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.
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.
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.
Editor-in-Chief: Amy G. Dell
Managing Editor: Anne M. Disdier
Kimberly A. Ahrens
Ellen C. Farr
Rana M. Smith
TECH-NJ is written by students, staff and faculty in the Department of Special Education, Language and Literacy at The College of New Jersey. It is designed to support professionals, parents, and computer-users in their efforts to use technology to improve our schools and to enhance the lives of people with disabilities. In order to facilitate local networking, emphasis is placed on resources and innovative practices in and around the New Jersey region.
TECH-NJ is supported by the School of Education and the Department of Special Education, Language and Literacy at The College of New Jersey, and the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education Special Needs Grant Program.
© 2009 by The College of New Jersey. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to reproduce material in TECH-NJ for educational purposes. TECH-NJ should be credited as the original source of information.
Views expressed in TECH-NJ do not necessarily reflect policies or opinions of The College of New Jersey or any of its funding sources.
Department of Special Education, Language and Literacy
The College of New Jersey
P. O. Box 7718
Ewing, NJ 08628-0718