Assistive technology experts say higher-education officials have taken a closer look at such online tools in recent years, in part because of laws that require better access.
Teaming up with companies that provide transcribers or software that scans recorded lectures and provides transcription, colleges and universities are increasingly looking for new, inexpensive ways to eliminate barriers for students with disabilities in the lecture hall … or those who use a computer to access instruction.
Assistive technology experts say higher-education officials have taken a closer look at such online tools in recent years, largely because the costs of these technologies have dropped precipitously since the early 2000s. The threat of lawsuits for failing to comply with accessibility laws, and the rise of mobile devices that have removed some of the stigma attached to assistive technology programs, also are factors.
Providing accessible technology that translates lectures from speech to text and makes campus websites readable for everyone has been a welcomed development for many students with disabilities, said Jim Stachowiak, associate director of the University of Iowa’s Center for Assistive Technology Education and Research.
“A lot of college students want to give it a try for themselves before they ask for any help and have that stigma attached to them,” Stachowiak said, adding that discreet online programs and assistive tools that are accessible via smart phones have proven popular with students. “No student wants to be singled out … and then you have some who might just think, ‘I don’t need it.’”
Companies like 3PlayMedia, which works with more than 200 schools and universities, have simplified the once-complex process of providing captioning for students with low hearing, low vision, or other disabilities.
Instead of having to visit their campus’s department for disability services and request a note taker to accompany them to a lecture hall, students at colleges that use 3PlayMedia’s captioning and transcription service can benefit if their professor simply clicks a button.