An eclectic group of social entrepreneurs and educators are creating new solutions for teaching a new generation, including those with disabilities. Moderator Alan Brightman, senior policy director of special communities for Yahoo!, spoke with panelists on how to engage students using technology.
Brightman was joined by Sheryl Burgstahler, director of DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technologies), University of Washington; Monica Martinez, president of the New Tech Network; and Jan Morrison, senior STEM consultant for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provides funding for educational initiatives.
- The Open Prosthetics Project, an open source model that lets users, designers and funders create and make available prosthetics for use in the marketplace.
- DO-IT’s Center for Design in Education is a good primer on how to use universal design principles in higher education spaces and in classes.
Live from NCTI 2009: The Future of Marketing of Assistive Technology
The assistive technology market is somewhat fragmented. Generally a company will only make a product for one, possibly two disabilities. So a person with a hearing impairment only is familiar with a handful of vendors who provide them with the products they need. With technology evolving, and the principles of universal design underway, assistive technology companies must rethink their model. And as they scope out new markets for selling their products, they’re smart to think about getting the widest possible market for their product. This provides economies of scale as well as higher adoption rates.
An NCTI panel consisting of a venture capitalist, a Fortune 500 technology company and the founder of AbleNet, the company that invented the Big Red Switch and other assistive technologies.
- Cheryl Volkman, founder and former CEO of AbleNet, Inc. is now involved in leading a research consortium that combines academia and market data to bring more effective assistive technologies to market.
- Microsoft’s Annuska Perkins, senior accessibility program manager in Microsoft’s Accessible Technology Group, admits that while Microsoft’s basic screen reader, screen magnification and speech engine are built into Windows 7, this won’t provide 100 percent usability without additional third party technologies. Fortunately, Apple wasn’t there to comment on this.
Live from NCTI 2009: Video Games as Therapy for Students with Disabilities
One of the fastest growing categories of special education in the U.S. is for children who are on the autism spectrum. Video games, board games and “brain games” all provide intellectual stimulation for students with autism and have shown positive outcomes in the classroom and clinical settings.
- Mark Barlet, editor of AbleGamers, a website that ranks and reviews games for accessibility, says it costs more than $30 million to develop a popular game called Dragon Age. The cost-prohibitiveness of commercial game development needs to change before more game makers can fully recognize the need for accessibility features.
- Gym instructors John Foley and Stephen Yang, co-directors of the Exergame Lab at the State University of New York in Cortland, are combining exercise with video games a la the Wii.
- Christina Whalen, co-founder, president and chief science officer of Jigsaw Learning, discusses her company. Jigsaw is a merged company of autism-software company TeachTown and Animated Speech Co., and creates ways for autistic children age 2 to 7 to learn subjects on the computer. It’s a subscription-based web service that costs $40 a month and is available to schools.
Now, time for the Tech expo!