Technology Tools for School or Work
For all of us, knowing how to use the computer effectively and efficiently is an essential skill in almost every aspect of employment, postsecondary education, independent living, and community participation. Computers have become the basic tool for obtaining information, communicating with others, conducting personal business, spending leisure time, studying, and working. Your child may have learned to use computers and related assistive technology tools as early as grade school. But if she needs to upgrade her skills, there are summer and weekend technology training seminars provided by rehabilitation agencies and other specialized services. Under IDEA, your child’s school should assess her needs for assistive technology and provide appropriate training as a mandated or required area of instruction.
Knowing Which Technology Tools to Use for Which Tasks
It’s important for students to know which technology tools are most appropriate for use with their studies and how these tools can be used in the future as part of their work or career path. It’s also useful for them to know how their specialized tools are similar to and different from computer and other equipment used by their sighted classmates. This knowledge will help them meet their own needs in life later because vocational training instructors and employers may not be familiar with assistive technology used by visually impaired individuals.
As a rule of thumb, students are best prepared if they’ve learned the following:
- What assistive technology is crucial for them to succeed in school and future work
- Where to get this technology: who the primary manufacturers and distributors are, how to reach those vendors, what the equipment costs, and where to go for help with purchasing and training
- How to operate their computer and other technology equipment with the off-the-shelf programs that they’ll be using in future training and work
- How to maintain their equipment and devices as well as how, when, and whom to call for technical assistance
- How to download software updates and install them
- How to solve minor problems or tackle glitches that occur
- When to use backup skills such as writing with a braille slate and stylus or using recorders to “read” material in case a device crashes or runs out of power.
The Power of Technology
Although becoming skilled in using technology may seem daunting, the potential that technology offers is exciting. Being able to use specialized equipment can give your child powerful abilities; developing that ability needs to be encouraged. The use of technology and advances in the development of assistive technology have provided people who are visually impaired with opportunities and expanded access to ideas and information that didn’t exist until recently.
In addition to learning about technology in school, students can get information about it in a variety of ways, from discussing the subject with their teacher of students with visual impairments, contacting the state school for visually impaired students (many schools have expert instructors on staff), joining clubs and interest groups, exploring information available from national organizations for visually impaired persons, and investigating the computer training programs listed in sources such as the FamilyConnect “Find Services” tool and browsing resources such as CareerConnect®, the technology magazine AccessWorld, and AFB’s searchable product database.