Guest Blogger: Perspective of a College Student

Through my college career I have studied special education through many lenses, but it was not until my final special education class this summer that my eyes were opened to the amazing world of assistive technology. I have come across technology here and there as I work in classrooms and with individual students, however, I now believe that the technology available is greatly underused. Over the past semester I have been introduced to devices that would make a world of difference in the lives of individuals living with different ability levels. Whether the lack of access is due to funding issues, poor advocacy, or teachers and parents simply not knowing what is available, I now have an even better idea of what kind of educator I want to be.
Some technology is expensive, bulky, or tricky to use, but having the knowledge and experience to guide my students is what will help me make a difference in the lives of individuals living with barriers. I have recently seen devices such as the iPad and Dynavox for people with disabilities that affect their communication. For students struggling with reading, there are Leapfrogs and Classmate Readers to help them stay up to date with their classmates, and for students with vision impairments, there is Braille software and programs like Jaws to read the screen out loud. There are so many amazing tools at our fingertips that can change the life of someone who needs extra assistance, and familiarizing myself with some of the options has been a unique and very helpful process. Watching or hearing about students who are introduced to communication devices that give them a voice, and watching a blind person read a college textbook have been amazing experiences that will stick with me for a long time. I have seen that everyone is capable of amazing things, and with a little help from some technology, people who may seem incapable of everyday tasks can thrive and happily live independently. I am anxious to begin working with people who can be introduced to ways to live on their own, participate in their community, and have their own voice for the first time. I look forward to making a difference in the lives of people who live with limitations everyday.
What’s exciting about being a teacher, though, is not only the technology you can invest in or purchase for you students. It’s also about having an open mind and creating a plan and resources that is right for each of your students. While there are many wonderful assistive technology tools in existence, there are also some great things you can easily make using a little creativity and the child’s best interest. If you put their needs first, it can be quite simple to create a device that will help with everyday activities. For example today I saw my grandmother using a piece of plastic with a rope tied on it to help her put on her socks after a recent hip replacement surgery. A small and cheap handmade device made her daily routine much simpler and gave her more independence. I look forward the expanding my knowledge and experience in order to make positive changes and hope in the lives of my students.
I hope to use assistive technology to bring hope and determination to my students and their families. Whether it be through my knowledge and experience in choosing and acquiring electronic pieces of assistive technology, or if it is creatively finding ways to make their activities easier and more enjoyable, I know I want to do all that I can to help the people I work with. To me the most valuable thing I can give someone is independence and self-worth, and if I can introduce someone to a device or an idea that will make their everyday life easier, I will have done my job.

-Emily Schouten