School(s): All Schools
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law reauthorized in 1997, requires schools to consider a student's need for assistive technology devices and services. According to IDEA, assistive technology is defined 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." In the Lincoln Public Schools, the IEP teams consider the appropriateness of assistive technology to enable students to meet their goals. The Team examines the tasks that the student needs to accomplish, the difficulties the student is having, and the ways that various devices might help the student better accomplish those tasks. The IEP Team discusses many factors when assistive technology devices and services are being considered for a student including educational goals, personal preferences, social needs, environmental realities, and practical concerns. The Team considers the full range of devices that are available, beginning with low-tech devices and considering high-tech devices only after the lower-tech options have been tried. Assistive Technology Tools
Assistive technology devices can be grouped into three categories: low-tech, mid-tech and high-tech. Low-tech devices are typically easy to use, inexpensive to purchase, widely available, and involve little or no training. Mid-tech devices are somewhat more complex, often requiring a battery. High-tech devices tend to be more costly and frequently require some training. The following devices are currently available in the Lincoln Public Schools.
- Reading frames or place markers can help struggling readers focus on one line of text at a time.
- Sticky notes and removable highlighter tape can be used by students or teachers to mark important words or sections of text.
- Graph paper or paper grids made on a computer are useful to students who have difficulty aligning numbers when doing mathematical computations.
- Communication books with pictures representing frequently used messages can help a nonverbal student to communicate.
- Timers can be used to show how much time an activity will take, helping students pace themselves through activities.
- Graphic organizers allow teachers and students to brainstorm and organize ideas and view the information in various formats, such as outlines or story webs. This visual representation of information can be a useful organizational tool for some learners.
- Magnifiers, can be helpful to students with vision impairments, as well as students with learning disabilities.
- Seat cushions can help students with physical disabilities maintain the posture needed to use their arms or hands effectively. For students who have difficulty with attention, some seat cushions can also have a calming effect.
- Recorded books allow struggling readers to listen to text as they look at the words in printed books.
- Tape recorders provide a way for students to practice reading aloud. They can also be used by teachers or students to record reminder messages.
- Amplification systems can be useful for students with hearing impairments, as well as for students who have difficulty focusing on what the teacher is saying.
- Specialized calculators, such as those with large displays or speech output, can be helpful to students with vision impairments.
- Small whiteboards can be helpful for students who find it challenging to answer questions orally in class.
- Alternative keyboards come in many sizes and configurations. For example, keyboards with either large or small keys are available to accommodate a student's motor impairments. To assist students with cognitive or visual limitations, keyboards with alternate arrangements of letters are available.
- Scanners are especially helpful when used in conjunction with optical character recognition (OCR) software. After a printed page is scanned, the software converts the scanned image into digital text, which can be opened in a word processor and read aloud by a computer.
- Text-to-speech software enables a computer to speak digital text. Digital text can include, for example, a word-processed document, an encyclopedia on a CD-ROM, or an article on the Internet.
- Word prediction software can be helpful to students with learning disabilities, as well as students with physical disabilities, because it minimizes the number of keystrokes needed to complete a word or a sentence. After a student types the first letter of a word, the software presents a list of choices that begin with that letter.
- Speech recognition software allows a student to speak into the computer through a microphone and have the text appear on the computer screen. The use of this type of software can involve substantial training for each user.
- Augmentative communication software enables non-verbal students to communicate with others through graphics, text, and sound. The software is customizable to the learner's needs.
- Touch Screen devices can be used instead of a mouse or touch pad. They utilize a display, which can detect the presence and location of a touch within the display area. They are commonly seen on PDA and may be attached to a computer.