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How Can I Help My Child?

Assistive Technologies for Children with Disabilities

Universal Design

The inventors of technological devices often employ a wide variety of design principles in order to be sure that they can be used by the widest variety of people. "Universal Design" is the name for all of these principles taken together. Because they have such a wide variety of students (who in turn have such a wide variety of needs), schools usually look for educational technologies that adhere to the dictates of universal design. It is usually easier - and frequently less expensive - to purchase this kind of equipment for everybody than it is to ignore accessibility issues and wind up purchasing extra technologies for students who can't use equipment that has already been bought.

By law, public property and facilities intended for public use must meet certain accessibility guidelines set down by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Even this Web site has been designed to conform to the standards of the ADA.

Learn more about the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Assistive Technologies

Sometimes the standards of universal design are not as universal as one might hope. When a piece of technology is still inaccessible to students with special needs, educators and students can turn to assistive technologies for help.

Just a few of the assistive technologies available for students who need them are:

  • Trackballs instead of mice.
  • Software that magnifies a computer screen's text and graphics.
  • Software that reads text aloud.
  • Adjustable chairs and desks.
  • Oversized keyboards for typing.
  • Software that converts speech into text.

If your child has a disability of any kind, be sure to talk to his or her teacher about what kinds of facilities the school has available to minimize any obstacles to his or her learning. Don't be afraid to make suggestions - schools rely on the experience parents.

Below are links to Web sites that can help parents (and teachers) learn about technologies designed to assist children with special needs:

Assistivetech.net - The mission of this site is to provide increased access to information on assistive technology devices and services as well as other community resources for people with disabilities and the general public.

AT Network - California's Assistive Technologies Network, developed by The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers. Offers a wide array of information about assistive technologies in California.

Federation for Children with Special Needs - Provides information, support, and assistance to parents of children with disabilities.

OSERS - Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services - A branch of the U.S. Department of Education, OSERS has information about government programs addressing issues special education.

Special Education Resources on the Internet (SERI) - An excellent directory of Web sites arranged by category, including links for "Special Needs and Technology Resources" and "Parents and Educator's Resources."

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