All accessibility tools benefit everyone. They are often created and put in place for specific reasons; however, it ends up being helpful and not an inconvenience to most people. For example, a wheelchair ramp is intended for those who may have a physical disability, but those who have strollers, wagons, or simply want to use a ramp, also benefit from these accessible points existing in our society. Having visual aids for crosswalks in addition to auditory sounds has increased the safety of those who may be vision-impaired to cross more than ever before. Even the assistive technology options available on our smartphones now, such as larger font, on-screen lock buttons, and speech-to-text, are widely used by many people of various abilities. Universal designs will always be beneficial for society. It can make life a lot simpler for those who may experience challenges that are sometimes not even considered or overlooked.
In the assistive technologies presentation presented by Daniel, Janeen, Reid, and Darcy, they mentioned using SETT (student, environment, tasks, and tools) for integrating different types of assistive technology in the classroom that is specific for each student. I use this type of acronym when developing a record of adaptations for particular students. Usually, any kind of adaptation you make for that student can fall within one of those four categories. I find that refreshing myself with this list of adaptations reminds me that these simple changes that I can make will often benefit most of the other students in the classroom as well and not just the one you are creating the ROA for.
There are a few different assistive technologies that I use in the classroom currently. We have one-on-one devices for specific students that may have an IPP that recommend it. I have many students, especially EAL learners, who use speech-to-text and text-to-speech to help them better understand the spelling and pronunciation of the English language. Regarding more subject-specific assistive technology, I am a big fan of having various aids, especially in math. Items such as manipulatives, mathletics, multiplication charts, calculators, and YouTube videos. Last year my school division installed speakers into the roof of every classroom connected to the data projector and a wireless microphone that the teacher can wear. This was especially helpful during the pandemic because I could amplify my voice while wearing a face mask. I would have been over-exerting my voice without it, and students would have struggled to hear me.
I have a personal connection to assistive technology, specifically relating to anything that assists hearing-impaired people. My partner has been hard of hearing since the day he was born. Alone, he probably has about thirty percent of hearing. He received hearing aids at the age of one. He spent pre-school and kindergarten in the deaf and hard of hearing program at McVeety Elementary School. For him, his hearing aids allowed him to hear well enough to develop spoken language with the help of speech therapy and lip-reading. Throughout his entire schooling after kindergarten, he was integrated into mainstream schooling with a few adaptions. His teachers were required to use an FM system in the classroom, which was helpful. Still, they could be inconvenient at times, such as in the gymnasium, hallway, outdoors, or any other place that wasn’t his classroom. The systems we have today are much more user-friendly and versatile. His hearing aids today are Bluetooth compatible and connect to any device. Another adaptation that still benefits him today is looking at him while you speak. This allows for the visual ability to lip-read. The pandemic indeed highlighted how much the deaf community and people, in general, rely on lip-reading when speaking and listening to others. Face masks made this very difficult when conversing with others, especially when unaware of the hearing impairment. Lastly, another very integral aspect of assistive technology that he uses regularly is the use of subtitles. I find that I appreciate subtitles now more than ever because I have become used to them myself. Living with someone who is hard of hearing has taught me patience, adaptability, and awareness. Being conscious of others who may experience the same challenges, such as coworkers, family members, or just people in general, can help them be more successful.
I hope that assistive technology can be view as a benefit to all learners and not just for those that it may be specifically designed for. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding assistive technologies is still very apparent in our society, even though it has made strides forward compared to the past. We still have a long way to go regarding inclusivity in our classrooms. However, assistive technology is one avenue that can help reach that ultimate goal of inclusion. Please comment below the type of assistive technology that you use in your classroom!