Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking & Technology (DO-IT)

I have been following the Washington State DO-IT program for students with disabilities for many years. This is an exemplary program which provides support starting in high school to prepare the students for before they go to college and while they are in college. The website has some amazing videos of the student's accomplishments and how this was made possible. They will help other duplicate a similar program. Many Colleges & Universities have put in place a variety of resources to address these issues. DO-IT takes it a step beyond and began doing so very early. Take a look at their website and consider how we can support our students better right now. In Massachusetts, the Commonwealth dual enrollment program provides a great opportunity for students with and without disabilities to begin taking a course in college in their senior year of high school. What are some of the other options? What should we be doing differently? DO-IT

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Should Symbols be Free?

This is an interesting question. Why should people who use symbols have to pay to speak? If you need Braille or enlarged text, this is available for free or at the same cost as the print version. This is exactly how it should be. This ties easily into the post on Equality Without Words. Why do people who use picture symbols have to pay for them? The software regardless of the symbol set used is not cheap and is always being updated (this is positive but an additional expense). When you learn a new word do you have to pay money to access it? This sounds ridiculous but it is exactly what symbol users must do.  This becomes an issue of social justice. Schools, families and individuals often struggle to pay for the software (as well as the advanced AAC devices - although insurance has made a significant difference in this area). There are very strict copyright rules when using symbols. My question is, how can we do this better? How can symbols be made more accessible in terms of cost, access and usage across all settings? There has to be a way to work on this together.

Symbol Access in the Community

Many children and adults use symbol based language/communication systems to engage in daily interactions, access content, work, leisure etc.  In the United States and other countries, Braille is often available on public restrooms, ATMs etc. Most texts, newspapers & magazines can also be translated into Braille easily or other digital formats to be accessed. There are also audio and or video recordings available in many places so that people can access information. The next step we must take is to have symbols available so that people who use this form of language have better access. We already have universal symbols available for common concepts such as stop, restrooms, exit etc. We need to take this a step further. Many schools and organizations have been active in assisting in this. Please share your ideas, successes and stories. Symbol accessibility is critical. Some of the public libraries also contain adaptive materials which include symbols. We just need to push a little harder and make a difference step by step. Here is an interesting project in the UK which looks at making museums much More accessible. Access-Ability Communications Technology . Symbols are a valid form of language that needs to be recognized much more.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sifteo Cubes

I have been watching as the Sifteo Cubes have been developed. I finally broke down and ordered some of them to see what they can actually do. I have to say I find they hold my attention and creativity. They are simple to program and have tremendous potential in the educational world. I have been able to make simple games and have tried them out on some willing adults! I think these interactive cubes could engage many different kinds of learners. I did have some trouble with radio interference and I am only able to activate 6 at a time so if anyone can help me with that I would appreciate it! I am also not sure how durable they are, which a factor is when you are teaching children. Let me know what you think. https://www.sifteo.com

The MIT Media LAB is always coming up with some incredible innovations: http://media.mit.edu/

The Boston Song & AAC

Our school was very lucky earlier this year because Sweet Tooth & The Sugar Babies - http://sogoodsong.com/ came and jammed with our students who use a variety of AAC (augmentative & alternative communication) devices. It was an incredible day. These devices are the key to opening up the world and allowing people to have a voice. It is never too early to introduce AAC. Language, communication and socialization are the foundation to everything we do each day. It is just another way to break down barriers. The Boston Song at SSEC - Community School

Friday, July 27, 2012

Literacy for People with Complex Disabilities

Too often we fail to provide high quality literacy instruction for people with more complex disabilities. Research is beginning to focus more on this. Students with more complex disabilities often have significant access issues which are to often misinterpreted as a more permanent barrier to literacy. This is of course a myth. Many teachers, professionals and parents have come to know just how capable people are when given the right instruction, access and high expectations. Literacy begins at birth with exposure to books and other materials including scribbling/writing all made accessible through a variety of means. It is a life long learning process which must be met with dense exposure, practice and varied experiences. Technology has assisted in opening up this door with more advanced augmentative communication systems as well as very simple ways to modify materials. Tar Heel Reader is a site many people are familiar with. It has thousands of adapted books which are accessible across grades and interests. These books are available free of charge. Beyond using this resource to make materials available to your students, it is also a wonderful opportunity for your students to create accessible materials for others. Students, adults, professionals and families can all be a part of  creating these books. What a wonderful way to teach literacy! Don't forget to use your core vocabulary!

MOVE - Freedom To Move Program

Students with more complex disabilities need the freedom of movement. This can be challenging at times but an expectation that must be supported. Movement is freedom and can take on many forms. For some it is time outside of equipment, for others it is the support of specialized equipment and for many , it can be time in the water where so many barriers are removed. Movement keeps us healthy, thinking and looking forward. There have been so many innovations in this area. Movement must be an integral part of the content each day. It is not an extra or an add on when we have time. These simple freedoms discussed in this blog are taken for granted by so many. Movement is just one more of those daily activities we think nothing of until it is taken from us or someone we care about. Freedom to Move

Move International

Equality without Words

For those of you who work with people of any age who do not use spoken language, core vocabulary is critical. These are the high frequency words which may be displayed in pictures that we all use. Young children need immediate access to these. Too often we are worried about students with more significant disabilities needing to be "ready" to learn more vocabulary. We need to make language available and model in all interactions all day long. Take a look at this clip. It is about a new movement called "Equality Without Words" .  Equality without Words

The Beginning

This blog is a place where we can come together and focus on making a difference in the way everyone accesses the world. Equity is an interesting term. Some people must pay to speak each day, others must wait for help in order to move, eat or have their basic needs met. We are moving forward but progress is inconsistent and scattered. No matter where you live, or where you go to school, work or travel, access is a visible yet often a unnoticed gate keeper. Please share your ideas, stories, successes and struggles. There is so much we can do but we have to pull our ideas and efforts. Most of all, we have to listen to those who know best.