Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Assistive Technology Accommodations in Higher Education

Students and parents are often surprised to learn that the process of obtaining accommodations, such as assistive technology, in college and other postsecondary programs is very different than in K-12 public schools. This is because the legal requirements are different.
When a student leaves the K-12 setting and moves on to higher education, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) no longer applies. Instead, civil rights laws for people with disabilities, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, regulate how postsecondary programs must accommodate the needs of students with disabilities.
In higher education, the student is responsible for contacting the appropriate program at the school to identify themselves as a student with a disability and to request necessary accommodations. The student must also provide paperwork that documents his or her disability. If the student does not identify him or herself as a student with a disability in need of accommodations, the college is not obligated to provide accommodations to the student.
Usually the school’s disability support office can help students through the process of arranging necessary accommodations. To ensure that colleges provide reasonable and appropriate accommodations, the student may be asked to supply the school with documentation such as a list of accommodations that have been used successfully in the past or a recent IEP from high school.
It is a good idea for the student to request accommodations prior to each school term rather than waiting until they find it difficult to complete the coursework. A student who needs books and other instructional materials in alternative formats, such as audio, large print, or Braille, should request these items early enough so that the material is ready when classes begin.
Although colleges may provide assistive devices as reasonable accommodations, they are not required to and may not provide the most sophisticated technology available. It is acceptable for a college to provide different technology than what the student prefers or is familiar with.
The availability of accommodations in higher education settings often varies, depending on the college or program the student attends. The following table provides a sampling of common accommodation options for areas in education. It is not intended to be comprehensive.

Extended test timeAudio booksComputer or portable word processorInterpreter for people who are hearing impaired
Allowing breaks during test takingLarge-print or Braille materialsElectronic spell checker & dictionaryAssistance with note taking
Low-distraction testing environmentScreen magnifiersSpeech recognition softwareDigital recorder
Repeating directionsScan-and-read software and pensTalking word processorFM listening device
Oral testingComputer Braille displayGraphic organizer softwareComputer for taking notes
Allow use of computer or calculatorColored overlaysSlant boardReal time captioning
 Other reading servicesScribe 
Computer AccessMathStudying/LearningStudying/Learning
Alternative mouse deviceGraph paperPost-it notesDigital recorder
Alternative keyboardCalculation chartHighlighters and highlight tapeTimers
Computer access softwareTalking calculatorIndex CardsTalking watch
Voice recognitionAccessible math softwareDay plannerPrint or picture schedule
  Personal data assistantssoftware for organization of ideas
  Graphic organizer softwareVoice output reinders for tasks, assignments, steps to tasks
Tips for Transition Planning and Accommodations
1. Learn about the latest assistive technology options that could be useful to your son or daughter now and in the future by contacting PACER’s Simon Technology Center. For a listing of AT Resource Centers in your area, visit the Alliance for Technology Access Web site at (PACER is an AT Resource Center)
2. Actively involve your son or daughter in the selection and set-up of any assistive technology they use. The youth should learn to manage their assistive equipment independently or feel comfortable directing support providers to assist with the set-up.
3. Involve your son or daughter in creating a student file for assistive technology and other accommodations that includes documentation of disability, accommodation needs, technology needs, technology emergency back-up plan, and contact information for repair services.
4. Start exploring postsecondary institutions with your son or daughter if he or she is interested in pursuing higher education. Talk with others to identify colleges that offer strong support programs for students with disabilities. Be sure to make an appointment with the disabilities support office to find out what kind of accommodations the school provides and whether they adequately meet your child’s needs.
Sharon's Story
 Sharon, a first-year college student, has a learning disability that affected her reading and writing. In high school, all her books were on tape, she took her exams separately, and she was allowed extra time to complete them. Sharon did not to request accommodations when she began her first year of college because she felt she could manage without the additional support. At mid-semester, however, she had failed two mid-term exams, and she became concerned about passing her classes. Sharon decided to contact her school’s student services office to request accommodations she had previously received in high school. She also contacted her instructors and informed them of her disability and the accommodations she needed. As a result, Sharon improved her test scores and passed both of the classes she had been failing.

