Navigating the transition from high school to college can be a challenging process for anyone. Adding technology to the mix presents a whole new set of challenges. Kelly is an 18-year-old college student at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio with aspirations to be a journalist or to provide rehabilitation services. She has cerebral palsy, which affects her gross and fine motor coordination.
Kelly began this transition process several years ago, with the help of her Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team at Cherry Hill High School West. During her senior year, the team invited input from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Technology in High School
Kelly is not a newbie in the realm of assistive technology. In high school, Kelly used a laptop computer to complete her written tasks; handwriting is difficult and time consuming for her. She also used a software program called WYNN, to assist with reading, as Kelly has difficulty tracking the small text that is found in typical textbooks. Reading is a slow process for Kelly and can cause visual fatigue. WYNN is a program that reads pages of text that have been scanned into a computer. Using a process called optical character recognition (OCR), the software program converts the scanned image into electronic text, which it then reads aloud, while simultaneously highlighting the text as it is spoken. Having the laptop computer and WYNN available to her while in high school enabled Kelly to independently and successfully complete her assignments.
Kelly’s goal in the area of writing was to be able to complete her assignments at a faster pace, as her typing speed is 12-15 words per minute. During the evaluation, Kelly found that voice recognition software, Dragon Naturally Speaking, worked fairly well for her and showed potential to help her write significantly faster.
In the area of reading, Kelly’s goal was to be able to complete reading tasks at a faster pace, and with less fatigue. She was given the latest version of WYNN and got to compare it with a similar program, Kurzweil 3000. Kelly found Kurzweil 3000 to be more user-friendly for her, and wished to test this tool further.
Note taking, problematic for many college students with disabilities, was also considered in the evaluation. Kelly felt that she may not be able to keep up with the note taking requirements in some of her college classes. The use of a digital recorder was considered so that she could record lectures and upload the file to her computer for review at a later time.
Equipment trials were performed to ensure the recommended technology would indeed help Kelly meet her goals. Kelly was received training to learn the basics of Dragon Naturally Speaking and Kurzweil 3000. After trialing for a 30 day period, Advancing Opportunities submitted a report to Kelly’s DVR counselor with its final recommendations.
After Kelly graduated from high school, DVR purchased the assistive technology tools recommended during the AT evaluation. These tools included a laptop, Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software with a headset microphone, Kurzweil 3000 software, a digital recorder, and a printer. Initially, Kelly received a large, heavy laptop. Although this laptop with a big screen was helpful, Kelly was not able to set it up comfortably, and she was afraid she might drop it.
An Assistive Technology Specialist from Advancing Opportunities helped Kelly research and obtain a lighter weight, more durable laptop. Kelly is able to manipulate the new laptop with greater ease and feels more comfortable with it because it has a handle and is manufactured to be durable if dropped or spilled on. Because finding the right laptop took a little longer than anticipated, Kelly did not have it prior to leaving for college. She was able to start school with a loaner from Advancing Opportunities’ Technology Lending Center (TLC) in the meantime.
Using AT in College
Kelly is actively using her assistive technology to complete her college course work. She is able to use her laptop independently because it is lightweight and easy to handle. Kurzweil 3000 has helped her read the many, many pages of material she has been assigned. Wright State’s Office of Disability Services is helping Kelly obtain digital copies of her textbooks so she can use Kurzweil 3000 without having to scan pages first.
She uses the digital recorder to record her classes, and often listens to them while taking notes at her own pace. When Kelly is home on the semester break, she will be provided with more training from Advancing Opportunities, specifically on Dragon Naturally Speaking, so that she can begin using this software while writing long college papers.
Kelly’s assistive technology enables her to be a more independent and successful college student. Without these tools, her work would take much longer and she would often have to rely on others for assistance. Details can often get lost in the shuffle during a transition from high school to college, especially for students with disabilities. DVR’s proactive approach, beginning the planning for Kelly’s assistive technology needs in college while she was still in high school, helped make this process just about as smooth as possible.