In our knowledge-based economy, skilled and knowledgeable professionals are in high demand. Today, students are often motivated to pursue tertiary education to develop their skills, gain professional qualifications, and begin their path to future career success. For PWDs, it can be equally important to gain the skills and education needed to compete in the modern workforce.
Assistive technology can help students with disabilities participate to their fullest in mainstream tertiary education. There are aids for many aspects, including taking notes, following along with lectures, and communicating with educators and peers.
Screen readers and magnifiers
Students with visual impairments may choose to use screen readers, which turn printed text into spoken words or output on a braille display. They can help to read course material, send emails or even prepare presentation slides.
Tablets and touch-to-talk
Tablets, in an array of sizes and brands, have made touch-to-talk and voice recognition technology more mobile and more accessible to the general public. They complement traditional person-to-person education, helping non-verbal students to communicate more easily with others and. This technology enables independence from teachers and assistants, and alleviates anxiety.
There are apps catering to the needs of specific disabilities. For example, VoiceOver reads screen content back to the user. It ships as a native setting from iOS 10 onward. The Deaf and Hearing Impaired app converts speech to text, or text to speech, and alerts users with vibration and lights when a loud sound such as an alarm, is made nearby. Students with physical disabilities will appreciate the use of WheelMate (iOS and Android), which helps you find accessible parking and public toilets.
Some universities or colleges give their students access to assistive technology to ensure they can learn at their best potential. The University of Notthingham’s lecture halls are equipped with induction loops, which use magnetic fields to transmit clear audio signals directly to hearing aids. Their library also provides access to assistive software and hardware, including:
- JAWS/Job Access with Speech, a screen reader to help students who are visually impaired or have learning/physical disabilities
- Kurzweil 3000, which converts scanned text into speech.
- Dragon Naturally Speaking speech recognition software
- Olympia portable video magnifiers
- Headphone and speaker systems
Assistive technology makes it easier for PWD to access further education. While learning curves still exist, they help students to learn, interact with others, and perform at their highest potential.