How assistive technologies benefit students with disabilities
In the U.S. alone, 7.1 million students (almost 14% of all students) are classed as receiving special education and have an identified need for assistive technologies.
Since inclusive education is a priority and legal requirement if outlined in IEPs. The government, educational institutions, and non-profits strive to provide high tech and low tech assistive technologies.
The high tech category includes advanced devices and software. These may include virtual reality headsets, eye gaze, text-to-speech apps, and alternative keyboards. The low tech category includes simple adaptive tools like flexible furniture, adaptive pencils, PODD or PECS books and slant boards.
Today, we will talk about assistive technology in more detail and explain how it benefits students with SEND.
Assistive technologies for students who are visually impaired or blind
Most of the educational materials are presented in a visual form (presentations, eBooks, etc.). Therefore, it’s crucially important to provide visually impaired and blind students with assistive technologies. The main function of these will be to transform visual content into audio content.
Fortunately, many modern apps and browsers come with audiovisual assistance. For instance, Google Chromebooks and the chrome browser have a free extension called Natural Reader – Text to speech . Students can use it when they need to find information for a research paper, read course materials, or check messages published on the discussion boards.
Visually impaired and blind students also face difficulties with writing and proofreading. To solve this problem, tech specialists designed voice-to-text and text-to-speech tools like Voice Dream Writer. These help users reduce mistakes and use the right words. They also created specialized services like GrabMyEssay and TopEssayWriting. These tools allow students with disabilities to organize and improve the structure of their writing.
Assistive technologies for students with cognitive and learning disabilities
Students whose cognitive disabilities include difficulties with problem-solving, attention, reading, linguistic, visual, and verbal comprehension can benefit from a range of technological adaptations. Advanced assistive technology can help students with overcoming reading, writing, and memorization challenges in multiple ways.
For instance, the Premiere Literacy platform provides a set of tools that help to simplify the studying process:
Talking Word Processor is a text-to-speech tool that includes such features as word prediction, content summarization, an integrated dictionary, and a variety of other features that assist students with proofreading.
PDF Equalizer is a tool that makes PDF files accessible for students with learning disabilities. PDF Equalizer allows users to hear PDF files read and navigate complex charts, diagrams, and infographics.
Scan and Read Pro is a scanning application. This allows students to create an electronic file for scanned documents (for instance, printout) in a hassle-free. It comes with voice capabilities for reading, auditory highlighting, multi-lingual support, and summarization features.
Worksheet Wizard is a tool designed to help students with worksheets and forms and add annotations to existing PDF files.
Angela Baker, an educational writer from ClassyEssay, says: “Students with cognitive and learning disabilities face multiple problems in studying, and it’s almost impossible to design one technological solution that will fit everyone. So the best decision here is to develop a set of tools that address various issues and let students choose what tools they need and don’t need to use.”
Assistive technologies for students who are deaf or hard of hearing
Now let’s talk about how assistive technologies can help students who are deaf or hearing impaired.
In the classroom, students can use hearing aids that include transmitter/receiver systems with a clip-on microphone for the lecturer. Wireless devices directly transmit sounds to a hearing aid so that students with disabilities can get the most of the lecture.
In the virtual classroom, students who are deaf or hard of hearing can use browser extensions like Web Captioner and other video conferencing software that enables live captioning and subtitles. Studying from home, students can read the subtitles of the lecture’s speech from the screen in real-time. They can learn new materials at the same pace as other students do.
Assistive technology for students with speech disabilities
Students with speech disabilities can communicate with their teachers and peers using text-to-speech software. They can type what they want to say on their PCs or phones, and the system will transform the written text into a voice message. Apps like Google Cloud Text-to-Speech allow users to choose a male or female voice and pick a language and regional accent.
Bridgette Hernandez, an educational expert and writer from BestEssayEducation, says: “Voices offered by the advanced text-to-speech programs not only sound real but also have a character. And that’s a great thing. It means that assistive technologies help students not only advance in studying but also develop soft skills and enjoy seamless communication with peers.”
Assistive technology for students with autism spectrum disorders
When it comes to helping Autistic students, it’s important to define which visual representation system is best understood by the students and in what contexts.
Fortunately, technology is moving faster than ever before, and we already have solutions available. The Mayer-Johnson team designed a user-friendly program called Boardmaker to help adults and children get a better understanding of visual symbols, sizes, dimensions, colors, written elements, and many more.
Besides, programmers created a motivational education tool that enables writing composition by removing literacy barriers. It works as a talking word processor that matches symbols to words allowing students to increase comprehension and fluency.
How VR and AR benefit students with disabilities
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are also widely used to support students with special learning needs.
In AEM AUP School in India, educators use AR to improve vocabulary through gamification. An interactive textbook that uses 3D images, audio and video files helps explain the text to the students with learning disabilities.
In Milwaukee, a special education teacher uses Google Earth VR to take students for virtual “field trips”. VR headpieces help students fully immerse themselves in the world they see and explore new things without leaving a classroom.
New assistive technologies emerge every year. So we can hope that in five or ten years, every student with a disability will be able to continue education and gain comprehensive knowledge.
Inclusive education is not a dream – it’s an attainable goal. And we can expect that thanks to advanced technologies, it will be achieved soon.
Donald Fomby is a Digital Marketing Specialist with a Master’s degree in Advertisement. At a relatively young age, he has already amassed impressive experience as a freelance writer. He partakes in different projects that allow them to grow his list of experiences and expand his interests. Currently, he’s also a writer at SupremeDissertations. His body of work consists of articles, essays and news reports on trending topics that aim to help readers with practical advice.