The Brail Writer and Other Assistive Technologies
Assistive technologies are a lifeline for some students who have disabilities. Like any other technology, assistive technology is advancing every day. Assistive technology is revolutionizing students’ lives by allowing them to learn, play, communicate and interact in ways that otherwise would not be possible.
A brail writer is an assistive technological tool for blind students. The machine allows the student to brail, then receive instant feedback from the machine as it verbally announces what is being brailed. This tool is very advanced and can save, transfer and receive files. The brail writer can also teach students who are not blind to read brail; as the student brails, print will display on a screen to show them what they are brailing. The brail writer helps to bridge the gap between the blind student and his or her peers. This machine gives students with disabilities the opportunity to participate more fully in class and peer groups.
Other assistive technologies include wheelchairs, laptops, onscreen keyboards, desks that raise and lower, voice activated software that allows student to complete school assignments on their computers, and cellphones to get help if needed. The Edutopia video below shows several students using different assistive technologies, from a wheel chair to a customized horn that allows a disabled boy to play in the marching band.
Ipad Use for the Blind
From videos such as Ipad Usage for the Blind
and Teaching Mom What Her Deaf/Blind Child is Learning, we see the use of the Ipad and its voiceover capabilities as assistive technology. These sensory disabilities such as deafness or blindness could be present in our classroom, and we must know as educators what is available to us and our students. Having disabilities in a world without technology would leave this student in a very challenging learning environment. Education is for everyone, and assistive technologies make is possible for students with
disabilities to be able to enjoy all the benefits of education. As for the use of the voiceover capabilities of the Ipad, these videos focus on the disability of blindness. The voiceover for the ipad allows students to scroll their fingers over the screen and be able to hear what apps they are sliding over. If they want to click that app, they just double click anywhere, and the app will open. These instructions are the same when typing on the ipad. After going over each word as it is read aloud, the student can double tap to choose that letter. One important app used from the ipad for the blind is the ibook. The ibook is important for people with blindness, because no other kindle or nook are accessible for the blind right out of the box. Normally, a software of some sort has to be downloaded. With ibook, the student can flip two fingers up to start any story out loud, and some books even have the images described. Not all gone are the days when disabled students are isolated from others, but hopefully, by giving blind people this reading tool and use of the ipad is just one way out of many that we can assist in recreating a better world of education for all students.
Teaching Math To The Blind
Math is a difficult subject for anybody and especially for students that are blind. A professor at the University of San Francisco, Art Karshmer, made a computer based system to help teach math to the blind students. Art Karshmer discusses how difficult it is for blind students to learn math problems with being visually impaired. Karshmer created a 3 million touchpad. This device is designed to use braille and technology together to create a math learning experience. It uses a voice touchpad and a barcode scanner to recognize numbers being used. The touchpad is also labeled in braille so that students can still have the option of reading along with the voice. This is a wonderful technology to help students that are blind. We would love to use this technology in our classroom if we have a blind student. It is a great resource to help the students learn and to help the teachers teach the blind students.
We found a article News at Vanderbilt that explains this app that turns a device into a math aid to help students that are blind. Jenna Gorlewicz, a graduate from Vanderbilt University is who came up with this app. We think this app is wonderful idea especially since ipads are starting to be available in schools now. We would love to use this app as well to help teach math if we had a blind student in our classroom.
Assistive technology is progressing every day, but it is not implemented as much as it could be in schools. Unfortunately, not all teachers and parents are aware of these advancements, resulting in some students not receiving all of the opportunities available to them. This is yet another reason why it is so important for teachers to be technologically literate. Staying up to date on the assistive technologies available to students with disabilities is crucial. The sooner a disabled student is introduced to an assistive technology, the sooner they can master the tool, and focus on the regular curriculum. This will better prepare the student and increase their chances to move on to college, then a career.