Learning Point Associates
Using technologies to help persons with disabilities learn and experience an enhanced quality of life has been an important area of research and practice in special education for many years. Even Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone grew out of his efforts to assist people with hearing disabilities (Grosvenor, 1997). Although there is a long history of efforts to help persons with disabilities by using technologies available to the general population as well as technologies designed solely for use by people with disabilities (Blackhurst & Edyburn, 2000), the past 20 years have seen an unparalleled interest in the use of instructional and assistive technologies. ABLEDATA (2004) maintains a database that includes descriptions of more than 30,000 technologies intended to enhance the learning and/or life functioning of persons with disabilities.
Along with an unprecedented growth in the development of high-tech devices over the past two decades, there has been a renewed appreciation for low-tech aids and considerable refinement in procedures to assess students for technological needs. A significant focus of the recent technology boom has been on developing tools that enhance student literacy skills. This article summarizes the best practices in using technology to improve the literacy skills of students with disabilities. Topics under discussion and review include: the legal responsibilities of schools, common literacy problems experienced by children with disabilities, procedures to assess the technological needs of students with disabilities, and information on how to use assessment information when developing goals and objectives for an IEP. In addition, several popular assistive and instructional technologies are described in relationship to the functions they serve.