A Classroom for Everyone
Assistive Technology, as defined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), is "any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities."
Here at The Minnesota Academy for the Blind, we have an Assistive Technology Service. It is the mission of the Assistive Technology Specialists to provide training, support and strategies for using the most current Assistive Technologies in functional daily activities for staff and students who are blind and visually impaired, including those with multiple disabilities.
- Working with the students in classroom and residential settings by collaborating with staff.
- Supporting the curriculum by providing staff with resources and activity ideas for integrating assistive technologies.
- Continual improvement on keeping up with technological advances as we strive to be a model demonstration site.
Since the majority of students at MSAB are multiply disabled, we place a high emphasis on meeting the needs of those students through the use of assistive technology.
Assistive technology devices can be used to help nonverbal students communicate, to teach students functional life skills, to afford students the opportunity to use computers, assist students who do not have the proper muscular control to feed themselves, and help students meet class and homework needs.
In keeping current with student needs, the assistive technology continually changes as well. In addition to computer labs, every classroom and residential area has adapted computer workstations that are used for instruction, homework, and recreation and leisure activities. The adaptations on the computers vary from alternative keyboards, single switches, touch windows, screen magnification software, screen reading software, and adjustable tables just to name a few.
Devices used by our students include:
- portable note takers with Braille displays and speech output that can be connected to printers and Braille embossers to produce copies
- stand-alone reading machines with speech output for reading print material
- talking spellers and dictionaries
- digital players for reading books on CD
- talking calculators for math computation
- Braille displays that connect with the computer to access the information on the computer
- CCTV’s to allow reading and writing in large print
- computers equipped with a variety of programs to allow access to information and translation of information into Braille such as scanners, screen readers, screen enlargements, and Braille translation programs
- computers with touch windows, alternative keyboards, and switch interfaces with software for concept development, reinforcement of classroom themes, functional skills, and leisure time activities
- environmental controls and switches to operate a variety of toys and appliances
- low tech adaptations for art activities
- Communication devices, customized to meet individual students’ needs.
We also have a Multi-Sensory Studio here at MSB that is coordinated through the A.T. Service. This room has been customized for students with visual impairments and/or blindness and multiple disabilities. By using environmental controls and single switches, as well as their own physical movements, students can activate bubble columns, create music, and interact with an education board with lights, pictures, and sounds.