Apps for Special Education: App Store, App Shopper, Moms with Apps

App Corner

App has been used as a shorthand term for “applications” and has become popular to indicate mobile application. App grew even more popular with the opening of Apple's App Store, which can be accessed through iTunes. In the “App Corner” in Tech Notes we will highlight mobile applications that are universally designed or meet an educational need. This month we highlight apps that help you navigate the variety of apps currently available.
App Store - by Apple
The App Store icon is a built in app that comes standard with the iPad. Tap the App Store icon and you’ll find over 65,000 apps made for iPad. There are apps for anything and everything and you can search, purchase and download them right from your device (wifi or 3G connection required). Best of all, many of the apps are free.

AppShopper - by, LLC

AppShopper keeps you up to date on the latest news with apps via both the app and the companion web site Users create a free account and are able to track the apps they own via My Apps and the apps they would like to own via a customized Wish List. The app will notify users when an app price increases in price, goes on sale, is available for free and when the app is updated. Additional features include searching by the following categories: Popular Apps, What's New, Wish List, My Apps.
AppShopper FREE (4 out of 5 stars from 523 ratings for current version); Information from the Apple iTunes Store viewed on 6/30/11.

Moms with Apps - by BabyBlinks
Moms with Apps is a group of parents who develop educational apps. They started with a web site and blog and feature a popular Free App Friday. The free app gives parents and educators an additional way to interact with their content and collection of apps they have deemed parent and child friendly. They aim to assist parents and educators to identify apps that address the needs of their children and students. Developed in collaboration with the Moms with Apps development group, nearly 400 developers have cataloged and categorized over 1,000 apps by their educational value and appropriate age group. The result is a comprehensive catalog of apps.
Moms with Apps FREE (4.5 out of 5 stars from 61 ratings from all versions); Information from the Apple iTunes Store viewed on 6/30/11.

Web Spotlight: Khan Academy

Math can be a tough subject for even the strongest of students and it’s easy to fall behind or miss a key concept. Even adults might find that there are holes missing in their math knowledge. Luckily there is a great free website to help your youth, young adults, or even older adults work on math skills and more. This site is called Khan Academy.
When Salman Khan started creating YouTube videos to tutor his cousins who lived far away he never expected them to be so popular with the online community. As the videos grew and the views racked up he created a website to hold them all called Khan Academy. 2,200 videos later you can find instruction on anything from basic math to advanced calculus.
The videos alone would be a great resource but Khan academy offers some interesting tools to motivate and assist users. Once you sign in to the website you are presented with a map that lets you see what skills you have to master to learn more complex concepts. Once you click on a concept you can watch a video demonstrating how it works. After each instructional video you are presented with a handful of practice questions. Only after you complete 10 questions in a row does site give you an award stating that you have mastered that concept. Along the way you can earn badges that represent your accomplishments on the site.
If you are a parent or a teacher you can set yourself up as a “Coach” where you can track a users progress and help them if they are struggling in a certain area. The site features detailed progress reports and graphs for a single or multiple students. In addition to Math Khan Academy has added videos on Biology, Chemistry, Astronomy, History and more. Find out more about Khan Academy by visiting them online at or watch Salman Khan’s presentation at TED 

EC Corner: TNT Newsletter May 2011 (Robots as Assistive Technology)

The Tots 'n Tech Research Institute (TnT) is an inter-university collaboration between Thomas Jefferson University (TJU), Philadelphia, and Arizona State University (ASU), Tempe. TnT's mission is to provide up-to-date information and resources about adaptations--including assistive technology--to use with infants and toddlers for state education agencies, Early Intervention providers of all disciplines, and families. TnT produces a newsletter highlighting the use of assistive technology with infants and toddlers. The May 2011 issue focuses on the assistive robots and how they can assist infants and children with movement, socialization, education and more. To subscribe to this newsletter, follow this link  or visit the Tots n Tech home page

Early Childhood Corner: EZAT 2

EZ AT 2: Simple Assistive Technology Ideas for Children Ages Birth to Three
EZ AT 2 is a guide for increasing young children’s participation in daily activities and routines using assistive technology. This fantastic publication is a follow-up to PACER’s popular EZ AT: Assistive Technology Activities for Children Ages 3 to 8. Funded by and created in collaboration with Tots-n -Tech, this publication will be available for purchase this summer for $5.00 from PACER Center. For more information about EZ AT 1 and EZ AT 2 visit For more information about Tots-n-Tech, visit

