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A student’s transition into post-secondary education is often a steep learning curve. Adult learning is mostly self-directed. Students engage with large quantities of written and audio-visual materials, navigating databases, operating software packages and listening to teachers and other students. It is essential to introduce students with disability to user-friendly, reliable technology that meets the demands of a complex learning environment.
Inclusive technology* plays a key role in making post-secondary education accessible to students with disability:
- text-to-speech allows students with learning disability to access reading materials;
- FM hearing transmitters allow many students who are hearing impaired to access what a lecturer is saying in class;
- screen-reading allows students who are blind to use a computer; and
- voice recognition allows many students with muscular difficulties to use a computer with greater ease.
There are many more technologies that assist students in accessing their studies as well as achieving their goals in the workplace and in their personal lives.
Inclusive technologies are made available through a broad range of hardware and platforms. Many are available for smartphones, for tablets, for Windows and Mac computers, on USB or online. In some cases, hardware is specific to the particular technology. The platform and hardware can be matched to a student’s learning needs and study environment.
Students vary in their knowledge of inclusive technology; some may have no knowledge at all whilst others will already be experienced in using technologies to access their studies and demonstrate their knowledge. The role that inclusive technology plays in facilitating equity access is acknowledged by the World Health Organisation’s 2016 publication of Priority Assistive Technology Products List.
This section of the website offers insight into inclusive technologies relevant to students with particular disabilities. The main functions of each type of technology will be explained. Where there might be differences between products, these will be considered in terms of the benefit they offer to students.
* In education definitions of inclusive technology tend to refer to technology that assists students with disabilities to better access learning experiences. This includes technologies that have been specifically designed for people with disabilities (e.g screen reading technology for people who are blind) as well as more general technologies that students with disabilities find useful (e.g. recording technology is useful for students in general but can be particularly beneficial to students with disabilities that cause difficulties or prevent the manual recording of information).
Martin Kelly is an Inclusive Technology Consultant with over 20 years’ experience within the disability and education sector. He has worked as an Inclusive Technology Advisor at RMIT Disability Liaison Unit as well as a primary school teacher, integration coordinator and TAFE teacher in disability support work. He has degrees in education, psychology and software development. His fascination for technology is combined with a person centered approach where understanding the individual needs of each student, their goals and the context of their learning environment becomes the basis for assistive technology support.