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Assistive Technology

The Technology Related Assistance Act of 1988 (P.L. 101-407) and the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-394) provide a standard definition of assistive technology as “any item, piece of equipment, or product, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.

Assistive technology reduces the barriers inherent in standard technology allowing for equal access for all users.

Assistive Technology (AT) ranges from low-tech to high-tech. Low-tech AT is usually less expensive to purchase and can be purchased at many locations, whereas high-tech AT is generally expensive and only sold through select vendors.

Examples of low, mid, and high-tech AT:

  • Pencil grips are used to assist with motor skills and the mechanics of writing.
  • Jumbo rulers and enlarged fonts are used for reading support.
  • Word processors assist in composition and have added capabilities like the proofreading feature to assist students with reading and writing disabilities.
  • Braille printers which create Braille course materials for students who are blind.
  • Text to speech software is designed to read course materials aloud and allow the end user to alter the speed, pitch, and volume of the voice.

Benefits of AT

  • Increased independence
  • Increased access
  • Increased participation and inclusion in class activities
  • New opportunities for interactions and communication

Available Assistive Technology on Campus

Read and Write Gold

Read and Write Gold is a type of software that is best characterized as a comprehensive, multifunctional-educational-tool. It has a variety of individual options that function to assist students with study skills, writing, research, and reformatting documents in a way that is sensitive to students’ individual learning styles. Read & Write Gold is an extremely dynamic text to speech software. The software is an “in front” program, meaning that it works in overlay allowing it to not just work in conjunction with other software, but allowing it to access other programs as needed.

Read and Write Gold consists of preset toolbars which organize tools by primary use. These toolbars are organized by categories such as: All Features, Reading Features, Writing Features, Research Features, and Study Skills Features. Some of the tools available within Read & Write Gold include: audio playback of text, picture dictionary, verb checker, word prediction, fact mapper, fact finder, scientific and mathematical calculators, highlighting functions, speech input and many more. Read & Write Gold is an incredibly flexible piece of software that also allows the end user to customize their “My Features” toolbar. The "My Features" toolbar allows the user to form a toolbar that suits their individual needs by grouping tools together that they use most often.

Dragon Naturally Speaking

Dragon Naturally Speaking is a voice dictation program that allows students to input text into the computer without typing. This is useful for students with learning disabilities who have good vocabulary and speech capabilities, and who can think aloud, but may struggle with the writing process. For instance, by the time they figure out how to spell the word for which they're searching, they forget what they wanted to say. It can also be useful for someone who doesn't have optimal use of his or her arms or hands. Furthermore, Dragon can be used by anyone who prefers to express him or herself in an oral versus written format. The Dragon requires a minimal amount of initial training. After this period, and with the help of an assistant, the student can begin dictation with a relative comfort level.

Livescribe Echo SmartPen

The SmartPen records audio (from class lectures, meetings, telephone conversations, etc.) and links it to what you write in real time. Tap on your notes with the tip of the SmartPen to hear what was said while you were writing. There is also an option to start replaying the audio at the beginning, middle or near the end of the full recording. This option is used best when reviewing notes or when additional information needs to be added into the original notes. The pen has different settings like left handed or right handed, conference room or lecture hall, audio quality low to high, and scroll speed on the pen’s display. You can even transfer your notes to a computer, organize them and fill in any missing information with Livescribe Desktop. Within Livescribe Desktop one can organize their notes by class and make individual notebooks. This allows students to use one LiveScribe notebook for taking their notes, if they choose.

The SmartPen and a Livescribe notebook are needed for this technology [Both are attainable through the Office of Student Disability Services (SDS)]. Also, a recording agreement between the student, professor(s) and the office of SDS is needed.

MyScript for Livescribe Desktop

MyScript for Livescribe is an application that converts handwritten notes to text. This is done by uploading the handwritten notes (which were taken with the SmartPen) and opening them in the Livescribe Desktop. Once the notes are uploaded to the Livescribe Desktop, they can then be converted to text in the MyScript application. After the notes have been converted, the user can either edit the text in the MyScript application or in a word processor (for example, Microsoft Word). Notes can also be saved as a text or picture file.

The handwritten notes must be legible in order for the MyScript application to accurately recognize the text. The application can also transfer any tables or charts that have been made in the notes, and recognizes cursive as well. The application is a one-time charge (as of January 2013, it was approx. $29.95 for the application). For this technology, one would need a SmartPen, a Livescribe notebook, a computer, Livescribe Desktop, and to purchase the MyScript application.