Product Spotlight: My Focus Glasses

My Focus glasses is a low tech tool designed to help people who struggle with visual distractions, including those with ADHD, Asperger's, Autism and more to cope with visual distractions while improving the ability to process information.  The glasses were creaed by inventor and entrepreneur Ken Finochiaro who had the idea of creating a tool for reading that would address the issue of visual distraction.  Increased focus would allow for improved comprehension.
The design blocks peripheral vision and features a mirrored finish that gives them the look of sunglasses.  There are styles/sizes for youth, teens and adults as well as an over-fit frame which rests on top of existing eyeglasses.  The cost of a pair of My Focus glasses is $69.95. 
A variety of My Focus Glasses are available for check out in the Simon Technology Center (STC) Assistive Technology Lending Library.  Visit the library during open hours on Tuesday noon to 6:00 p.m. and Saturdays 10:00 to 4:00. Current library members can request to check out a pair of glasses to try them on for size.  For information on becoming a member of the library visit

Communication Corner: Top 10 Ways to Learn More About Augmented Alternative Communication AAC Over the Summer

1)  Parents and professionals can check out AAC items from PACERs Simon Technology Center's lending library or your local assistive technolog lending program.  More information abotu PACER's lending library can be found online at
2)  If you ahve always wanted to explore AAC with your child but haven't yet, schedule a free consultation in the Simon Technology Center to explore the latest and greatest in the world of AAC.  More informaiton can be found online at
3)  If you have a piece of technology but are not sure how to use it schedule a fee based Individualized Training and work one-on-one with a specialist that can tailor the training to meet your needs.  More information can be found online at
4)  Attend an archived webinar on your time that focuses on AAC.  If you are new to the topic an Introduction to AAC webinar ca be found online at
5)  Attend a live webinar on a specific topic related to AAC or on a specific language system.  You can generally find these webinars by going to a device company's websites such as:  Dynavox -;  PRC -; or Tobii ATI
6)  Attend the online self-study AAC program provided through the AAC Institute.  this free online program teaches you various aspects of AAC.  The program currently contains 4 courses; each course is a prerequisite for the next course.  CEU credits are available.  More informaiton is available online at
7)  Attend a live workshop on AAC.  Several are coming up at PACER, are free to attend, and are sponsored and led by local AAC vendors.  Learn more at
8)  Budget for assistive technolog (AT and AAC Conferences that occur during the school year.  Conferences can be a great way to network, meet with technology vendors, and learn about best practices in the field.  A National AT Conference held in MInnesota is Closing the Gap CTG.  CTG takes place in October every year.  More information about Closing the Gap ca be found online at
9)  Learn more about the online resources provided by the AAC Vendors such as PRC's AAC Language Lab and the Implementation Toolkit by Dynavox
10) Remember the internet is your friend.  There are wonderful websites that have tremendous amounts of AAC related information on them.  A few to start with are:  AAC Institute, AAC Tech Connect, AT/AAC enABLES, YAACK, ISAAC, and AAC-RERC

Assistive Technology May Help Your Child Succeed

When a learner is struggling in any the area of life and nothing seems to help, both parents and professionals often turn to technology as a solution. Using what is called assistive technology (AT), a toddler can color with an adapted crayon, a teenager can use word prediction software to become a successful writer, and an adult can use speech-to-text technology to be gainfully employed.
 While it is clear that some children with disabilities can benefit from AT, parents need to be proactive about seeking services for their child and become familiar with the law that ensures AT services are provided by public schools.
An age of technology
Technology is rapidly advancing, sometimes on a daily basis. New technology changes not only how we learn and engage with the world, but how we function in daily life.
Consider Aimee Mullins, an athlete who set world records running on prosthetic legs at the 1996 Paralympics. Her high-tech limbs help her reach the potential she has to be a runner, a model, and an actress.
Consider Bridget Thomson, who became the first student in Minnesota to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) using speech-to-text as an accommodation. Speech-to-text technology helped Bridget reach her potential.  
Despite the fact that technology can help children achieve their dreams, students with disabilities are not systematically evaluated to see if they would benefit from AT services. Anecdotal evidence suggests that only 3 to 5 percent of students with disabilities have assistive technology written into their Individualized Education Program (IEP), according to research conducted by Dave Edyburn of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Although sometimes students use AT even though it is not included their IEPs, a large percentage of students who would benefit from AT are not receiving services. Thats why its important for parents to be proactive and to make sure AT services are considered for their children.
 AT and the law
While AT is a relatively young field, the laws that govern it are not new. Schools must consider the use of AT at least annually for every student who has an IEP and may benefit from it.
Assistive technology includes the devices, software, and services a student needs to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE), which is guaranteed by a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). AT should also be considered to help a student be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE), also ensured by IDEA.
Learn more about AT and the IEP by viewing one of PACERs archived webinars The Consideration of AT in the IEP  or call PACER at 952-838-9000 and speak to an advocate.
Learn about AT options
Todays rapidly advancing technology can open new worlds for children with disabilities, but parents must proactively look for AT solutions.
 Learn more about AT options at PACERs Simon Technology Center. It provides free AT consultations, a Technology Lending Library, trainings, workshops, and more.
 The STC Lending Library offers an inexpensive way for people to preview software and AT devices for children and young adults with disabilities. Anyone can visit and view the 2,500 items. Minnesota parents, individuals, and professionals who are members may borrow them.
For more information, visit or call 952-838-9000.

