what these features include which I did not discover. The link to the document below outlines the different features I found and tested.