I love exploring what Discovering Assistive Technology tasks are set before us each week. This week it is software. The icomunications video I viewed is amazing. Those who are deaf or hard of hearing now have a way to communicate that is quicker and more "real time" than translations. The software takes the voice of the person speaking and then sends it to the listener's computer where it is translated with sign language and print. In reverse, the deaf or hard of hearing person can learn to speak by "listening" and getting feedback on their sounds. The computer is "teaching" them to speak. Very cool! Dragon Speaking Naturally is a video about voice recognition software that will allow a person to type on the computer with just their voice. The National Federation for the Blind website gives many possibilities for hardware and software for the blind or visually disabled.
#1 Create a rubric for software evaluation. I did! I will use it in my software assignment. I used Word to create mine.
#2 Inspiration is a great tool to use with students. I use Inspiration with my students to help them organize data, brain storm individually or with a class. The graphics are pleasing and the software is quick loading so you're not left waiting during class time. Wonderful software, every classroom should use it!
#3 I was most fascinated with the Kurzweil 3000 software which is used with hardware such as Pathfinder which a school district adopted for a student because not only would it help one particular student, but it was going to be adopted by the state to be used for students with physical and learning disabilities to help them take standardized tests. What a awesome tool!
#4 I discovered that my current operating system, with Microsoft Vista already has some AT features. I could choose to use another pointing devise besides a mouse, or just use the keyboard, or use the keyboard instead of the mouse or, there is speech recognition. (who knew!) There are tutorials for making the screen easier to view, the keyboard easier to see, and the mouse easier to use. Vista has instructions for using text visual clues for sounds. Narrator is a text to speech program that reads what is displayed on the screen. You can be notified of time limits with sounds or flashing visuals. Background visuals can be moved or hidden if they are distracting. To make the web easier to view the fonts, colors, accessibility settings, and zoom can be adjusted to make the computer more compatible with the user.
#5 Info Eyes uses iVocalize software to enable visually disabled persons contact librarians with questions.
#6 After doing these exercises I've learned that a lot of adaptations and modifications can be made to help those with disabilities with minimum expenses. (For instance, all of the possibilities within the current operating system.) These would require either dedicated computers or adjustments quickly made by staff members. The California State Library lists all of its services for those disabled, including in and outside of the library. I think AT for the library would depend on the needs of the patrons, the budget of the library, and the staff's participation in achieving hardware and software needed to make the library accessible to all patrons.
#7 Review Software using a Rubric
I have reviewed Kurzweil 3000 and WordTalk (Downloadable Software compatible with Microsoft Word , and Read and Write Standard (TexthelpLTD). I was looking to see how well they would assist students in a learning support classroom whose IEPs require Text to Speech, keyboard adjustments, and enlarged font. They also need to assist with spelling and definitions. I rated the Kurzweil 300 10/12 points. It filled the requirements the best. The WordTalk is an excellent choice when there are budget restraints. It's free! I rated it 9/12 points. The font can only be made so large and the software is only compatible with Microsoft Word. The Read and Write Standard was almost equal to the Kurzweil 3000. It was quite a bit more expensive and I rated it 9/12 points. All of these programs require hardware that is not currently available in this particular classroom. I am revising my Hardware Assessment to match this software.