Hi everyone! I am back with my final post for this blog about inclusion within schools. Now, something that I am sure a lot of you are not aware of or have paid much attention to, is the relationship between technology and inclusion-so that is what I would like to make this last post about, because I have learned some interesting things about this topic within a few of my classes. I just wanted to share a few things that I have learned because I would love to hear from you guys about if you think any of these forms of technology would be beneficial or detrimental for children and youth with disabilities.
To begin, when considering a person-environment fit model, there is something called the “universal design for learning” (which I will be referring to as UDL). This entails increasingly intensive interventions that are used to support individual students’ needs. The focus of UDL is on the design of instructional materials based on a child’s abilities, so that students do not have to meet the normal demands of learning if they cannot based on their abilities. With UDL, barriers can become reduced while learning opportunities become enhanced. With that being said, the problem with UDL is that it assumes that it is universally accessible, when at times that is not the case.
Likewise, we can now consider assistive technology. The benefits of such is that it allows those with disabilities to be a part of a new world where they can be who they want to be, and it can help them challenge stereotypes about disabilities. The limitations of such, however, is that often times technology can isolate people and promote normalcy. It can be very costly and can promote the message of how bodies should be operated, and there is a lack of assistive technology everywhere which creates exclusion because these individuals cannot connect with other people.
It is also important to consider that, with assistive technology, there are a lot of accessibility and navigational challenges. For example, twitter is inaccessible for blind or visually impaired users, and some technology (such as Kindle) assumes that everyone knows how to use it, when it is in actuality inaccessible for blind users. A lot of technology in general consists of apps and aspects that they think are helping these individuals, but some of these people are not even able to turn some of these apps on. The spoken-text aspect of Kindle is actually made for people who want to talk while they are driving. Rather than pushing boundaries of what is considered to be “normal,” this type of technology makes individuals appropriate body norms. In relation to this, schools often rely on technology in order to make up for physical inaccessibility. For example, they give students online courses but do not recognize that this can restrict these individuals from leaving their homes and having social opportunities at school. Likewise, for individuals who are deaf, they might not always be provided with lecture videos that have captions.
Assistive technology assumes that they know what those with disabilities need with technology. The way that technology can be re-envisioned based on those with disabilities can start with creating accessible technology rather than assistive technology. This can help make technology easier for these individuals to use based on their disabilities. Technology should be both accessible and responsive. Creators of technological devices can create a “cool factor” by designing technology through an inclusive and accessible approach, and designers must begin by making technology accessible for those with disabilities because these people will always be using technology just like we do. The creators should not have to wait until later on to fix it or add things in, these types of things should be done from the beginning.
Now, when considering rehabilitation technology promotion materials, something that I was not aware of prior to University is that a lot of normalcy is promoted through such. With this type of technology, children with disabilities are represented and the words used to describe them often emphasizes their disabilities (i.e. wheelchair-bound patients). This can make them feel like their disability is a problem, or that it is negative/damaged. This technology prefers “normalcy.” Images of hearing aid technology and training materials had people doing “normal” things, which makes individuals with disabilities feel like thy need to be just like them as the message that is subliminally being portrayed is that this is the normal/right way to live, move, or look.
A lot is promised with intervention technology, in that it is portraying the message that the disability can be fixed and they can become “normalized.” When considering efficiency and effectiveness, this technology makes people think that there will be faster, easier and more productive intervention. It also promises less burden on therapists with technology, saying that there will be better outcomes with less effort. This is scary for therapists because they might thing that technology will take over their jobs. Additionally, progress and improvement is promised in that they promise faster progress with longer and more intensive functional training. It tells youth that there will be improvement in things such as their grades, and that bad consequences can occur if a youth does not do certain things such as wearing their hearing aids. This can make both the children and their parents experience feelings of guilt. Next, success and inclusion is promised, making these children think that they will automatically be included in social situations and that a lot of success can be guaranteed. The emphasis is on the individual, and not on the society (and this is the problem.) Lastly, opportunities for a normal life is promised with the assumption that these advanced intervention technologies can give these children the best life and a “normal” childhood. This makes parents think that they have no choice but to buy these items for their child, otherwise they are bad parents. Such technology makes them think that normal is good, and abnormal is bad [i.e. walking is normal, being in a wheelchair is not].
These are some things that I learned about such technology, and I am still on the fence about what could be beneficial for these children. What do you guys think? In this increasingly technological world, there are high hopes that there will be more positive messages provided through such, not only for these children, but for society as a whole. Technology should not always be relied on, and if for instance a student’s technological device is not working, how will they be able to complete their tasks? Likewise, I feel as if with assistive technology, there is the requirement for a lot of training in order to use these devices, and this can be very time-consuming.
I feel like within time, there will hopefully be a lot more features on smartphones and devices in relation to such that can help individuals with disabilities on a daily basis. I’ll leave you with this video about Apple, because it shows that sometimes technology can be beneficial. Sure, there are some forms of technology out there that maybe need to be tweaked a bit in order to be more realistic and accessible, but there are some that are really working on it (as seen in this video) and that is something that I can appreciate.