App Corner: CourseSmart, Notes Plus and iCourse

App has been used as a shorthand term for applications and has become popular to indicate mobile application. App grew even more in popular with the opening of Apple's App Store, which can be accessed through iTunes. In the App Corner in Tech Notes we will highlight mobile applications that are universally designed or meet an educational need. This month we highlight apps for post secondary education.
CourseSmart for iPod, iPad and Android - by CourseSmart LLC
CourseSmart eTextbook reader is an app that allows students to purchase and interact with their textbooks in an electronic environment.  Many electronic textbooks, if available from the publisher, can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of the print book.  The service is subscription based.  Access to textbooks lasts as long as your subscription.  Features include: look and feel of print textbooks, ability to highlight and make annotations, synching between devices and online bookshelf. Try the demo account for free. Internet connection required.
CourseSmart FREE (2.5 out of 5 stars from 1,529 ratings for all versions); Information from the Apple iTunes Store viewed on 5/24/11.
Notes Plus - by Viet Tran
Notes Plus is a powerful note taking tool that combines handwriting (finger or stylus) with typed text.  Features include:  Close-up Handwriting (allows you to write smoothly and finely with your finger), Palm Handling (allows you to lay your hand on the touch surface without interfering with the writing process), Typed Text MIxing (allows you to insert typed text anywhere on the page with a variety of styles), Shape Auto-Detect (allows you to draw and edit basic shapes), Voice Recording (lets you record audio while taking notes), Easy Editing (allows you to select text by circling it to erase or arrange without having to access editing or drawing tools), and more.
Notes Plus $4.99 (4 out of 5 stars from 1,823 ratings from all versions); Information from the Apple iTunes Store viewed on 5/24/11.
iCourse is an all-in-one class organizer for the iPad.  It has a variety of features that include: the ability to import class presentation slides into the app; take notes on slides during lectures; highlight and sketch directly on lecture notes, slides and other documents; prepare homework and reports with built in notebooks; organize materials and documents; and much more.
iCourse for iPad FREE (4 out of 5 stars from 5 ratings); Information from the Apple iTunes Store viewed on 5/24/11.

Tech Tip: Viewing YouTube Videos with no Internet Connection

YouTube and other online video sites store a wealth of great resources. To play one of their videos you just open a web browser, visit the video site and search for the video or types of videos you would like to watch. Sometimes there is a video you would like to access but there is no access to the internet or the access to YouTube or other video websites is blocked. Fortunately, there is a way to download YouTube videos to your computer where you can view them when you don't have access to an internet connection.
YouTube does not offer the option to download videos directly from their site but there are several other programs and tools available that do just that. For this example we are using a website called First you locate the video you would like to download from YouTube. Next select and copy the website address or URL from your browser address bar. Now visit the website and paste the web address into the text box marked URL. Finally click on the Download button.
Keepvid runs a Java applet to convert the video into a form you can download.  You will be asked to allow the applet to run the first time you use the site.  After the conversion is complete you are given several different quality options from low to high that you can download and play on your computer. Since the video is now loaded on your computer you no longer need the internet to play it!

Did You Know: Zac Browser

Zac Browser is a free internet browser designed specifically for children with various forms of autism (autism spectrum disorders (ASD), Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, PDD not otherwise specified and PDD-NOS, also called atypical autism). Zac Browser was designed to offer a pleasant, rewarding and secure experience. Children sing, play and discover the best that the internet has to offer with only a few clicks of the mouse. Zac Browser allows your child to access games and activities (based on diverse interests) along with videos (that allow a stimulating experience and encourages children to communicate). All games, activities and videos are specifically chosen for their positive effect on children with autism. Zac Browser is compatible with Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7.  More information about Zac Browser can be found at

Early Childhood Corner: New Publication from the National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center

