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How can we use Assistive Technology to make learning easier for students with a disability?
The classroom can often be a challenging place for many students, especially those with a disability. Some disabilities are obvious to others and some are not – you might need to consider this. Students may feel like their disability is not fully understood in the classroom and could find themselves falling behind and being too embarrassed to ask for help. While teaching support may be available, sometimes students may want to take charge of their own education. How could we use assistive technologies to help students with a disability learn in a way that supports more independent learning and that gets the best out of their potential?
Assistive Technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the skills of a person with a disability. Assistive technologies are often used to encourage greater independence by enabling people to perform everyday tasks that they might ordinarily have difficulty in completing. It can help people who have difficulty speaking, spelling, concentrating, writing, remembering, pointing, seeing, hearing, learning, walking, and many other things.
Watch the animation to get a broad understanding of what AT can offer people with disabilities.
Research the possible needs and opportunities:
Identify a specific disability that might make a student’s learning in the classroom more challenging. Are some disabilities more open to designed-in assistance than others? Do this by talking together about the range of disabilities you know about or have experience of, and be sure to consult the people who have the most knowledge – those with a disability. Think about how to do this sensitively without upsetting the people you are speaking to.
Examples could include:
- Students with a low attention span which makes it hard for them to do things like concentrate, sit still, follow instructions or remember what they have been taught
- Students with a physical disability which might make it difficult or impossible for them to see, hear, walk or write
- Students with dyspraxia which means they have difficulty doing activities that need coordination and movement, or with dyslexia which can affect reading, writing and remembering information.
Design a solution
Design a product, campaign or service that will help address the needs you have focused on.
Examples could include:
A Product: An assistive device to help someone use a piece of equipment in the classroom more independently.
A campaign: A campaign to embrace different forms of learning styles in the classroom which would benefit everyone - not just someone with a disability (e.g. Montessori was originally designed to help children with learning difficulties however its child-led learning approach has been shown to benefit all types of children).
A service: A different approach to lessons and teaching that can adapt to the needs of students with disabilities, such as a flipped learning online learning environment that provides students time and resources to prepare for class outside of the classroom.