TECHNOLOGY & LEARNING DISABILITIES
The term learning disability has been used to describe a variety of problems in acquiring, storing, and/or retrieving information. People with learning disabilities have difficulty taking information in through the senses and processing the information with accuracy. This may lead to difficulty learning and performing in school and work. Most learning disabilities are manifested in poor reading, writing and math which subsequently affect a broad range of functions and skills.
Assistive technology is an important piece of the whole support system individuals with learning disabilities require to achieve success at school, work and in the community. Some of the more common applications of assistive technology used for people with learning disabilities include:
- Word prediction programs: These allow the user to select a desired word from an on-screen list located in the prediction window. This list, generated by the computer, predicts words from the first one or two letters typed by the user. The word can then be selected from the list and inserted into the text by typing a number, clicking the mouse or scanning with a switch. These programs help users increase written productivity and accuracy, and increase vocabulary skills through word prompting.
- Reading comprehension programs: These programs focus on establishing or improving reading skills through ready-made activities, stories, exercises, or games.
- Reading tools and learning disability programs: Include software designed to make text-based materials more accessible for people who struggle with reading. Options can include scanning, reformatting, navigating, or speaking text out loud. These programs help people who have difficulty seeing or manipulating conventional print materials; people who are developing new literacy skills or who are learning English as a foreign language; and people who comprehend better when they hear and see text highlighted simultaneously.
- Speech synthesizers: Software tools that allow information going to the screen “speak” the text out loud. Individuals who have lost the ability to communicate orally can use a speech synthesizer to communicate by typing information and letting the speech synthesizer speak it out loud.
- Speech recognition systems: Also called voice recognition programs, allow people to give commands and enter data using their voices rather than a mouse or keyboard.