Sunday, December 30, 2012

Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards 2012

Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards 2012 for the second year has highlighted some of the most innovative and helpful accessibility apps to support independence and access. There were four different categories of awards: Well being, Mobility, Living & Social Participation. Please take a look at each of the apps. Their innovation and unique ability to open up the world through a more mainstreamed efficient route is a direction we must support and pursue vigorously each year. There are many ways we can all work together on this. Most Universities & Colleges who have engineering and computer sciences degrees are more than willing to work on specific projects with the community to support both short and long term solutions to the many accessibility challenges. You need to start with a specific issue which requires a solution. Work with the stakeholders, especially those who are directly impacted buy the solution and team with your local Universities and Colleges. We can start working away at many of theses issues locally and then share them globally. I would also encourage all solutions to be low cost or free when possible.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

ALS House - Technology & Independence

Steve Saling a person with ALS designed and co-founded a fully accessible living community for people with ALS  (ALS Residence Initiative). The level of automation through advanced technologies supports extended independence and control for those who could be much more dependent on others for every part of their daily routines. The MDA/ALS News Magazine offers a break down of what is in each home.

This is the type of support many people require. It begins with the premise that all people want and deserve to be as independent as possible and to continue to live their lives to the fullest. Facilities like this remove many barriers. Technology along with changes in attitudes (which can be the greatest barrier of all) allows for freedom of movement, expression and ongoing contributions to a world each person still wishes to be an active part of.

New Transportation Guide for People with Autism & Other Disabilities

The Easter Seals Project Action addresses accessible transportation in our communities. They have many free and low cost publications which are quite informative. Most recently they published a guide called: Get Going! This is a free guide which offers tips and information for when you are navigating the community. This is an excellent training resource for teachers and other professionals who assist in working on these important community access skills.

Monday, December 24, 2012

MIT Media Lab Free Software

The MIT Media Lab (which is open to the public) is an underutilized resource for information, technology and free software. They have regular events and exhibitions which are open to the public. Many of these are very appropriate for our students to go and see and certainly for families and professionals. There is a software program that they have developed called SCRATCH for students (ages 8 and up) which is free to download. With this software you and your students can make interactive stories, games, art, music and much more. Here is another site where you can download the software. It has demos and examples of things you can do with it. SCRATCH-MIT

Please remember to share the information with others!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Talking about tragedy with students who have special needs

This past Friday has been met with horrific tragedy which will never make sense. Students everywhere are going to need to process the information they have heard in the news. This includes those with special needs who may have significant communication and social challenges. It is important to work together as a team in your school or district to have an organized plan which addresses all students. This plan must include ongoing support as well as some direction in gathering content/programming to support coping skills now and in the future. Here are some resources but there are many more. Please share your thoughts, ideas and resources.
Special Needs: Discussion around tragedy

Talking to kids about tragedy

NEA School Resources

Talking about the events of Friday

National Association of School Psychologists

New York State SEL Plan - Good example of a comprehensive social-emotional support plan.

For some students, the materials will have to be substantially adapted to support understanding and coping. This must be carefully developed and based on language they are familiar with. Keep it very simple and address concepts in small and short increments. Certain topics and discussions may need to be repeated for understanding and processing. For students with special needs, please make sure you are communicating with the families in terms of how these topics are going to be managed. Many times students who do not use spoken language and who may have more significant disabilities are overlooked during these times. They hear the same news, adults speaking and feel the sadness around them. They must be included in the grief counseling process in an appropriate accessible manner which is sensitive to their developmental thinking processes.

Make sure you maintain routines. Talk and teach about feelings all year long. One of the things we have to remember is that the more prepared our students are in managing very stressful situations, the more open they will be to working through their feelings in a manner which can be productive to their emotional health. When we integrate social-emotional learning into most aspects of our instruction (not just a separate lesson which is not effective), our students will develop and generalize those skills needed to better understand what they are feeling and to accept help which can be accessed in a manner which allows for the healing process to take place. Please also be very aware of what the students are exposed to on an ongoing basis and what types of conversations are occurring within earshot. Make sure those routines, materials etc. that typically comfort them are made readily available. Most of all, talk with each other to make sure everyone is receiving the consistent support they require.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Did You Notice Part 2

A few months ago we had a discussion about the things we just do not notice until we need to. Things we take for granted every day and do not even consider how the interactions we have, the freedom of movement we have and the access to typical routines are often met with ongoing barriers for people with disabilities. This video gives you an idea of what it might be like.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Helping To Ensure Equal Access to Education

Helping To Ensure Equal Access to Education  is a report covering the years 2009-present by the Federal Office of Civil Rights. The report is quite long; however there are some key pieces you may want to look at. First, the Office of Civil Rights has engaged in proactive investigations to address systematic issues of discrimination. It is also looking more closely at bullying and harassment in both K-12 schools and colleges. There is a section on accessibility of technology which has improved but still remains a significant barrier in some places. At issue is access to electronic readers. OCR in collaboration with the DOJ (Department of Justice) came up with some guidelines: FAQS.  Please take some time to look through the report and the types of complaints, remedies and proactive strategies currently being addressed. We can all benefit from being a little more proactive.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Whiteboard Blog

Now until the end of December you can download a great software program to make interactive activities for the computer, smartboards or Tap-its. The Whiteboard Blog is an incredible resource. Don't miss this opportunity. They are offering a free site license with no limits. Thank-you Irene Macdonald for finding this and sharing!!!!!!!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

International Day of Persons with Disabilities  is being held on December 3rd, 2012. This year's theme is: Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all . Many of the conversations on this blog have focused on greater accessibility for all and access in general to the types of activities, interaction and independence everyone needs to have. The rights and privileges of persons with disabilities continue to be compromised. Many countries including the United States have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities produced by the United Nations on December 13th, 2006. On Monday, November 26th, the United States Senate did pass a motion to ratify the Convention. Although for the most part, it received support, please take a look at the actual vote count. Vote Count.

Please take the time to engage in some learning activities, advocacy and discussion around these important issues. It saddens me that in this day and age, we are still struggling to ratify such documents which should build consensus not division. Every student should have a way to advocate on a regular basis for issues which are important to them and their community. Across the United States and especially in Massachusetts there is a strong focus on transitional services which include the development of skills associated with self-determination, self-advocacy and overall greater independence. I would include civics and the responsibilities of being an active citizen as well.

Ideas for your students:

1. Meet 1-2 times per year with local government to discuss issues and work on specific concerns together. 

2. Begin Human and Civil Rights training early.

3. Find creative and individualized ways to give a voice to each of your students so they can comment and discuss these issues both within structured activities but also at will. 

4. Build the language needed to discuss these issues early and systematically add to it each year (core words, core phrases & content specific vocabulary - see free symbol project for resources). 

5. Instructor Web has some great lessons and activities on all of these topics. 

Please share your thoughts and ideas! There are so many things we can do right now!