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Sunday, July 30, 2017

EDTECH 541 Justifying investment in assistive technology



Those of us in public education understand that there are a finite amount of funds and infinite demands for those funds.  Currently, the question is whether Assistive Technology (AT) is justifiable given that only a small number of students will benefit from the investments made.  This perspective seems to assume that all AT comes at great cost and that what benefits a minority of our population has no benefits for the majority.  Both of these perspectives are inaccurate.  At the same time, I believe we have a moral obligation to reducing as many barriers to learning as possible for our students.  

Assistive technology is simply a tool to help certain learners get over barriers similar to the reading glasses I now have to put on to overcome the barrier of aging.  I certainly wouldn’t deny myself that assistance and neither should we deny these tools for our students.  Some would suggest that providing assistive tools and services is too expensive.  In fact, some AT is expensive but at the same time some of it is rather simple.  As technology advances, the costs of these technologies are coming down.  In fact, legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on disabilities (LD Online, nd)  and thus is increasing the demand for these products.  With higher demand comes lower costs.  Computer operating systems also come equipped with basic assistive technologies as well.  My MacBook can easily do text to speech for people with reading barriers or even use voice controls for people with physical limitations.  A quick google search will find a plethora of free assistive apps for all sorts of devices.  Frankly, I think the cost argument against AT has lost relevance. In fact, these technologies lead to more inclusion and inclusion is proving to be more cost effective than operating pull out programs (The Understood Team, n.d)

Assistive technology can help all students as every student has unique needs (Government of Alberta, Alberta Education, 2017).  In fact, there is more and more documentation that states that all students benefit from increased use of AT as it helps more kids reach their potential and helps students become more confident (Ianyst, 2014).  In the current state of education, AT is just part of what we do.  It is part of the responsibility of educational institutions to provide the tools necessary for all students to succeed.  We wouldn’t deny me the use of my reading glasses at school so why would we deny a student the tool they need to succeed.


Resources:

5 Benefits of inclusion classrooms. (2014-2017). Understood: For learning and attention issues. Retrieved  from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/treatments-approaches/educational-strategies/5-benefits-of-inclusion-classrooms

Family Center on Technology and Disability. (2017). Assistive technology laws.  LD OnLine. Retrieved from http://www.ldonline.org/article/35384/
Government of Alberta, Alberta Education. (2017). Inclusive education- overview. Retrieved from  https://education.alberta.ca/inclusive-education/inclusive-education/everyone/overview/

Family Center on Technology and Disability. (2017). Assistive technology laws.  LD OnLine. Retrieved from http://www.ldonline.org/article/35384/