We all like to believe that state education is a level playing field for all, inclusive and accessible by its very nature. Sadly, that is not the case for most people with disabilities.
Fortunately, this where integrated technology can help.
One boy’s quest
Carl was diagnosed with Dyslexia at the age of six. It was an early diagnosis, but with a family history of Dyslexia, his parents knew what to look for and spotted the signs early.
Unfortunately, diagnosis does not equal full and accurate support during education. Despite his parents’ best efforts and constant chasing of the school and education system to support Carl, he could still not read at the age of 9.
Carl’s parents suggested he choose a book to read from the library and he picked The Lord of the Rings. What followed was months of perseverance by Carl and his parents to finish the book.
His reading got stronger and stronger, but there was still something amiss in his education. At the age of 13, he was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism, previously called Asperger’s Syndrome.
The state education system once again failed to provide adequate support, or the technology, that Carl had been promised. By this time, Carl was become disillusioned with education, but knew if he wanted to achieve his goal of working in a medical profession, he needed a degree, so he persevered.
Eventually, after many resits and repeat years, Carl made it to university. He chose a university which promoted its inclusivity and unparalleled support for disabled students.
Unfortunately, Carl slipped through the net. The university failed to provide a suitable mentor, and there was no money for technological tools. Repeat years followed.
In his second attempt of second year, Carl, with the assistance of his parents, applied for Disabled Student Allowance. He had not done so previously, as the process involved a lot of forms, something Carl still struggled with.
His application was successful and he was awarded over £6,000 in software and integrated tools:
- Speech-to-text dictation app, which also allowed him to fill in forms and logins with pre-programmed commands.
- Screen reader app which runs on his phone and laptop.
- Organisational software, which integrates with both his personal and university calendar, to help him plan and prioritise his work.
- An app which turns his phone into a Dictaphone.
- A writing tablet.
- A medical dictionary for his laptop.
- Noise cancelling headphones.
- And more.
Each piece of technology not only integrated with each other, but also with the university’s systems. In some cases, they even integrated with Carl’s everyday apps.
A whole new world was opened up to Carl. No longer did he struggle with case studies and lab reports - he simply dictated them to his laptop.
Lecture notes were recorded with the Dictaphone app and transcribed by the speech-to-text app. Another app worked alongside the speech to text app, allowing him to highlight and annotate key parts of the lecture. This, in turn, allowed him to build a revision schedule for exams.
Deadlines were met with the guidance of his mentor and scheduling of his PA. Anxieties were eased, which prevented slides into depression. Almost 20 years on from his first diagnosis, Carl was finally able to access education on a level playing field, and his grades went from average to some of the top in his class.
The integrated tools meant that Carl could also use them with other apps on his phone and laptop. Some banking apps in the UK have been built with the integration of accessibility tools in mind, and speech-to-text works on some social media and messaging apps.
This level of integration with accessibility tools has allowed Carl to become much more organised in his everyday life. It has also led him to be more social and communicative than ever before, improving his quality of life.
The above example shows that integration of technology is a two-way street. While providers and developers of accessibility technology often develop with systems integration in mind, providers and developers of other systems, software, and technology should be developing with the integration of accessibility technology.
The amount of accessibility technology across the globe is vast. However, as most government organisations are responsible for the provision of accessibility technology, it is relatively simple for those in the technology industry embracing accessibility integration to identify applicable technologies for their markets.
Between providing accessibility to your current audience and thinking about your future one, delivering on the promise of inclusivity should be a priority now. Talk to us today to find out how we can help you navigate the challenges of accessibility and better service your users’ needs.