Fig.1 Assitive technologies to improve access to e-learning
There are a myriad of hardware and software tools that alongside other assistive technologies a disabled person may use to improve access to learning. As part of the MA in Open and Distance Educaiton (MAODE) module H810 Accessible Online Learning : Supporting Disabled Students we are reviewing the widest range of circumstances and tools - and MBA like applying these to our own contexts.
When I started this course I did wonder if it couldn't be covered in a weekend residential – boy am I mistaken.
So much so that I think it should be a 60 pointer over several more months.
If we can remember back to the Paralympics just think of the vast scale and variety of access issues these athletes had, then add cognitive impairments for which the Olympics are unable to cater - then think of any impairment as a position on a spectrum that includes us - our vision, our hearing, our mobility and cognitive skills are on here somewhere too. Indeed, there are tools that come out of assistive technology that have value to all of us, from automatic captioning, tagging and transcription of video, to screens over which we have greater control. Here area few I picked out:
Head pointers need to suit the precise needs, wishes and expectations of the user and may be used in conjunction with other tools and software. A sophisticated package such as TrackerPro costs £1,288 and includes head, visor and shoulder kit, a tracking webcame and software. At this level it can be used to engage with computer games, as well as to use packages designed to suit the users other needs in relation to visual and audio impairment. These packages are supported by assessors.
Keyboards come in a plethora of shapes, sizes, textures and colours, with various overlays and supporting software for single hand or head pointer use too.
Integrated with screens, wheelchair, hardware and software a market leader for people with considerable mobile impairment, voice and sight impairment such as DynaVox Vmax will cost £9,000. There is considerable online support, with videos too. Setting up and support from an assessor is provided.
Beyond the tools provided with the operating system or browsers which will magnify images to a reasonable degree, there are software bundles such iZoom (PC) £321 and VisioVoice (MAC) £232 with a far greater level of sophistication and adjustment to suit users with sight impairments, dyslexia and mobility requirements. Working with a variety of inputting devices this allows the user to make many kinds of adjustments to the way information is displayed.