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New App Store Section Helps Students with Disabilities

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A new section of the App Store has aggregated special education applications so that students with special needs can have better access to tools that can help them in the classroom. This addition is one example of how gains in technology continue to improve the lives of students with disabilities and give them additional resources to use in post-secondary degree programs, both in the traditional brick-and-mortar classroom and the online classroom. Additionally, a lot of learners -- not just those with disabilities -- can benefit from these advances and tools.

How Apps Help Students

The new App Store "Special Education: Learning for Everyone" section is broken into a total of ten categories, including:

  • Communication
  • Hearing
  • Language development
  • Literacy and learning
  • Organization

A total of 72 applications for the iPhone and 13 applications for the iPad are included. Some of them include:

  • Dragon Dictation, a speech-to-text app
  • iHearClearly, for assisted hearing
  • iWriteWords, a handwriting tool
  • Proloquo2Go, a text-to-speech app for people who have difficulty speaking
  • Eyeglasses, a magnification tool that uses an iPhone camera

There are a number of technologies in operating systems that help learners with various motor skills, vision, and hearing abilities. Computer skills and computer accommodations are frequently cited as hurdles for students with disabilities to overcome in order to participate in online education programs.

Innovation for Online Education

Reducing the number of clicks required is one kind of solution to some of the challenges for students with cognitive disabilities pointed out by counselor and learning specialist Linda Giar. Giar listed a number of online education platform design features that benefit such students:

  • Cut down on the number of frames, boxes, and windows on a screen
  • Use straightforward language
  • Provide a glossary
  • Include a summary or abstract for long pieces of text
  • Avoid excessive movement on a Web page

No matter your abilities as a student, these features could be mighty useful. Some online schools already incorporate these elements into their online classroom design, but it largely depends on the school. In 2007, Alan Shapiro, an instructional technologist from St. Petersburg College, told CommunityCollegeTimes.com, "For a number of years now we have intensely focused on developing technology that is primarily designed to help students with disabilities."

Making Online Classes Accessible

Online learning works better for some students of all abilities because they're able to take as much time as they need to read course material or write drafts of notes or discussions before posting them to an online classroom discussion or forum. If you've ever complained about not having enough access to a professor, you may want to give online education a try. Frequently students say they have greater access to their online instructors via email and the online classroom than they ever had to their brick-and-mortar teachers.

As technology continues to provide learning tools and solutions for students with special needs, many of those same solutions can enhance the learning experience for all students. If you have been avoiding online education for a reason that might be solved by these tools or solutions, you don't have anything to lose by looking a little closer at online schools and finding out what they're doing to make their online classrooms more useful for all learners.