Enhancing Accessibility in Post-Secondary Education Institutions
Many PSE institutions offer assistive technology services to students. With the wide variety of assistive technology available today, students with disabilities are better able to access the information available to them and to participate fully on campus. Assistive technology in PSE can be any item, piece of equipment, system or program which helps students with disabilities overcome barriers to learning.
Since assistive technology relies heavily on accessible design, the principles of creating and designing accessible information from the inception is imperative within colleges and universities. It is also necessary to raise awareness of the benefits of universal design, accessibility and assistive technologies.
The following are some suggestions from PSE institutions on providing assistive technology services to students with disabilities.
- Have a centre or office specifically for assistive technology and staffed by knowledgeable specialists; alternatively, have an advisor in the disability office who is an expert on assistive technology. Either of these options would allow for a central resource for students requiring assistive technologies.
- After identifying a need for assistive technologies with their disability advisor, students should meet with a specialist to discuss their options for assistive technology.
- Assistive technology devices and software could be available for short-term loan to students with disabilities for use at home or on campus.
- If assistive technology is required but not available at the school or if students wish to possess their own, provide information on external sources of adaptive technology, both free and for purchase. Make information on funding options such as the Canada Student Grant for Services and Equipment for Persons with Permanent Disabilities available. Advisors should also offer assistance with the application process.
- Offer individualized or small group training to introduce students with disabilities to the types of technology available and how to use them.
- Make larger group training sessions available to the entire student body and/or to faculty and the public. Charge members of the public a small admission fee if required.
- Promote the idea of universal design through the use of available technologies. This way, students with “invisible disabilities” such as certain learning disabilities who may not want to self-disclose, are still able to benefit from these technologies. For example, ensure that the entire college or university website is accessible and provide computers equipped with assistive software in communal locations.
- Since some assistive devices will only work in conjunction with accessible design, awareness for faculty and staff is important. Providing information tools such as brochures, seminars or one on one discussion with professors is beneficial. Have an assistive technology specialist offer to review course materials and website content to ensure they are accessible.
- If a small student population and limited resources do not allow for on site assistive technology, consider partnering with larger colleges and universities nearby to allow students access to their assistive technology.
- It may be beneficial, particularly for smaller institutions, to include a small cost in tuition fees and then allowing access to accessible software and assistive technologies for all students.
Examples of Assistive Devices
- CCTV Magnification units
- Flatbed scanning devices
- Voice Output Devices
- Note-taking devices
- Braille printer
- Scan and text reading technology such as Kurzweil Personal Reader
- FM Systems for students who are hard of hearing
- Portable keyboard with built in word processor such as Dream Writer Smart Keyboard
- Portable scanner and print magnifier such as Magna Cam
- V-Cam: head mounted zoom-lens (Jordy - zoom - lens video eyewear)
- Visual & hearing devices such as AudiSee
- Head mouse and bat keyboard such as Tracker 2000
- Talking scientific calculators such as Audiocalc
- Spell checkers with visual and auditory feedback such as Franklin Language Master
- Notebook computers loaded with assistive software
- Incandescent desk lamps
- Digital recorders
- LiveScribe Pen/Audio recorder
Examples of Assistive Software
- Text-to-speech and screen reading software such as JAWS, Kurzweil or WindowEyes
- Speech recognition software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking
- Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software such as Open Book Unbound or Kurzweill 1000 to scan printed text and convert to E-text
- Grammatical and writing software such as Text Help Read and Write Gold, Kurzwell3000, Wordsmith or Word Q/Speak Q word prediction, which is a multi sensory computer software that assists reading fluency and enhances writing development for students with reading and written language difficulties, sometimes combined with OCR capabilities
- Idea/Concept mapping software, such as Inspiration or MindView
- Screen enlargement software with synthetic speech output such as DECTalk PC
- Screen magnification software such as ZoomText or MAGic
- Open Book Unbound OCR software, scan text and convert to E-text
- Braille Translation software, such Duxbury