Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sensory Gardens

Sensory gardens or gardens which are accessible are a wonderful addition to a community, school or residence. Gardening and horticulture related activities is quite therapeutic to many. There are a number of ways to make gardens accessible and year round. The Permaculture Research Institute in Australia has some examples of accessible gardens and therapeutic spaces. For people with more complex disabilities, sensory gardens can improve alertness and overall engagement. This is an article about how sensory gardens support play: Rotary Club - India. Here is another example of a sensory garden which also includes a railroad. It is located in Connecticut: Wickham Park. Sensory gardens should allow the visitors to use all of their senses. Adding chimes, music and other items also improves the experiences. These can be changed seasonally. A bird feeder or waterfall make wonderful additions as well. Here is an article from Exceptional Parent magazine.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mobile Accessibility

Many people and the majority in some countries carry some type of mobile communication technology (phone, tablet, computers etc.) with them throughout the day. We are constantly sending and receiving information. Most of the major carriers have included accessibility features. The concept of Universal Design is present in most of our new technologies which has supported access to many more users who require diverse interfaces to gain the same efficient and fluid access others have. There is a web accessibility initiative which is looking at this much more broadly. Take a look at some of the things they are doing: W3C Home. CTIA (International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry) has a wonderful resource called Access Wireless. This is a great resource for information. Mobile Accessibility is another place to look at information regarding accessibility features. I have included some links to three carriers (there are many more) who provide information on accessibility. Use of these technology must be explicitly taught in the classroom. These devices (or a version of them) are going to be around for a long time. Our students need support in learning how to use these devices efficiently to support their independence and access. We cannot let our preconceived ideas of who can benefit from this technology cloud the need to learn and access it by almost all of our students in some manner.




Friday, January 18, 2013

More Free Symbols & Resources

Free Symbol Project Update

Here are two resources of free materials on a variety of topics. The materials exchange allows you to download a number of teaching resources and communication displays as PDF file. Materials Exchange

The second resource: Special Education Technology in British Columbia (SET) has a large selection of free activities across a variety of software programs which are accessible to learners who use symbols and may have varied access methods. is important to continue to support the Equality Without Words movement. Symbol accessibility and symbol friendly environments are needed and should be much more available across schools and public facilities. When we do not continue to make our environments and materials symbol accessible, we are isolating so many people and perpetuating the barriers which deny access to everyday events and interactions that each of us do not think twice about as we go about our business each day. Start making the environment you are in much more symbol friendly throughout the building and grounds.



Sunday, January 13, 2013

Freedom to Move: Deep Sea Diving in a Wheelchair!

For people who struggle daily with mobility, having the freedom to experience the same types of movement and exploration is just as much of a human need as anyone else. We have come a long ways in how we have made things more accessible but we are no where near where we should be. This is an amazing story and video. Sue Austin shares her experiences on TED. We really just don't understand how much we relay on our freedom of movement each day until it is gone. I absolutely love how she traced her movements and created designs using her wheelchair. This all gives us pause as to what barriers we should be breaking down for the people we support. There are no limits unless we put them there!

Friday, January 11, 2013

DO-IT International

DO-IT International which began at the University of Washington has a long tradition of supporting access to higher education. Long before transition programs were a focus, they provided supports to high school students with disabilities who wished to pursue their education at the university following graduation. Post secondary institutions have made significant headway in how they provide access and support to people with disabilities. Here are some other resources you may be interested in:

College for People with Autism Spectrum Disorders

AHEADD - Autism Supports for College

USCAP Autism Project

People with Developmental Disabilities

Sunday, January 6, 2013

AAC Apps in Multiple Languages

No matter where you live or go to school, multiple languages are present and used each day. There are so many second language learners who also require augmentative and alternative communication supports which allow them to access their native language as well as the second language. Second language acquisition poses a number of challenges for students. For those who may struggle with their first language as well and who may also have expressive language difficulties face unique sets of challenges. AbleVox Apps come in 20 different languages. Here is a list of some of the languages and examples of the boards. Languages

The other piece we must focus on is the fact that AAC users may want to learn a second or even third language as a part of their overall education or life long pursuits. In order for this to occur, we need AAC supports and access methods which can facilitate this. If an AAC user is traveling to another country, they may wish to engage in conversations in that language. Universal language access is needed. It is an area we need to continue to promote and work on.This is also a lower cost app (free or full version for $74.99)