As we enter the twenty-first century we
find that recent legislation and technology innovations are changing the ways
teachers teach and children learn. Since 1990, the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA), has mandated that "to the maximum extent appropriate,
children with disabilities. . . are educated with children who are not disabled".
the past 10 years, the percentage of students with disabilities served in schools
and classes with their non-disabled peers has gradually increased and continues
to grow. In fact, approximately 95.9% of students with disabilities, ages 6-11,
receive their education in regular education classrooms/resource rooms (OSEP,
2002). The 1997 Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA) calls for providing access to the general education curriculum in order
to improve outcomes for all students.
The majority of students with disabilities
are capable of participating in the general education curriculum to varying degrees
with some adaptations and modifications. As inclusive schools become the norm,
schools are becoming more accessible to all students; standards are being set
and creative designs employed.
As instructional issues arise regarding how
to meet the individual learning needs of all students, new tools are being investigated.
Educators begin with the curriculum, and then ask how existing classroom tools,
materials and activities might be re-designed to assist all students in achieving
learning outcomes. School districts are searching for viable tools that will expand
access to the general education curriculum for all students.
Another major classroom change is the use of computer
technology. Computers have become an essential literacy tool in our society; its
use crucial for future success in the workplace. Over 76% of American students
use a computer at school; 83% use one at home for school assignments/word processing
(NCES, 2001). Internet access in public schools has increased to 78%, with 27%
of classrooms with Internet access (NCES, 2001). However, to best take advantage
of the potential of technology, teachers and students must have adequate and equitable
access; schools must build the capacity to use technology, develop a technology
plan and offer adequate training and technical support; and teachers and students
must use technology in effective ways (Jerald, 1998).
access to education technology, it can be used to create more accessible curricular
materials in fast and easy ways for students with disabilities (Research Connections,
1999). As classrooms materials are created in digital format, they can then be
accessed and manipulated in a variety of ways to be heard, seen and manipulated.
For example students can change how they interact with digitized materials by:
- Enlarging the size of the text
the color or font of the text
- Having the text read aloud
labels read of pictures/simulations
- Speaking into a computer microphone
- Using alternate input options: trackballs, larger keyboards,
touch screens, etc.
Software companies are designing programs that
meet a wider range of needs. CD textbooks and e-Books are just two examples. Universal
Access features are embedded in programs that present content in alternate ways,
with multiple options for student control (i.e. text-to-speech, enlarged fonts
and tool bars with large, well labeled buttons) (CAST, 1998). Other characteristics
promote student engagement, interest, and motivation. These "built-in"
options make learning more relevant.