ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES AND STUDENTS WITH LEARNING WITH DIFFICULTIES TO PROMOTE INCLUSIVE SOCIETIES AND SCHOOLS By Shailaja and Dr. G. Lokanadha Reddy

Abstract

“Man is still the most extraordinary computer of all.” —  John F. Kennedy

This paper deals with concept of assistive technology, assistive technology for persons with disabilities, different types of assistive technologies such as written language technologies, reading technologies, listening technologies, organization technologies and  math technologies apart from basic principles of selecting best technology for  each child.

            Assistive technology is any service or tool that helps the elderly or disabled do the activities they have always done but must now do differently. These tools are also sometimes called “adaptive devices.” Such technology may be something as simple as a walker to make moving around easier or an amplification device to make sounds easier to hear (for talking on the telephone or watching television, or instance). It could also include a magnifying glass that helps someone who has poor vision read the newspaper or a small motor scooter that makes it possible to travel over distances that are too far to walk. In short, anything that helps the elderly continue to participate in daily activities is considered assistive technology. Just as older people may have many different types of disabilities, many different categories of assistive devices and services are available to help people with disabilities to overcome those disabilities. de Jonge, D., Scherer, M. & Rodger, S.(2007) research shows that assistive devices can empower children with disabilities by enhancing functioning in activities of daily living, early childhood development, recreation, socialization, mobility, and such education-related skills as reading, learning and studying, math, writing, composition, communication, and computer access. By facilitating the participation, inclusion, and mainstreaming of children with disabilities, assistive devices can significantly impact their self-image, self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

            Some of the assistive devices/ technology and services the help people with disabilities are; adaptive switches, communication equipment, computer access, education, home modifications, tools for independent living, job-related items, mobility aids, orthotic or prosthetic equipment, recreational assistance, seating aids, sensory enhancements, therapy and transportation assistance. Similarly, there are a good number of   assistive technologies available for students with learning difficulties. To overcome the writing difficulties, the written language technologies such as; proofreading programs, speech  synthesizers, speech recognition systems, outlining programs, brain storming/mind mapping programs and word prediction programs, are of much use. Likewise, the Reading technologies such as optical character recognition (OCR) systems, the OCR works with a scanner, fully portable pocket sized “ reading pens”, speech thesis/Screen review systems, tape recorders and variable speech control tape recorders, are available  to overcome reading difficulties in students. Personal FM listening systems and tape recorders are the best citations for listening technologies overcome listening difficulties. Likewise, personal date managers and free form data bases are the best technologies to overcome organizational/memory problems. Talking calculators and Electronic math worksheets are useful to overcome learning difficulties in mathematics. In selecting the best technology for each child, one should follow the guidelines such as; determine child’s specific difficulty , identify child’s strengths, include child in the selection process, narrow  down the types of technology that might be helpful, based on child’s strengths and weaknesses, examine the specific settings where the technology will be used, think about portability when selecting assistive technology, select technologies that work together, choose technologies that are easy to learn and operate and  research  the reliability of the product.

            The assistive technologies mentioned above will go a long way to promote independence, autonomy and develop better self concept self esteem  in persons with disabilities so as to make them participate effectively in the mainstream societies to contribute their might in the developmental process of the country. Likewise, when they are selected and appropriately used, the students with disabilities and learning difficulties can overcome the physical and learning barriers effectively to optimize their learning and be the assets to their families and societies. In nutshell, assistive technologies are the need of the hour for persons with disabilities including the old age people and students with disabilities/ leaning difficulties so as to promote inclusive societies and schools.