Rationale for Assistive/Adaptive Technology
How can we justify spending a lot of money to buy assistive technologies that might only be used by a small number of people?
The Federal Department of Education has addressed the usage of technology in schools through the National Educational Technology Plan 2010. This plan illustrates that all students must have access to technology in order to be both nationally and internationally competitive adults in the workforce. The National Education Technology Plan 2010 states, “Technology is at the core of virtually every aspect of our daily lives and work.” In today’s society, even very basic jobs require computer literacy.
In today’s society, schools and libraries are struggling to maintain their budgets. Across the country, litigation is pending against 11 states over inadequate or inequitable school funding. According to the Huff Post, over the years, all but five states have been the subjects of such lawsuits. The change is that in many of the recent cases, higher state standards lie at the heart of the arguments. Yet states and local school districts must still comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The answer, not the problem, may lie with assistive and adaptive technology. This type of technology is meant to extend physical and sensory accessibility for individuals with disabilities. In educational settings, it can address both learning and teaching needs. According to rehabtool.com, assistive and adaptive technology is:
Assistive Technology Products can enable people with disabilities to accomplish daily living tasks, assist them in communication, education, work or recreation activities, in essence, help them achieve greater independence and enhance their quality of life.
Assistive Technology devices can help improve physical or mental functioning, overcome a disorder or impairment, help prevent the worsening of a condition, strengthen a physical or mental weakness, help improve a person’s capacity to learn, or even replace a missing limb.
Assistive Technology Services support people with disabilities or their caregivers to help them select, acquire, or use adaptive devices. Such services include functional evaluations, training on devices, product demonstration, and equipment purchasing or leasing.
Because of legislation, students with disabilities are included in nearly every classroom regardless of their disabilities. Inclusion of all types of students requires that assistive technologies be brought into the general education classroom to assist with their education. When provided with the right tools, often technological, students with disabilities are finding that they are able to meet the same expectations as their peers.
“Between 1996–97 and 2005–06, the percentage of students with disabilities exiting school with a regular high school diploma increased from 43 to 57 percent … this increase is attributed to, among other things, enhanced technology, expanded support service programs, and higher expectations of what students with disabilities can accomplish” (Gelbwasser, 2012).
Individuals with disabilities use assistive technology in order to create an environment where they can achieve the same goals as any other student. According to AT Education, assistive technology device means “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability… [school] districts are considered to be the primary source of funding for assistive technology. Districts have the responsibility to fund assistive technology devices” (AT Education, 2008). Assistive technology costs money, but so does the use of educational assistance and additional teachers. Districts are obligated to educate all students and using the multiple technologies available only makes sense.
According to Roblyer & Doering (2013), the goal of assistive or adaptive technology is to extend the abilities of anyone who is impaired or has a disability. The common goals of assistive technology are to provide an individual with: the opportunity to become more independent, to extend their learning capabilities, and to assist the individual in becoming more productive “…the goal is always the same: to harness the potential of technology in ways that offer an individual with a disability increased opportunities for learning, productivity and independence – opportunities that would otherwise not be available” (Roblyer and Doering, 2013, p. 400).
Additionally, Roblyer and Doering state “special education, more than any other areas of education, is governed by laws and politics” (Roblyer and Doering, 2013, p. 400). Districts are obligated, legally, to follow the mandates outlined by The Technology-Related Assistance Act for Individuals with Disabilities that was passed in 1988. The authors go on to state that funding and services are available and that districts and schools should consult local, state, and federal education specialists to assist them in locating additional funding sources to meet the needs of all students with disabilities.
Assistive and adaptive technology allows students and adults with disabilities complete and accomplish functions that they would struggle with otherwise. These technologies could be Braille for a blind student or translation software that can scribe oral words for a student who cannot physically write. Assistive and adaptive technologies increase the quality of life and learning of those with disabilities. Education is obligated legally and morally to make every effort to create and maintain equality and a quality education for all students, regardless of cost.
Assistive Technology in Education. (2008). Assistive technology in education: a guide for the delivery of assistive technology services for students with disabilities. Retrieved from http://www.atp.ne.gov/techassistdoc.html
Gelbwasser, S. E. (2012). Adaptive Technology: Not Just For People With Disabilities. Retrieved from: http://www.webjunction.org/documents/webjunction/Adaptive_Technology_Not_Just_For_People_With_Disabilities.html
Lu, A (2014) States sued over educational funding. Huff Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/18/state-funding-lawsuits_n_4808626.html
Roblyer, M.D. and Doering, A.H. (2013). Integrating Educational Technology Into Teaching, (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
U.S. Department of Education. (2010). National Education Technology Plan 2010 Executive Summary. Retrieved from: http://www.ed.gov/technology/netp-2010