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EDITORIAL

By: Amy G. Dell


What’s new in assistive technology? This 2009 issue of TECH-NJ highlights two of the latest developments: 1) improved access to books in alternate formats for students whose disabilities prevent them from reading or understanding printed text; and 2) portable solutions for a variety of applications.

Alternate Formats:

Four articles in this TECH-NJ issue focus on alternate formats. In the cover story, which is on the New Jersey Alternate Format Center at The College of New Jersey, alternate formats are explained, as are the devices and software needed to access them. The User Profile describes how providing textbooks in alternate formats makes a real difference in the life of Dylan Brown, a 10-year-old boy at Somerdale Park School. This topic is also addressed in updates on Bookshare.org, the largest – and now free – provider of books in alternate formats, and Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D), which has recently completed its conversion from books-on-tape to several types of digital recordings. Readers will want to take note of these resources so that their students with print disabilities can gain access to the curriculum.

Portable Solutions:

A quick glance at the new products featured in this issue of TECH-NJ reveals that small and lightweight are the qualities in demand these days. No one wants to schlep around a 20 lb. video magnifier anymore, now that miniaturization has become affordable. And why pay thousands of dollars for a separate scan/read device when a new gadget is available that combines scan/read technology with a commercial cell phone? (See page 15 for details on the kReader Mobile.) In a similar vein, software publishers are beginning to provide their programs in formats other than CDs. Some are issuing flash drive versions of their programs that will work on any compatible computer without installation. This new development should help students who need specialized applications like screen magnification on more than one computer, and should also resolve installation problems that result from the need for schools to protect their networks. Crick Software has opted to provide its new WriteOnline program as a web-based subscription. Among the advantages of this arrangement is that students can access the program from any computer that has an Internet connection, whether it is in a classroom, in the library, or at home. We expect that in the coming year more assistive technology producers will offer these kind of portable formats, thus enabling greater access to assistive technology for students with disabilities.

TECH-NJ

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Editor-in-Chief

Professor Amy G. Dell

Managing Editor

Anne M. Disdier