Challenging Attitudes and Promoting Inclusion of High Tech Assistive Technology Users in Further Education

Delahunt, G. and Duffin, D. (2009) Challenging Attitudes and Promoting Inclusion of High Tech Assistive Technology Users in Further Education. In: Assistive Technology from Adapted Equipment to Inclusive Environments. Assistive Technology Research Series, 25 . UNSPECIFIED, pp. 613-618.


The CDVEC Disability Support Service (DSS) is a partnership project between National Learning Network and the City of Dublin VEC The service offers on going support to over 150 students in 8 colleges of further education Students requiring support include those with significant physical disabilities, sensory difficulties, mental health issues and a range of learning difficulties Historically students with high support needs did not have the opportunity to access further and higher education, but with advances in technology and inclusive practices in educational environments there has been a steady rise in the number of students with significant difficulties progressing through the education system Assistive technology has played a large part in the increasing numbers of students attending CDVEC Colleges but It is not enough to just provide the technology, for students to participate fully and successfully in further education, adequate and on going training for the user, teacher and support personnel is essential Increasing use of ICT by the general student body and teaching staff needs to be encouraged and Existing attitudes and prejudices that prevent inclusion have to be challenged The use of AT in the classroom is just one element of Inclusive curriculum Teachers and professionals should be encouraged to see the various AT devices not as a specialist range but as part of the spectrum of ICT that they use in delivery The entire teaching and learning environment needs to be developed to incorporate universal design and inclusive practices The National Learning Network, the CDVEC and the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown were partner members of the Education for Employment project (E4E) which aimed to address the barriers to participation in education experienced by people with disabilities in society The project facilitated providers from further and higher education to establish links and collaborate with providers of specialist education The profile of students has changed considerably in recent years with more students who use AT such as wheelchairs, AC devices, adapted keyboards and mice Some of these students would have made the transition from special education provision to mainstream education provision Others have acquired disabilities and returned to education Consequently many of them would not have the confidence or skills to articulate how their technology supports them in the learning environment This has highlighted the need to design and develop training packages for both teaching and educational support staff This paper will explore and examine the profile of students who have accessed the Disability Support Service in the past five years and look at the challenges and obstacles faced by both students and educators The experiences and progression through education of one group of students with high support needs who participated in the E4e project and the inclusive teaching methodologies that were developed and used by teaching staff will also be discussed

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