Outside-the-box assistive tech goes campus-wide

For colleges and universities, Guetschow’s experience is likely music to their ears. Not only do web-based solutions let IT off the hook when it comes to installation and upgrades, but their ubiquitous nature may help schools reach those students who really need assistance but—for whatever reason—fail to seek it.

Instead of requiring students to visit the disabilities office, for instance, schools could simply inform students of the availability of such products during orientation and let them access them on their own—from their own devices.

Even though a much broader audience has been using assistive literacy products for years, the shift away from the disabilities office may also help change perceptions that such tools are exclusively for students with LD. “We now have many college students using Kurzweil 3000 with or without disabilities,” said Cami Griffith, senior sales executive at Kurzweil Educational Systems. “Students are off on their own for the first time and the amount of reading material required is huge. They need very good organizational skills. These are challenges that can affect people whether or not they have a disability.”

Most schools, though, would be happy to reach those students with LD who are currently flying under the radar. Indeed, the hope is that technology like Firefly can reverse one of the most distressing statistics of all: Only 41 percent of higher ed students with LD actually go on to graduate compared with 52 percent of the general student population, according to the NCLD report.

Thanks to the help she received from Firefly and her school’s disabilities specialist, DeAnna Guetschow did receive her diploma. “I had really good grades my senior year,” recalled Guetschow, who is teaching introductory art classes at Kalamazoo Valley Community College but is looking to build a career in advertising. “I don’t need Firefly in my current job, but it would be worth the yearly expense if I need it in the future.”

Andrew Barbour is an editorial freelancer with eCampus News.