Mary DeMarinis spoke of her role in providing adaptive technology on campus. Recently, she said, she realized that she had no technology plan for her institution-other than simply "begging" for things. Historically, Disability Services at Okanagan typically reacted to student need, scrambling to obtain the appropriate supports and dealing with compatibility issues, cost and maintenance issues. The result was dissatisfaction for all.
DeMarinis initiated a plan to change the chronic crisis situation by taking the following steps:
- Review what the institution has done already: The office was focusing on smaller items and neglecting big-ticket items.
- Consult regarding the standard for adaptive technology: DeMarinis consulted students, the Adult Services Program, other institutions, and the Canadian Association of Disability Service Providers in Post-secondary Education (CADSPPE). She found that there was discrepancy among the various institutions in the province.
- Introduce a co-ordinated plan indicating how the institution will get where it wants to go: DeMarinis created a five-year plan highlighting one campus per year (there are five campuses in the Okanagan). She focused on big-ticket items, such as CCTV for the library, screen readers for library research, text enlargers, and site licenses for all software.
Part of the plan involved the step of identifying "who plays and who pays." A large group needed to be part of the project, including a co-ordinator (DeMarinis), an administrator to track purchases, Computing Services to install and maintain hardware, an administrative assistant, a student, library staff, and Disability Services (to operate the equipment).
Who pays? A critical component of the project was to remove the costs from the department budget and indicate to the institution that adaptive technology is an institutional responsibility, DeMarinis said. Adaptive technology requires an annual commitment of $9,000 to $10,000.
Although post-secondary institutions in B.C. are going through a period of fiscal restraint, DeMarinis said that her institution was able to get software, a scanner, and a large monitor to scan instructor packages. The plan achieved this impact because of successful partnerships with the Adult Services Program and with students on campus.
In closing, DeMarinis said that students have a key role and can breathe life into an issue by talking about how technology can make the difference between passing and failing-between succeeding or not.