ACOLUG listserv, 2/8/97)
As completion of at least an introductory level math class is now a degree requirement at many colleges and universities (Chamber, 1994), special attention to this problem, by both educators and device manufacturers, is needed.
The participants described a wide variety of methods used for written communication (see Table 4). Nonetheless, students' self-rating of effectiveness was somewhat lower for class-related writing (e.g., short written assignments, reports, papers) than for face-to-face communication. While most individuals again felt that they were easily understood (n = 4) (i.e., occasional difficulty writing in a reasonable amount of time), one participant reported that he or she was only "somewhat easily understood" (i.e., some difficulty writing in a reasonable amount of time), and one reported that he or she was "not easily understood" (i.e., routine trouble writing in a reasonable about of time).
For individuals with severe physical disabilities, the transportation demands of colleges and universities may pose specific challenges. For many of the individuals in this study, distance communication technologies, including the telephone and e-mail, played important roles in supporting academic and social interactions.
Participants used the telephone most frequently for information about classes (n = 6). However, participants also used telephones for social activities (n = 5), registration information (n = 3), and contacting family or friends (n = 1). Participants used a range of approaches to operate a telephone and communicate using telephone lines (see Table 5).
Six of 7 participants reported that others understood their communication by telephone "easily" or "somewhat easily." A closer analysis of the data revealed that participants who communicated only using natural speech (e.g., words or word approximations) rated themselves as "easy to understand" and that participants using voice output rated themselves as "easy," "somewhat easy," or "not very easy to understand." Four of 5 participants used voice output systems that were rated as highly intelligible in sentence identification tasks (81 -97%) and word identification tasks (60-84%) (Mirenda & Beukelman, 1987). However, the participants rated their ability to be understood in the middle to low end of the range of options. It is possible that there was a decrease in voice output intelligibility over the telephone (Spiegel, Altom, & Macchi, 1990). Likewise, ratings may have been influenced by other unknown variables (difficulty in creating syntactically correct sentences, the loss of the use of facial expression and gesture as modes of communication).
The opportunity to converse with others using e-mail has opened up an important new social opportunity for many individuals who use technology to communicate