What do you know about assistive technologies?


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Fig.1 Assitive technologies to improve access to e-learning
There are a myriad of hardware and software tools that alongside other assistive technologies a disabled person may use to improve access to learning. As part of the five month long Master’s module H810 Accessible Online Learning : Supporting Disabled Students you review the widest range of circumstances and tools – applying these to your own context.

COLOUR OVERLAYS

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These acetate overlays alter the contrast between the text and the background paper on which the text is printed. For some students who have difficulty with reading due to visual perceptual difficulties such as Dupyslexia this low technology modification enhances their ability to decode the words.
Sheets cost around £3.00 each or £1.75 each in a packs of ten. Another solution is a translucent ruler for £2.65. Onscreen various software packages for PC or MAC permit a wide range of sophisticated changes to screen and text – basic packages free under an accessibility tool, packages that greatly magnify text and offer tools to change point colour, shape and size from £77 to £321. Depdning on the solution varying degrees of support is given.

HEAD POINTERS OR TRACKERS

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Head pointers need to suit the precise needs, wishes and expectations of the user and may be used in conjunction with other tools and software. A sophisticated package such as TrackerPro costs £1,288 and includes head, visor and shoulder kit, a tracking webcame and software. At this level it can be used to engage with computer games, as well as to use packages designed to suit the users other needs in relation to visual and audio impairment. These packages are supported by assessors.

WORDPREDICTORS

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Wordprediction devices aren’t limited to use infront of a computer, indeed a portable device may be more versatile for the user and costs between £141 and £200.

KEYBOARDS

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Keyboards come in a plethora of shapes, sizes, textures and colours, with various overlays and supporting software for single hand or head pointer use too.
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Integrated with screens, wheelchair, hardware and software a market leader for people with considerable mobile impairment, voice and sight impairment such as DynaVox Vmax will cost £9,000. There is considerable online support, with videos too. Setting up and support from an assessor is provided.
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Across the spectrum of alternative keyboards, with larger keys, start at £96 for a Kinderboard to BigKeys for £135, to Textboards at £334 and the smart Intellikeys with its wide variety of overlays at £315 (with set–up and maintenance support and bundled with software and overlays at £656).
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While Braille users are catered for with some of the devices, hardware and offer kit mentioned above, as well as specialist keyboards and audio readers the IntelliKeys product takes a Braille overlay that costs £6.44 whereas a complete product bundle may cost between £315 and £656.

LARGE FREESTANDING TOUCHSCREENS

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Screen enlargement … or a large screen offer answers to people with varying degrees of visual impairment and other needs. At an institutional level huge touchscreens from 55” to 65” are available for £2,573 to £3,862. Large screens or multiple screens are a simple solution to someone with some sight impairment. These can be supported by an HD to enlarge text and put it on the screen, for example ZoomText Cameras range from £77 to £199.
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Beyond the tools provided with the operating system or browsers which will magnify images to a reasonable degree, there are software bundles such iZoom (PC) £321 and VisioVoice (MAC) £232 with a far greater level of sophistication and adjustment to suit users with nsight impairments, dyslexia and mobility reuirements. Working with a variety of inputting devices this allows the user to make many kinds of adjustments to the way inforamtion is displayed.

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