Ahead: Assistive Technology May
Affect Student’s Postsecondary Options
A generation ago, few young adults with disabilities attended
college or enrolled in other post-high school education. Now,
thanks to assistive technology and other advances, more young
adults with disabilities than ever before pursue the postsecondary
education that leads to professional careers.
such as extended time to take tests, using readers or note
takers, and obtaining a tutor have been effective for many
years. Advances in technology, however, have offered additional
options and opened many doors to postsecondary education for
students with disabilities.
computers are a catalyst for most of the advances. For example,
many schools post class notes for all students on an Internet
Web site. Some schools teach courses through interactive Web
sites. Students with disabilities that make taking notes or
going to a classroom difficult welcome such features.
assistive technology also helps. For example,
A students who is deaf can receive class notes via a portable
keyboard-like device operated by a classmate who can hear.
A student with a physical disability can use a voice recognition
system to dictate papers rather than using the keyboard.
A student who is blind can use a software program to print
handouts, worksheets and tests in Braille.
A student with a learning disability can use voice output
software to read textbooks or worksheets aloud.
colleges and post-high school programs require entering students
to lease or purchase their own computer. The software is an
expense of the student or, if the student qualifies, their
vocational rehabilitation service. If the prospective school
does not require students to have their own computer, there
are several important questions to ask about the assistive
technology available at the school.
following list is a starting point:
Does the school offer an accessible computer room or lab?
Does the school have specific computers designated for students
with disabilities who need adaptive technology?
software is installed on the computers? Are the computers
Macintosh- or Windows-based? Can the school’s computers
support student’s specialized software?
Does the school offer private study rooms with computers
and fewer distractions for students such as those with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity
Are the computers available to a single student for long
periods if he or she needs extra time to compose or type
papers and other homework?
How many students use the lab? Are there usually computers
available, or must students wait to use them?
Does the school offer individual or group training on the
computers? Is there a technical support person to work with
students to familiarize them with new tools?
it appears that the school or program fits the student’s
interests and needs, the next step is to make an appointment
for a tour of the campus. Visiting the computer facilities
as well as the disability support services program’s
office may offer a sense of how the school views students
with disabilities and the accommodations, including assistive
technology, that are available.
Reprinted with permission from Pacesetter, Summer 2003, Vol.
26, Issue 2. PACER Center, Minneapolis, MN www.pacer.org/