Computers hold much potential for students with disabilities as an access tool to learning, participation, collaboration and productivity.
Keeping in mind that the curriculum drives what the student needs to do, simple computer modifications can help all children to participate. Check out our list of vendors offering devices for simple modifications!
In this module, first we introduce the role of computer technology in American classrooms. Then we identify three areas to help teachers and related service personnel maximize the use of classroom computers for students with disabilities by addressing:
Dramatic education technology innovations were achieved by the end of the Twentieth century. Education Technology Goals set in 1996 were realized through the combined efforts of federal, state, local and private investors:
Current federal priorities include new Educational Technology Initiatives, which call for a technology plan for the nation's schools to achieve five key goals for integrating computers into American Classrooms.
In 2003, the State Educational Technology Directors developed the National Leadership Institute Toolkit - States Helping States to Implement No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2001). The toolkit concentrates on five themes that transcend NCLB, such as: Scientifically Based Research, Technology Literacy Assessment, Common Data Elements, Evaluating Effective Teaching and the National Education Technology Plan.
Unfortunately, the rapid increase of educational technology has not sufficiently addressed the needs of students with disabilities. Access for these students is just beginning to be identified as an important factor when purchasing educational technology.
To ensure access to electronic and information technology, the Federal government has developed standards to ensure access to electronic and information technology. These standards, regulated under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (1998) are the first of their kind in the Federal sector. They provide criteria that spell out what makes Information Technology products accessible to people with disabilities, including those with vision, hearing, and mobility impairments. Products standards include those for software, web-based information, telecommunications, video and multimedia and computers. Districts should look to these standards when purchasing education technology.
Technology may offer solutions when...
Student & Computer
How a student is positioned, or "fits" at the computer station can significantly affect the quality and quantity of interactions. Being appropriately supported allows the student to concentrate on the software program and not be distracted by maintaining balance and visual acuity. Positioning Guidelines for computer use are available. Technology supports such as adjustable height tables, adapted chairs and footrests help a student maintain a comfortable position.
It is important to understand a computer system's various components. Which parts can you adapt or replace for better student control? You can modify computers in two primary ways to make them more usable by students with disabilities:
The individual student's abilities and needs determine the adaptations to make.
Multimedia computers include a sound card and CDROM drive to maximize the integrated use of graphics, animation and sound in software programs and Internet sites. Sound cards vary in sound quality; 16 and 32 bit cards are available. Sound cards are necessary for software programs using auditory features that "read" the words aloud and describe the graphics on the screen.
You can print information in a variety of sizes by changing the font size within the software program. A color printer is required to print colorful graphics and text, which can be very rewarding to students. Information can also be printed in Braille with a Braille embosser connected to a computer.
The mouse and keyboard are the primary tools (input control peripherals) that a student uses to put information into a computer and to control software programs. Everyone needs ways to efficiently control the computer. Often low-cost modifications can make them easier to use.
Peripherals are computer hardware devices that can be added to the computer to increase the number of resources to be manipulated and used within the computer environment. These include drives for exchanging information for storage and retrieval purposes (i.e. CDROM and Zip drives) as well as video, photos and other graphical and auditory information.
USB Removable Storage Disks
Intel Play Microscope (Mattel + Intel Play)
Intel Play Me2Cam (Mattel + Intel Play)
By their very design, a standard keyboard and mouse can be difficult, if not impossible, for students with disabilities to use. The computer can present barriers when:
Options within the computer's operating systems (both Mac and PC) can begin to address these obstacles. You will find some in your computer's Control Panel Settings and in other places as well -- we'll show you where. Try these first, before substituting an alternative keyboard or mouse. You can also use them in combination with a different input method.
These settings can be changed via the control panel on a Macintosh computer.
The following settings can be changed from the Windows control panel on PCs.
There are several ways to modify how you navigate the Internet and adjust how websites look on your computer. Microsoft Explorer offers several options. One is described below; others can be found on the Microsoft website.
Increase Font Size in Internet Explorer (PC)