Free Vision Support Toolbar

 

MyVisBar

I love the free accessibility tools offered by EduApps!  Although vision support options are included in the popular MyStudyBar tool, they have gone one step further and created a standalone application called MyVisBar for users with low vision.

MyVisBar can be downloaded to the computer (or a USB drive for added portability) for use with any PC or Android device.  It offers excellent magnification with additional built-in supports for learners with visual difficulties. Features include options for changing text contrast (yellow on black), a visible ring to help track the cursor, a nice screen reader, high contrast text editing, color masking for text, and the ability to change the desktop resolution.  Similar supports are available for student use within the online PARCC tests. These tools are quite helpful for students with low vision as well as those who need text accommodations to support independent reading.

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Free, Portable Web 2.0 Reading & Writing Supports

eduapps.org

Gone are the days when we had to purchase expensive technology supports and install from a CD to every computer a student might use.  With the growing number of Web 2.0 tools, there are now many free resources available to provide students the accessibility and support features they need, whenever they need them and wherever they are. EduApps is one of my favorite resources and offers some outstanding web 2.0 tools for students who need added support for reading, studying, writing, or using the internet.

EduApps creates accessibility software and offers them as free downloads for the desktop computer and/or Android market.  They can be saved to a USB drive as well, allowing students to take the support they need home with them. The popular MyStudyBar (one of my favorites) is a floating toolbar equipped with a range of reading, writing, and organizing tools.  Many of the features found on this tool are allowable accommodations on the new PARCC online tests.  Use of this tool in the classroom would benefit students who need these supports throughout the year and for participation with online evaluations.

mystudybar

 

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Preparing our Learning Disabled Students for PARCC Testing

 

PARCC logo

The times are changing …

When Tennessee adopted the Common Core State Standards we accepted the challenge to change what we will teach and how we will teach it to reach new academic heights.  Along with that, we also changed how we will test for it and that part has made things a little scary in the world of special education…

When PARCC designed the new tests to evaluate student learning of the CCSS material, they elected to administer them in a brand new computer-delivered format. That’s what is making special education teachers across the country a wee bit nervous.

While nobody is arguing with the move toward technology-based assessments, teachers are overwhelmed by the secondary demand of preparing our learning disabled students to actually access the tests and navigate through them unaided.   Students must be able to read the directives, follow the prompts and input the responses without the hand-on assistance of a teacher. There is the real possibility that students may actually become smarter from instruction using the new standards, but might not be able to demonstrate that if they’re are so overwhelmed by the navigation and access issues related to the test that they can’t focus on the content!

The good news… according to the newly released PARCC Accessibility and Accommodations Manual, students will have access to all word processing functions as well as a wide range of integrated assistive technology supports during testing.  Examples include text-to-speech, voice dictation, word prediction, spell checkers, pop-up dictionaries, translators, text adjustments, screen magnification and more.  If it’s included as a learning support in the IEP, they will be allowed to use it on the test.  Now, that’s progress!

The not-so-good news… most of our teachers don’t know how to use these tools, so their students don’t know how either.  For students that do, they’ve never been allowed to use them during a high-stakes test. This IS change for the better. These access supports really do level the field for a lot of our kids.  We just need a plan for teaching them what they need to know to access and make the most of them.

More good news…as part of my graduate level work with Western Governors University, I have taken on this topic for my courses in instructional design.  I will be posting information and links for Web 2.0 tools that replicate those we’ll see on PARCC tests.  As I gather information and ideas, create new  materials and find new resources, I will be sharing them here.  We have been advocating for the increased use of AT and this is the best thing to happen to our LD kids in a very long time!  Let’s turn ‘scared’ into EXCITED!

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Free Web Accessibility Tools

 

ATbar

I have just fallen in love with another web 2.0 support to add to our technology toolkits!   The Mada Assistive Technology Center in Qatar has created an amazing array of web 2.0 supports packaged in a single toolbar for improving web accessibility.   The “ATbar” contains tools for font magnification, text-to-speech, word prediction, background and font color changes, pop-up dictionary, spell checker and readability adjustments (to reduce visual clutter).

There are three versions of the ATbar:

  • The download version stays available when you move between web pages and is made up of the standard functions.
  • The lite version acts in a similar way to a bookmark or favorite and has to selected each time you visit a new web page – it also has the standard functions.
  • The marketplace version allows you to build your own ATbar, by choosing the plug-ins to suit your needs then save the custom made bar as a bookmark.
  • Other software is available on a USB flash drive with an accessible menu system as a Portable Accessibility Toolkit and there is a desktop version of the ATbar on the download page.

These supports are available for download onto any PC for personal use or directly onto your own website or WordPress blog as a plug-in for those who visit your site.

And…best of all…they’re FREE!!

For more information, visit their site  https://www.atbar.org

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