As I have been working on my assistive technology plan, I have struggled to find quality sites that provide both the equipment plus a detailed explanation of its use. I was quite pleased with the wide spectrum of both hardware and software available as assistive technology. As I browsed a multitude of websites I was bombarded with thoughts of students that would benefit from these devices. I think that the purchase of a keyboard that can be both one-handed and two-handed would be useful for a student with only one functional hand as well as students who are able to use two hands. In addition, I appreciated the voice recognition software for those students who do not have the fine motor skills needed to use a mouse. I know a particular student in my school who uses his aid rather than assistive technology. I imagine he would appreciate very much to be independent. The final device that I found would be useful in my situation would be a microphone that has multiple channels. This microphone is worn by the teacher. All students can hear the amplification; however, students with hearing impairment can wear headphones and screen any sound other than the teacher's amplified voice. I am considering budgetting for such a device both as a voice saver for me and for those with special needs.
Hardware Selection-Needs Assessment
It is our goal to have students learn in the least restrictive environment. Students with disabilities can bridge the gap with the use of assistive technology. Assistive technologies allow for meaningful and developmentally appropriate learning to occur without changing the learning object. Cerebral palsy is the term used to describe the lack of control of the muscles or joints due to an injury during brain development, which results in disrupted coordinated movement. Seizures, mental disabilities, auditory problems, visual problems, communication problems, and possible impairments of other senses are sometime parallel with this disability. Our student who has cerebral palsy may need support walking, talking, and eating. The following hardware is a recommendation in order to increase her independence and productivity during the school day and specifically while using a computer during her time in the library:
Hardware Device #1: Half-Qwerty Keyboard
The Half-Qwerty Keyboard provides the flexibility of using one or two hands on the keyboard. Because the student with cerebral palsy does not have functional use of both hands, this keyboard would be a realistic choice for her needs. In addition, the keyboard can be used to meet the needs of future students who may only have use of one hand or arm because you can use it right or left-handed. Finally, With two Half Keyboards embedded into a standard keyboard, a student can use one hand or two, providing ultimate flexibility and use.
Hardware Device #2: Mouse Button Box
The Mouse Button Box is a USB connected mouse that minimizes fine motor movement to button presses as opposed to the sliding of the mouse. This device would allow a student to keep the hand fairly stationary to perform the tasks accomplished by the traditional mouse. This device is easy to plug (via a USB cable) and is cost effective.
My hardware selection was made within enablemart.com because I was so pleased with the information presented. The website provided photo images, specs, and information regarding what need the product would address. I felt that the prices were reasonable considering the obvious benefit of the technology to be acquired.
Overall, I was quite interested in all of the information presented both in Discovering Assistive Technology as well as the Jurkowski text. I was so touched by the fact that the goal was not to alter the learning objective but rather to alter the way in which a student is able to accomplish something. I think too often we, as teachers, forget that many disabilities such as cerbral palsy or hearing impairment, do not affect a students' ability to learn unless we let it. I have had no training in assistive technology and feel flooded with ideas on how to make the learning experience better for those students in need.