Assistive/Adaptive Technology for Education

18 Jul

When you turn on the news, read a newspaper, or read your news online, you are most likely going see the debate over how much money should be cut from education and what programs or resources will be lost because of the cutbacks.  In this post I hope to show some of the reasons we need to make sure that assistive and adaptive technologies are not only still funded but possibly see an increase in funding.  What is assistive and adaptive technology?  According to assistive and adaptive technology is:

Assistive Technology Products can enable people with disabilities to accomplish daily living tasks, assist them in communication, education, work or recreation activities, in essence, help them achieve greater independence and enhance their quality of life.

Assistive Technology devices can help improve physical or mental functioning, overcome a disorder or impairment, help prevent the worsening of a condition, strengthen a physical or mental weakness, help improve a person’s capacity to learn, or even replace a missing limb.

Assistive Technology Services support people with disabilities or their caregivers to help them select, acquire, or use adaptive devices. Such services include functional evaluations, training on devices, product demonstration, and equipment purchasing or leasing.

According to Roblyer & Doering (2010) assistive/adaptive technology is extending the abilities of an individual in ways that provide physical access (e.g., wheelchairs, braces) and sensory access (e.g., Braille, closed caption).  The common goals of assistive technology are to provide an individual with: the opportunity to become more independent, learning capabilities, and to become productive.  When we talk about assistive technology, a person without a disability sees a type of technology that will increase persons opportunities.  The question we need to ask ourselves is, what does the person with the disability see?  The answers we might get back will be; freedom from limitations, independence from relying on others for communication or mobility, the chance to express there selves visually or verbally, and the opportunity to accomplish a task solely to feel the joy and pride in the accomplishment.  Who needs the assistive technology and who doesn’t get it?  The IDEA provides us with answers to these questions.The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that students with disabilities receive special education to enable them to have the opportunities the mainstream student has.  The following statistics were gathered by the National Center on Education Statistics (NCES), Special Education Regulation, in 2001.

  • Nation-wide, depending on the student’s specific disability, 55% to 64% of schools that serve students with disabilities reported that they provide assistive or adaptive hardware while 39% to 56% provided adaptive software for these students.
  • Special hardware was less likely to be available to students with learning disabilities in schools with the high minority enrollment compared to schools with low minority enrollment, 47% versus 61%, respectively.
  • Availability of special software for students with physical disabilities was more prevalent in large schools (60%) than in small schools (40%).
  • Only 35% of elementary schools were found to provide special software for children with hearing disabilities, while this was observed in 48% of secondary schools.
  • Schools with the highest poverty concentrations were less likely to provide special hardware and software for students with visual disabilities. High poverty schools provided hardware 52% of the time and software 42% of the time, while schools with students from more affluent backgrounds were better able to provide visually impaired students with both hardware (71%) and software (63%).

The table below show a chart of students enrolled in 2001, of the schools reporting back information 95% enrolled students with cognitive disabilities. (National Center for Educational Statics, 2001) Schools with the highest poverty concentration were less likely to have special hardware and software available for students with visual disabilities than were schools with the lowest poverty concentration (52 percent compared with 71 percent for hardware, and 42 percent compared with 63 percent for software).



Without assistive technology we deny the students with disabilities the chance to be all they can and want to be.  We keep them from expressing their self to the fullest extent possible.  Providing an assistive/adaptive technology for a student with disabilities is not an option, it should be automatic.

Resources for Assistive/Adaptive Technology
This website provides several resource links for different types of assistive and adaptive technology.
Adaptive Technology Center for NJ Colleges Fall 2009 at The College of New Jersey 
 Dawn Ontario Disabled Women’s Network Ontario
Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2010). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
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Posted by on July 18, 2011 in Uncategorized


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