Note: This series was first published on Paths to Technology in 2018 and has been updated in 2022.
We’ve all been there. One day, a referral lands on your desk for a new student and when you read his/her IEP, there is a heavy emphasis on a piece of technology that you either have no experience with or (worse) have had nothing but bad experiences.
That happens to me more often than you’d think….and I specialize in assistive technology!
Luckily there are some great resources out there. Some are free, some are subscription-based, and others require a one-time purchase to access specific information or course content. Each article in this series will focus on two resources you can utilize to help you stay ahead of your students and grow as a professional.
I would be totally remiss if I did not mention Perkins Trainings. After all, what website are we on again? Sure, the Paths to Technology site is part of Perkins, and offers a lot of great resources. But Perkins Trainings also offer self-paced tutorials, online classes for college credit, free Watch and Learn videos, and Micro-Credentials (No, I didn’t know what those were either, but check them out, it’s a totally cool concept).
The good news is pretty much anyone can benefit from Perkins Trainings. Teachers who need to obtain or renew certifications, parents looking for resources and information, paraprofessionals who need to keep ahead of the students, or just about anyone who wants or needs to learn about a variety of topics.
There are sections of Perkins Training that address specific areas of the expanded core curriculum, including assistive technology. Though there are many resources that address specific technology needs, not all of them “live” in one place. But that’s OK because there is a search box at the top of every page, so you can look for what you are most interested in.
Some things on the site are totally free (like the blog entry you are reading right now on Paths to Technology), the Paths to Technology Lesson Library, the Watch and Learn videos, and the Lessons and Activities page.
Classes offered for 3 graduate credits cost around $700. Classes for ACVREP credits or other types of continuing education credits cost around $400. In a field where relevant professional development opportunities are hard to find, Perkins offers a valuable service.
Access Technology Institute is a textbook and textbook subscription service that offers Windows and Microsoft based support for JAWS, NVDA, Internet Browsers, and Microsoft Office programs.
Each textbook comes with individually labeled audio files that make it much easier to practice using the programs that are being explained. They also have the text available in Word, HTML and Plain Text file formats.
ATI also offers a Trainer Certification Course for $1,300 per component (there are 11 total components). If you are looking for an all-in-one certification in Windows-based accessability, this is one possible route.
ATI offers a very detailed and comprehensive approach to use of windows and windows-based programs. The step by step guidance is very easy to follow. If you are someone who learns best by listening, the audio files are a great way to access the same information that is in the printed resources.
The text resources are very versatile in that they can be accessed on a smartphone, tablet, PC, or even loaded onto a braille notetaker or portable daisy player such as the Victor Reader.
Please note that you as an instructor or learner may access the individual textbooks, but may not share the files. For example, if you as an instructor wish to use it with a student and want the student to have a copy of that same textbook, you will need to purchase two copies to be in compliance with copyright. ATI enforces their copyrights with a reward for turning in copyright violators. You should familiarize yourself with their copyright notice before you purchase or if you have any questions.
ATI offers some free resources so you can get the feel of what they have to offer.
Individual textbooks such as An Immersion into Firefox with JAWS can be purchased for $95. A subscription for individuals to all current texts and those released during the subscription period can be purchased for $650 per year. A yearly subscription for trainers, which includes all textbooks and trainer handbooks is available for $3,000. And if you want all of your students to have access to these same materials, you can have an All Access Pass to all publications (plus some supplementary materials) and the rights to share them with an unlimited number of students or on a organization’s server for $20,000 per year.
The next installment in this series will feature two more resources that are valuable for both professional growth and personal learning. What will they be? I guess you’ll have to keep an eye out for Part Two in this series. Until then, happy learning!