Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Computer Access for Students with Disabilities

As we have learned, using Universal Design for Learning in the learning environment is a great way for teachers to accommodate the needs of each of their diverse learners.  Because technology has become a large part of teaching our students, "the computer industry has adopted the concept of universal design" and modified systems so all students can be engaged in learning through the use of technology (Dell, Newton, Petroff, 2012). The computer industry has taken the second principle of universal design, flexibility in use, and incorporated its concepts into systems that will benefit those students with disabilities.

Flexibility in use has four guidelines, all in which encourage students to learn material through accommodating their learning abilities.

How Does it Work?
Student Characteristics
Designers  provide choice in method of use
The student has the ability to control the computer through the use of a keyboard or mouse.

The student using this guideline has the ability to receive information by reading or listening (text-to-speech) to the material on the screen.
Students who have poor fine motor control, difficulty in visually tracking mouse pointer, and/or have limited range of motion would benefit from using a keyboard or mouse.

Text-to-speech supports students with reading disabilities or attention deficits. 
Designers accommodate left- and right-handed users
Having a computer with a one-button mouse (Mac’s); functions on a two-button mouse can be switched (Microsoft)
Students who are only capable of using one hand and/or has better control with one hand

Students with fine motor skills
Designers take into account the variations among the precision and accuracy  of computer users
Providing learners with the option to enlarge icons and text and slower mouse speed
Students with low vision, hand-eye coordination problems, visual perception issues, hand tremors, poor fine motor skills, and cognitive deficits would work well under the use of this option.
Designers are advised to provide adaptability to the user’s pace
Systems will be set to process the speed of mouse travel, timing for double-clicks, keyboard repeat delays, and keyboard repeat speed.
Mouse speed should be increased for students with limited range of motion.

Mouse speed should be decreased for students with visual tracking difficulty, poor fine motor control, and difficulty raising head to monitor the movement of the mouse pointer. 

Repeat delays should be increased for students with poor fine motor control and those who have difficulty raising head to check for typing accuracy. 

Dell, A.G., Newton, D.A., Petroff, J.G. (2012).  Assistive Technology in the Classroom: Enhancing the School Experiences of Students with Disabilities. 2nd Edition.

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