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ECC at Perkins: Accomplishing more with assistive technology

Assistive technology allows students to read, write, study and learn just like their sighted peers.

Secondary student Zach works with assistive technology teacher Kate Crohan to improve his skills with a braille notetaker, one of the many technology devices used by students who are blind at Perkins.

Assistive technology is one of nine life skills kids with visual impairments and multiple disabilities learn through the Expanded Core Curriculum at Perkins. And in today’s world, the power of assistive technology is enormous, as it empowers students with vision loss to overcome many traditional barriers to independence and employment.

Here’s a bit more about the role assistive technology plays in the Expanded Core Curriculum, why it’s so important, and how it’s taught.

What is assistive technology and why is it so important?

Assistive technology refers to any device or software that connects people with disabilities to the world around them. For example, a screen reader helps people who are blind access written content on computer screens by reading aloud the text. As for why assistive technology is so important: There’s no denying we live in a tech-forward, digital-first world. So for kids to succeed in college, get a job, and even just stay informed about the world around them, it’s critical that they’re able to harness the tools that make the technological world accessible to them.

How is assistive technology taught?

  • It’s important to start early: Students should get acclimated with the technology before they’re delving into schoolwork with it. Meaning, their first lesson in using a Braille Sense notetaker — a portable mini computer for people who are blind — shouldn’t start when they’re using it to write their first paper. Assistive technology is its own skill, that needs to be taught separately from academics, so it can be used in their academic pursuits.
  • Exploring accessibility in common devices: Assistive technology exists in everyday devices as well. It’s good practice to understand where to find those features and make use of them. For example, something as simple as magnifying the size of the text on an iPhone can make text messaging and web browsing more accessible to someone with low vision.
  • Focus on subjects that interest them: As assistive technology is its own skill that must be learned, it’s good practice to make these lessons fun, so they’re using the technology to learn about things they already care about and are interested in.

What is the Expanded Core Curriculum?

The Expanded Core Curriculum is built of of nine life skills Perkins students with visual impairments, deafblindness and additional disabilities learn on top of their core academics. It covers everything from using technology to independent living to socializing with peers — knowledge most sighted children acquire by observing everyday life. The Expanded Core Curriculum gives students who are blind, deafblind and have additional disabilities a toolbox of crucial skills they need to succeed at school, in social situations, at home, on the job and everywhere else.

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Slater, who is deafblind, types an email to her Aunt Lori. Photo Credit: Anna Miller
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