Monday, May 5, 2008

Assistive Technology Access for All Students

We drove through the beautiful wine country of the Okanagan on our way to a family wedding in British Columbia (my wife was born Canadian) this weekend. I had a lot of drive time and think time. I had written my post on blogging for Saturday and last week we had discussed on this blog some free software and options for students.
Ira Socol has been a major contributor to this blog in comments and I am so thankful for them (when do you find the time Ira?) I want to link to an important post he wrote in April that, the more I think about it, the more excited, determined and convinced I am of the implementation of its ideas.

The link is to his post "Planning for Access". In it he gives some food for thought on providing access to software and the main tools students need for success without designating who is learning disabled, who is orthopedically disabled, who gets acccess and who doesn't. Access for all students is a concept that has been presented more and more at our state-level meetings, and is something that I have been working on, but it has been slow.

After my weekend drive, I met with our Instructional Technology Director and we discussed what it would take to get all of our districts (12) in 7 counties to have a standard list of software that would be on every computer in the region. I have been asked to get a list to our IT department and we will see if we can find a way to do this. Of course the purchase software will have to be school by school, but the open-source and free stuff can be on all the computers. Ira's article has a list of great links to software tools.

This idea has a similar challenge to that of implementing a device for a student. Making sure that all computers have the tools that are needed is a start, but unless teachers and students are trained on how to use them and what they can do to help, then these tools will just sit on the computer and they won't do anyone any good.
I would challenge you to read the post and see how you are planning for access in your school.
All the best to you!


Unknown said...

a chaotic life, and not enough sleep, I guess...

Two thoughts - yes, get all the free stuff on every machine, and perhaps create packaged CDs so teachers (and students) can install at home?). That's first, and the more schools that have these same things, the more you move toward a critical mass of community acceptance. Then, build at least a blog, or possibly a website, where "how to-s" and "experiences with students" are openly available to teachers.

Second, for the stuff that must be bought, encourage them to form a buying co-op. That will cut costs dramatically if you can go to Freedom Scientific or Text-Help or Nuance and say "we want to buy 100 licenses for WYNN, or Read-and-Write, or Dragon" rather than trying to buy 10.

Lon said...

I know the "not enough sleep" part!
I have a dedicated work blog for AT on our home page where I put some things for teachers. I am planning on gearing that up more. I have been using it for an agenda and links page to work from in professional development trainings.
Thanks for the tips.