In my job, I have rarely, if ever, have had to use assistive technology. Therefore I was very pleased to tour the Kalikow Center and receive an introduction to the assistive technology available there. I began to understand that my idea of what assistive technology is probably had been limited to tools that support kids who have skeletal -muscular disorders or who had been in debilitating accidents. What I discovered at the Kalikow Center was much more.
The assistive technologies I saw at the Kalikow Center seemed to fall into two categories. The first category is "what needs to be plugged in, or is battery powered." There were several technologies that caught my eye, the first being the Tango speech-generating communication device. Its options included a built in digital camera, which allows the user to communicate using images. What a powerful way to express oneself! I also was taken by the laser pointer attached to a headband. Oh, what I could accomplish with both hands free! The reality of the technology is that it IS for people with limited use of their arms and hands.
The second category of assistive technologies at the Kalikow Center were the manipulatives. There were several types of manipulatives, including blocks, dolls, and puppets. I really enjoyed this portion o assistive technology. I feel that these m
manipulatives are essential to literacy building.
Universal design, or barrier-free learning, comes with it certain stigmas for being "different". Access ramps are separate from stairs. Students using assistive technology often are segregated in a resource room. What if universal design was truly universal? What if it appealed to the masses, and not just those truly in need?