Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Accessible Icon Project

The Accessible Icon Project looks are redesigning the current handicapped symbols we use. The new design is more respectful while conveying the active and mobile lives people with disAbilities have. New York City has already made some of these changes on their signs! This is a very cool project!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

July 26th ADA 23rd Anniversary

On July 26th, we marked the 23rd anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), a landmark piece of legislation.  USA Today talked about America setting the Gold Standard when referring to the ADA. In light of the strengths we have demonstrated there continues to be hesitation in at least one area. We continue to wait for the ratification of the Disabilities Rights Treaty. The Human Rights Watch sent a letter asking Congress to ratify the treaty in honor of this anniversary. The voices of those with different abilities need to be heard. Please join in the move towards ratifying this treaty. Everyone across the world stands together in this. Why are we waiting?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

What does universal design look like?

I have added a new page to the blog which will focus on resources for universal design but also examples of what it actually looks like. We often focus on the need to design lessons, classrooms, and materials which reflect universal design. yet when asked exactly what this looks like, we often find ourselves stumbling to explain. We have to be able to describe and show what UDL actually looks like. It plays out in very unique ways each time and could never and should never fall into a prescriptive format in which all we need to do is plug in some information, use some multimedia, add some hands on and we are set to go. It is much more than that, and takes time to develop and implement. There are a number of model schools out there attempting to implement this. One such school district is Chelmsford Public Schools in Massachusetts. There are three other great examples in; Baltimore County, Cecil County & Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation. The Tale of Four Districts has additional resources on it beyond the videos describing the process the schools are going through. Take a look at how they have begun this process. Given the diversity of most schools, this is something that must be looked at to meet the needs of students. We have to first have a clearer vision on what it actually looks like.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Android Apps & Google Tools for Augmentative Communication (AAC)

Having choices in types of AAC devices and platforms is key as we continue to expand in the area of augmentative & alternative communication (AAC). We have many more access methods, sizes and functionality across various AAC devices. As we continue to expand in this critical area, we must push for even more options across other types of devices including tablets from a variety of makers. This has been very slow in developing. Apple products and Apple compatible applications have led the way in this area. Android is slowly catching up and needs to continue to improve in this area. Man of the Android devices include gorilla glass and are water resistant which support the more typical use they may see from some of our younger AAC users. They should be explored when considering AAC options. Saltillo takes Android devices and repurposes them using some of the more advanced communication software. These devices although less expensive than some; are still thousands of dollars. The high durability and tablet base are a clear strength. For a typical Android tablet (generally low in cost), there are AAC applications available although the list is somewhat limited. I have included a limited list below. It is certainly something to think about when trying to meet the needs of students and adults who could benefit from an AAC system.

Create an image dictionary through Google Chrome: Chrome Web Store - Image Dictionary . This is a wonderful tool to use and have your students create an image based dictionary they can organize and add to throughout the school year. This will benefit all students including those with disabilities and those who are second language learners. Read & Write for Google Docs is another free tool that can be sued to support vocabulary development. Take a look at the brief video below.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Braille Challenge

The Braille Institute holds an annual Braille Challenge each year. Students from across the country of all ages come to compete. This is a wonderful opportunity to reinforce Braille skills which are critical to many who are visually impaired and essential to those who are blind. Technology continues to play a strong role in how people who are visually impaired or blind access their world. That being said, Braille literacy must continue to be taken seriously and is a necessary skill to engage in all aspects of life. Most states have Braille literacy laws in place requiring teams to formally conduct learning media assessments addressing the primary and secondary forms of input and output for students with visual impairment and blindness. Specially, they need to look at Braille instruction.
Here are just a few great resources (many are free):
NFB Story books
Learning braille - RNIB
More Braille Links
NBP Everything Braille - Braille Publications
The Blind Readers' Page
Braille Alphabet Chart For Kids, Pdf's, Flash Cards, Worksheets, Cards, Braille Quiz Numbers & Activities | Braille Alphabet Org
In addition, each state has their own talking book and Braille Library.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Digital Notebooks for Students

Digital notebooks have been used for several years now but are gaining broader popularity due to their ease of use and access. In a previous post, we looked at OneNote (Microsoft product) as an example of a collaborative low cost planning tool as it is included in the most basic and low cost office suite. It can also be used as a digital student notebook. Students can complete assignments, conduct group activities and collaborate across schools, districts and countries with tools of this nature. The teacher can provide multimedia instruction which can be differentiated and universally designed as well as allowing parents to view the student’s work on a regular basis through a shared link. Microsoft Partners in Learning shares some ideas.  The instructional ideas are endless and only limited by your own creativity. The digital notebook will still need instructional support in learning how to organize and manage it. These are important life skills for students of all abilities. The concept of ePortfolios is another area of increasing interest at all levels. Having students develop and manage their ePortfolios early on and build on them each school year, supports ownership and pride in learning. Here are some other resources (many more out there);

The video looks at the power of tablet PCs including OneNote (other software just as appropriate). This particular modality is unique in the way you can integrate a variety of forms of input and output. With budgets tight everywhere, we need to make wise choices across everything we do.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Seeing Eye GPS – APP

Sendero Group has released a new GPS application for people with visual impairment. They worked with the Seeing Eye who train guide dogs. The application is free but the subscription is a bit pricey. It is certainly worth taking a look at. Right now there is no trial version which becomes a problem if you want to make sure it is the right match for yourself or someone you are assessing. The app will only work in the US and Canada but additional locations are being developed. Applications like this provide the opportunity for increased independence and accessibility. They work best when used in combination with our low tech options which work even when they get wet, do not need power or updating!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Accessible Scuba Diving –Freedom to Move

Movement is such an important aspect of our day. For people with movement barriers, simple enjoyable activities can become inaccessible or much more difficult due to the energy and effort needed to participate. Water can at times even the playing field a bit and allows more accessible and free movement. It is a journey which removes some of the daily barriers people may experience.  Accessible scuba diving is one adventure which can be enjoyed by all, including those on a ventilator. DIVEHEART offers accessible scuba diving on a regular basis. Divers@Sea is another program which offers underwater opportunities.  Scuba Travel is another resource to access.