Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Freedom Machines Assignment

One of my first homework assignments for the TRE Center was to review the Freedom Machines website. As quoted from the site, "Freedom Machines, a public television program and national outreach campaign, looks at our beliefs about disability through the lens of assistive technology." It is a program that aired in early September on PBS.

Modern technology has changed the way people with disabilities live. People not only have access to physical equipment that help them to be more ambulatory, but they have access to computer technology that facilitates their learning and independence.

There are many people who live their daily lives with disabilities, but statistics show that fewer than 25% of people with disabilities who could be helped by assistive technology are actually using it. Some people "make do" because they're not aware that technology is available to them, while others just don't know how to obtain it.

Parents of children with disabilities need to keep in mind that the technology is out there, and that they shouldn't be satisfied when they can't find the right tool that will help their child to succeed. The term "assistive technology device" as used in the Maine Special Education Regulations means "any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities" (Chapter 101, § 2.2 and Chapter 180, § 3A and 3AA). When you can't find equipment, enlist the help of others to modify or customize something that works. Parents of children with disabilities need to realize that this not only relates to the learning and independent functioning of their child, but to recreational activities too. Parents of children without disabilities wouldn't stand for letting their child sit out on a game or be a bench warmer, why should the parents of children with disabilities. Everyone deserves to be included, we just have to figure out how to best modify the situation so everyone gets what they need.

My favorite place, The Adaptive Sports Foundation, offers year round recreational sports activities for people with disabilities. "Participation in sports gives the disabled individual increased self worth and self esteem. Students are often heard saying, "If I can do this, I can do anything."

Assistive Technology Conference

This week I'm attending Assistive Technology Certification Training up in Albany through the TRE Center. The TRE Center is the one stop resource for Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning in New York State. If you're a Special Education Teacher working in NYS, then you should definitely sign up for their newsletter and their listserve. Then you should look at all of their resources.