Sunday, June 30, 2013

Flexpad – Innovative Technology

The MIT Media Lab has an incredible project called the Flexpad. It is able to turn a piece of paper into a digital display. You can use your hands to interact with it or adaptive tools. It appears to be a very accessible medium to look forward to in the future.  They have made some of their research available: Projected Handheld Displays.  This is an example of universal design which uses a combination of high and low tech materials. The possibilities and creativity which can be used to build instructional activities is endless. It opens the door for many different types of student interactions and collaboration in learning. I would think this could also be used in professional development activities as well.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Universal Design on a Budget

Universal Design of Learning (UDL) is often associated with extensive use of technology. Although this is one way to increase accessibility, there are many low tech low cost options as well. Schools are constantly faced with budget shortfalls and are required to make difficult decisions around cuts. We need to consider the best way to continue to improve upon how we make learning accessible regardless of budgetary constraints. One of these ways is through low tech options. Here are some resources you may find helpful.







Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Office of Institutional Equity names Web Accessibility Award recipients

Purdue University announced the 2013 Web Accessibility recipients. Please take a look at these great sites that won! The Institute for Accessible Science Hub is an outstanding website full of resources. This particular site offers ideas for students with both moderate and more complex challenges. I think you will find the information helpful.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Free Communication Displays and Other Resources

Here are some additional resources for you which offer many free AAC communication displays as well as some guidance on symbol sets. You will also find this information permanently listed under the Free Symbol Project.
Free adult and child communication boards:
Amy Speech & Language Therapy .

Speaking of Speech is another resource with free boards.

This is an outstanding resource and overview of symbol sets: Symbol WHAT

Friday, June 21, 2013

Freedom in your home & Freedom on vacation

It is always a great time to think about making small or large renovations which will provide better long term accessibility. Considering various aspects of universal design when renovating or building will support you, a person who may be aging or who may have a disability. it can be simple changes or a total redesign. Be creative! Here is a link with some great ideas to look at: Accessible Rooms. It is also a great time to take a vacation. The preparation involved in making sure it is easily accessible will be key. Enable Holidays has some wonderful packages. Other resources you may find helpful are:

Disability Travel & Recreation

Travel Resources

Accessible Journeys

Emerging Horizons

Sage Traveling

Autism Travel

Most countries have lists of resources for accessible travel.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Universal Access for Beaches & Parks

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) offers a list of accessible beaches and activities. Outdoor Adventures has some wonderful accessible programs they offer on a regular basis. Northeast Passage also provides many recreational opportunities through a variety of sports.  The New England INDEX is another wonderful resource to local activities and services to support full participation in recreational interests. The Access Board has some guidelines for making sports and recreational facilities accessible.

There are many opportunities to participate in sports and recreational activities. Things have improved but still need our support to make more events easily accessible. The ease in which we access activities still does not compare to the ease of access experienced by people with different abilities. The world was designed for those with typical access needs. Continuing to look at ways to engage in universal design which supports all of us needs to be considered and actively addressed when purchasing equipment, expanding facilities and designing new programs. This does not mean looking at modifications as an add-on, but rather as inclusive design from the beginning. It is a different way of thinking and making decisions which considers everyone and does not look at individuals in terms of categories to comply with a law.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Is Coding an Extension of Writing?

As we consider the impact technology has had on our lives, the new generation thinking around universal design across architecture and learning, we must consider Mitchel Resnick’s thoughts on coding. We know there are many students and adults with print related disabilities which may include language based challenges, physical challenges and sensory based barriers. Composing one’s thoughts can take on many forms and for the most part, society has realized that print and typical written word is just one mode to convey ideas.  Could coding also be seen as a form of composing one’s ideas? Mitchel Resnick proposes this and I agree. In his article Learn To Code, Code To Learn, he discusses the success students and others have had using code to support creative endeavors.  He includes a number of helpful resources as well. Writing code is another form of sharing ideas, conveying thoughts and being creative.  We want to harness higher order skills, potential vocations and develops talents. Learning to write code and including this as part of typical education seems more than appropriate.  The Scratch Software which he refers to was developed in the MIT Media Lab which has been mentioned on this blog before.  They have more recently released a new version 2.0 with some updated features.  As pointed out in the article and the media release, many people have a limited view on what coding is. It can be much more and is a very unique for of composition.  The considerable benefits of approaching coding in this manner are enormous and only limited by your own creativity. Can you imagine all that students could do? This has the potential to open doors for people who may find engagement with traditional print filled with barriers or less engaging.  This is certainly not a substitute for literacy but it another avenue to support literacy in a unique manner which can enhance long term outcomes for our students.  

Coding links directly to discussion around universal design. It is another learning and access method which should become a part of what we do and teach to all students and adult learners.  The Newly Released Universal Design Studio by CAST is another free tool you can access to support your learning projects and collaborative content creation.  There are examples of projects for you to take a look at.

It continues to amaze me how much high quality free tools are out there to help us support students in a manner which will potentially engage them for life!