The Importance of Early Intervention for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities and their Families: Fact Sheet (2011)

The Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities Program (Part C) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was created in 1986 to enhance the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities, minimize potential developmental delay, and reduce educational costs by minimizing the need for special education services as children with disabilities reach school age. This fact sheet provides an overview of the Part C program and quick facts from the research on early brain development, the importance and benefits of early intervention, and current unmet needs. It is meant to be used as a tool to communicate with policymakers, pediatricians, families, and community leaders about the importance of quality services for infants and toddlers with or at risk for developmental delays and their families.  Download this new publication at

PACER Archived Webinars: Spotlight on All About Apps for Education

In May 2011 PACER Center held an All About Apps webinar that drew more than 150 participants from across the state.  This and other webinars on timely and important topics are available on PACER's archived webinar page at  Other popular topics include:  All About Digital Books, Accessible Instructional Materials in School Settings, Building Capacity for Assistive Technology and more.
In the June 2011 Tech Notes we would like to highlight the All About Apps for Education webinar.  In this webinar the presenters demonstrated a variety of apps for education in categories including: early childhood, literacy, autism, communication, organization, and more. Apps were presented by category in alphabetical order. For an overview of the apps demonstrated and the order they are presented in refer to the handout (available when you click "more informaiton") titled Just the Apps and Nothing but the Apps Handout. Apps in bold are demonstrated in this video.

Library Corner: Software Programs to Help Students Practice Educational Skills Over the Summer

There are many software programs in the library that can help students keep up their educational skills over the summer including programs for literacy skills, writing, math and more. Literacy programs can help students practice skills such as decoding, comprehension, spelling, etc. Writing programs can help students with composition and paragraph and sentence structure. Math programs, range from number identificaiton to algerbra, depending on a student's skills.
There are a variety of tools available in the Simon Technology Center Lending Library for parents and professionals in Minnesota.  We have highlighted three of those choices:
Literacy:  Super Star Phonics Series by Help Me 2 Learn
The development of phonics is an important foundation literacy skill. The Super Star Phonics Series by Help Me2 Learn includes software programs for phonics development.  In fun interactive activities phonics skills are introduced and reinforced.  Software is available for both Mac and PC, with editions for home and school.  Available titles include: Letters & Numbers (ages 2-7), Phonics 1a - Vowel Sounds (ages 4-8), Phonics 1b - Consonant Sounds (ages 4-8), Phonics 2a - Intermediate Level (ages 5-9), Phonics 2b - Intermediate Level II (ages 7-11), Phonics 3a - Advanced Level II with Sports (ages 7-11) and Phonics 3b - Advanced Level II with Sports (ages 7-11). Download a 7 day trial or check it out for up to four weeks through the STC lending library.
Math: Mighty Math Series by River Deep
Mighty Math is a collection of software to help learners with math concepts such as basic match concepts and problem solving, fractions, algebra, geometry, and more.  The Mighty Math series take place in a variety of settings and uses engaging characters.  Grow slides are available  that allow the user to adjust the difficulty level of the activity.  Within each game is an array of both topics and levels of play.  Available titles include: Astro Algebra, Calculating Crew, Carnival Countdown, Cosmic Geometry, Number Heros and Zoo Zillions.
Writing: The Writing Trek
This multimedia program features authentic language arts projects, activities, and assignments that build writing competence and encourage creativity. Trek is a language learning adventure set in a variety of settings that will inspire students to write and read more. Challenges include writing historical fiction, poetry, persuasive essays, and research reports. Journeys into Concepts strands, skills, and Internet research refine student writing. Models, Extension activities, and a Reading List are provided for each Project.
To learn more about programs available in the lending library, feel free to browse the AT Finder online catalog at, or contact library staff at or 952-838-9000. Feel free to visit us during open library hours to browse our inventory and try them out on the library computers. Library hours are: noon-6 p.m. Tuesdays and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays.

Communication Corner: Smart 128

Are you looking for a robust communication device to try this summer? The Smart 128 by Advanced Multimedia Devices Inc., AMDi, may be an option. This communication device has multiple levels of recording and has flexible layout options. The device has interchangeable key guards and can be configured to display 4, 8, 16, 32, or 128 messages in addition to visual scenes. The Smart 128 has 6 levels of recording for up to 128 messages per level. More information is available at This device is available for loan to Minnesota residents through the Simon Technology Centers lending library free of charge. To learn more contact the STC library at or call 952-838-9000.