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assistive technology

Convergence, portability, and customizability are among the features that will define the next generation of AT devices for student s

Thu, Dec 03, 2009


Once considered a highly specialized field, assistive technology (AT) now increasingly can be found in applications and devices sold to the general public, says a new report that highlights several key trends in AT development.


The Nation Center for Technology Innovation (NCTI) presented the report during its annual conference last month. The issue brief, titled “Unleashing the Power of Innovation for Assistive Technology,” comes at a time of great opportunity for both schools and AT providers, the organization says.


“The confluence of federal stimulus money and guidance from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs … to consider investing in ‘state-of-the-art assistive technology and training’ affords the field a rare opportunity to define and shape what state-of-the-art assistive technology can be,” says the brief.


With that goal in mind, NCTI solicited the opinions of more than 65 people from academia, the education-technology industry, professional associations, and all levels of government.


Based on this feedback and a review of existing literature, NCTI concluded that “applications originally designed for the disabled are increasingly recognized as presenting solutions for the wider consumer market.” As a result, the group said, AT functionality now often is built into mainstream consumer devices.


Here are the five most significant trends in AT development, according to NCTI:


1. Convergence. NCTI defines this as the consolidation of various technological systems into “a single platform to perform multiple tasks”–such as the iPhone and other smart phones or mobile devices.


These devices have the ability to run multiple applications that can support and accompany students with disabilities throughout their daily activities.


For example, the brief mentions that students in Taiwan are engaging in an after-school program with smart phones and the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) network. With this technology, students and teachers are able to interact to an extent that was not possible before.


In the United States, an iPhone application called iSigns can facilitate communication between deaf students and others who do not sign. Other iPhone apps for students with disabilities include Picture Scheduler, which helps students with autism create and organize personal tasks, and iPrompts, which provides visual prompting tools to help students understand upcoming events and make choices.


Other examples of convergent technologies include e-Book reader devices and online sites that cater to handheld technologies, such as Bookshare.org, which is an online library of digital books underwritten by the Education Department for students with qualifying print disabilities.


2. Customizability and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). According to the brief, customizable AT is designed so that it “can be configured in different ways to meet the needs of individual users.”


Read More(Requires Free Registration): http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/top-news/news-by-subject/technology-management/index.cfm?i=62053


 

 

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