Advances in technology have seen the concept of learning escape the confines of the classroom, however teachers need to ensure that BYOD and other devices or equipment in the classroom don’t pose a barrier for students with diverse learning needs. Accessibility features may need to be enabled on the devices.
To achieve best practice, modelling accessible use of media in your school communities can be facilitated by:
- Holding mini video Professional Development sessions with staff
- Seeking out accessible options, if not available then use DIY where possible
- Use of audio described (AD) resources for students with low vision and print disability (if available)
Apple provides a guide to iPhones, iPads and Macs for people working in special education. These products are designed with a number of built-in accessibility features. There are also a range of accessibility-related apps which may be purchased from the iTunes store.
Each computer operating system comes with its own built-in accessibility features that teachers can use to ensure more access for their students.
Tablets including both Android and iOS devices have in-built accessibility features that will assist student access to the curriculum. To turn captions on, refer to ‘settings’ and/or ‘accessibility’ on your tablet.
Interactive Whiteboard (IWB)
IWBs deliver visual resources in a dynamic and interactive fashion. They are the ideal choice for an accessible classroom environment, as captioned educational content can be viewed easily.
3D printers give students the ability to interact with tactile information and understanding to apply directly in their studies, providing access and context for information discussed in class. The engagement of kinaesthetic learners and visual learners, through 3D printing activities creates meaningful classroom learning opportunities.
Increasingly affordable devices can ‘print’ three dimensional objects with computer-based 3D ‘maps’ of everything from chemical compounds, microorganisms, topographical maps, to bodily organs and machine parts.
3D printing is particularly promising in its potential to increase access to education for students with vision impairment, particularly in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM topics).
Online courses are available to learn more about 3D printing, such as Up and Running with 3D Printing (with captions); however membership and fees are required. The 'Maker Bot Thingiverse’ online community encourages users to make, share and discover, with the community having uploaded over 100,000 3D models.
Technology for students who are Deaf or have hearing impairment
FM technology is a well-entrenched access solution in schools, designed to increase the sound level of the teacher’s voice above the classroom background noise. It is linked to the student’s hearing aid or cochlear implant and is accessed via the ‘T' switch on the student’s hearing device. FM devices can also be plugged into computers, and other audio devices to provide the student with direct and increased sound quality.
Soundfield amplification systems
A Soundfield amplification system will lift the teacher’s voice above background noise and spread it evenly across a classroom, benefiting all students and most particularly those who with hearing impairment. The teacher wears a microphone and all students benefit from the clarity of the speech.
The loop improves the audibility of MP3 players and other audio equipment via direct connection to the device. The student is required to activate the ‘T’ switch on their hearing aids to use this device.
Personal Video Recorders (PVRs)
With closed captioning capabilities, PVRs have the capacity to record and store captioned content and to help build captioned library resources in schools.
Real time captioning software
Real time captioning works by transmitting the teacher’s voice over the internet to a remote location where a professional captioner converts the speech into text. The captions appear on the student’s computer screen within seven seconds.
An example of this includes Ai-Media’s live captioning service designed for the mainstream educational environment ‘Ai-Live™’.
Technology for students who are blind or have low vision
Assistive technology refers to pieces of software which enable people with disabilities, particularly those who are blind or vision impaired, to use computers, tablets and smartphones. The two most common types of assistive technology are screen readers which convert text on screen into synthetic speech, and screen magnifiers which simply make what’s on screen appear larger and allow users to change the colour scheme.
Most computers sold today, including those with Microsoft Windows 8 and Apple OS X, come with assistive technology built in. There are a number of alternatives for Microsoft Windows computers. Our assistive technology page contains more information on screen readers and magnifiers.
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