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Need Help With That? Assistive Technology

The Arbiter Online, Boise State University
ID, USA Monday, March 05, 2007
By Lucinda Sutherland, BizTech Writer

It's not a secret, no one's hiding it, but you may not know about the assistive technology offered by the office of disability services.

The office offers help to students coping with college and their individual challenges. Right here on the Boise State University campus we have technology specifically designed to help blind students, deaf students, students with mobility challenges and practically every other physical and mental impairment that makes learning at the college level a challenge.

"One of the biggest struggles is getting textbooks to students who are blind or have dyslexia, so we need to produce textbooks in an alternate format," Candida Mumford, the disability specialist with Boise State University's (BSU) Office of Disability Services said. "We have a scanner that we just were able to get this semester that can scan an entire book in five minutes - a 500 page book even. We have production software called ABBYY Fine Reader that proofreads all of it and checks to see that the scanning is accurate . if a student has a screen reader we can just send it to them and they can listen to the textbook. If not, we have a program called Dolphin that has a computerized voice so we can burn MP3s of their textbook."

Assistive technology is the phrase used to describe the machines, devices and software that help people with physical or learning disabilities. The Office of Disability Services has rooms on the fourth floor of the BSU Albertsons Library where students who need this technology can choose to use:

WYNN is another program available through ODS which is designed to help students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. WYNN scans assignments or paperwork, turning it into a word document then reading the text aloud and highlighting each word. A benefit with WYNN is that it and can be adjusted to read faster or slower to suit the needs of the student.

Wendy Turner, interim director of disability services, and Mumford help students use the assistive technology, counsel students on their rights and responsibilities and set up mentoring sessions. Mentoring gives students access to caring and informed people who are familiar with the specific challenges faced by BSU students and the assistive technology best suited to their needs.

Mumford is also the faculty advisor for Kaison, a Japanese word meaning "continuous improvement," which is a newly formed club for BSU students with disabilities or people interested in disability issues. To learn more about Kaison contact Mumford, Jen Kitchen (club president) or Lori Lowe (treasurer).

The BSU Office of Disability Services is participating in "Tools for Life: Secondary Transition and Technology Fair" at the DoubleTree Riverside Hotel in Boise March 5 and 6, starting at 8 a.m. with special speakers and events. There will be workshops on adapting to college and using assistive technology. Technology vendors will also be demonstrating their products. There is a $50 fee, which includes lunches.

Scholarships are available for students. Registration starts at 8 a.m. Monday or you can get more information and register online at http://www.idahoat.org/2007ToolsFair.htm.

More education articles.