Posted by: MandyS | October 19, 2011

More thoughts on AT…

The JISC TechDis Approach to Assistive Technology identifies that essentially the focus should be on how a learner can benefit from technology, rather than on what a person cannot do because of their disability. This does not mean throwing every available technology at a learner, instead there should be an assessment of ‘needs’. I think this approach has definite advantages for all disabled students as it mean they can mix and match technology to suite their own particular needs rather than being told what should work for them. THere is also an added cost benefit. As the article states ‘for some, the simpler feature set of a free tool will be adequate. Where this is not the case the learner (and their institution) will have a clearer idea of which additionality they need to pay for.’ I would imagine we have all been there; lured by the additional functionality of a product to pay more when in reality only the basic functions are utilised. AT is not a cheap option and cost has to be a consideration in determining what AT will be most useful. I am not a miser but there is no point paying for something which is available free. 

There is now an array of free software and open source resources which provide equivalent functionality to the pay-for versions. This is a bonus but I think there are a number of factors which need to be considered before they are deemed appropriate. In some respects, it very much depends on the product. Invariably, the free resources are the basic version which can be upgraded at a cost. For most the basic version may be adequate but it is worth trying the upgraded version to see whether the additional functionality is worth it; most have trials for this purpose. Regard needs to be had to the support available and how long it is likely to be available; Delicious is a prime example of how open source is so changeable and that reliability may be a problem here. Having said that, if the product becomes unsupported, there are plenty of others out there.



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