Assistive technologies have allowed for the expansion of a traditional classroom to incorporate ALL learners, rather than be exclusive. As technologies have improved and access to the more advanced technologies has increased, teachers are able to find resources and tools to make their classroom more accessible. “An individual is able to complete a task that they previously could not complete, did so slowly, or did so poorly (Roblyer, 2016).” Computers are a huge part of this assistive technology community. In the 1990s it became clear that computers could be a great way to schools and classrooms to reach all learners and computer manufacturers responded to this by incorporating assistive technologies into their computers. This practice has grown with all computers being made with assistive technologies. In addition to the computers themselves, there is a multitude of software available to add on to computers allowing for an increased access to all (Roblyer, 2016).
The assistive technologies available offer a wide array of support. There are speech-recognition softwares to help students use speech to type assignments or create projects. There are also text-to-speech softwares to help students who cannot see text hear what is being shared and have pictures be described. There are also many visual and audio aids that can be incorporated into computers (Staff, 2012).
On my Windows 10 I found quite a few built in assistive technologies. The first I tried out was the Narrator for Windows Mail. I started by watching the video to better understand how the process works and then set up Windows Mail for the first time. I found this tool to be fascinating. Using simple key codes the user can increase the complexity in which the email is read. There is a basic reader that simply reads through the email, but you can also choose a reader that explains what text looks like to help with emphasis and also can break down tables and other information that might not be conveyed in a basic reader. A tool like this would be very beneficial to a visually impaired user.
Windows 10 offers many tools for users who may be visually impaired. They also have a magnifier tool which helps with increasing the size of an image or text.
In addition, they offer text or visual alternatives to sound a computer might make. For example, you can turn on captions for spoken dialogues. Or have your computer flash to share a warning. This would benefit a user who is hearing impaired.
I also came across the whole Ease of Access settings board that can be used on Windows 10 to help those with disabilities. This settings board is where users can change settings to have text read or to have an onscreen keyboard setup.
One of the best resources available through this is the Speech Recognition software which allows the computer to be completely controlled by voice. For users who may not be able to use a keyboard or mouse, this allows them to complete the same tasks other users can, in similar time. I tried this software and while there was a bit of set up and new “lingo” to learn, I was able to move through tasks on my computer at a similar pace.
Devices like my PC provide opportunities for all users to participate in the activities and tools a computer has to offer. In the classroom, its benefits can be endless. Students can complete similar tasks to their peers, with minimal changes to the activity. Tools like this are available on many types of computers and even mobile phones, allowing for more access to these assistive technologies.
“Accessibility Can Empower.” Microsoft Accessibility: Technology for Everyone, Home. Microsoft.
Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching, 7th Edition. [Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/9780133955439/
Staff. “The Role Of Assistive Technology In Supporting Disabled Learners.” TeachThought. N.p., 18 Dec. 2012.