Thursday, October 10, 2013

Questions & Answers (Part III)

A Blogger's Insight: 

Questions & Answers (Part III)


So we have been discussing some questions and answers based on assistive technologies and computers. This post is going to address AT for computer access.  I am also going to be elaborating a bit on what that means and the two general forms of AT found today: low-tech and high-tech. This is referred to as the Assisted Technology Continuum, which is demonstrated to the right.  As you can see, the continuum begins with simple, inexpensive aids, like pencil grips, and works its way up to more complex and expensive devices, such as Speech Recognition software.  Students can benefit from all but some may be more appropriate for the students situation.  

Now that we understand the continuum and have looked at some examples, there are specific ones I want to discuss.  Hint: I will be going into greater details about specific types of low- and high-tech AT later in this module.  

Q: What are the major types of alternative keyboards and who could use them? 

A: Expanded Keyboards - these keyboards are oversized and offer a larger surface area.  
     This is beneficial to students with poor fine motor control who need a large target area. 
    Mini-Keyboards - these are much smaller than the standard keyboard.  This benefits 
    students with motor impairments with either restricted motion and students with good 
    accuracy with a narrow range of motion.  
    On-Screen Keyboards - these types of keyboards place an image of the keyboard on the 
    computer monitor.  Letters and functions are selected by clicking on them with a mouse.  
    They help students with motor and visual difficulties. 
    Customizable Keyboards - can be configured to meet the needs of individual students.  
    Anyone could benefit from this type of keyboard.  

Q: What are the major types of mouse emulators? 

A: Trackballs - remain in one place and move with the rotation of the ball.  
     Joysticks - provides a moveable handle that is perpendicular to the base.  It does not need 
     to be moved far and helps students with limited motor mobility.  
     Head-pointing Systems - This is exactly how it sounds and is extremely beneficial for 
     students who have no hand-motor control/use.  
     Eye-gaze System - tracks the movements of students' eyes to direct the mouse pointer. 

Q: How can alternative output devices make the computer accessible for students with vision impairments and blindness?

A: Alternative output devices that aid visual limitations and impairments include screen magnification, screen readers, refreshable Braille displays and Braille embossers.    

I hope this information has allowed you to research some of these devices, either low- or high-tech on your own.  Now, take it one step further and decide which devices would best benefit your classroom, or another environment, and implement these alternatives.  At the very least, if you ever walk into a room with teachers, computer nerds, Noble prize winners or conference speaker, you don't need to act like you have a clue what they are talking about... you can actually offer up your own experiences and opinions.  

** If you are a teacher, computer nerd, Noble prize winner or conference speaker, let them put their input in - even if they are completely wrong! :) 


Dell, A. G., Newton, D. A., & Petroff, J. G. (2012). Assistive technology in the classroom: 
      enhancing the school experiences of students with disabilities (2nd ed.). Boston: Pearson.

1 comment:

  1. From the list that you provided, I have only seen expanded and on-screen keyboards used in the classroom where I volunteer. They both work exceedingly well and are quite adaptable. The particular on-screen keyboard software that we use allows the user to select the type of font they would like to use as well as the on-screen key shape. This adaptability gives the user a sense of ownership of the letters and enlivens the experience for them.