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Technology tips: software for "virtual" experiences.

Learning comes from doing. But for many children with disabilities, "doing" is critically linked with accessibility. Environments and tools that cannot be reached or used are difficult to learn from. The Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) focuses on redesigning environments and tools to make them accessible for all.

The computer is one of the tools that ATA centers use nationwide. With innovative applications of versatile software and an almost unlimited array of tools that can be personalized for the user--from touch screens to single switches to pointing devices--it is often possible to simulate inaccessible environments, providing access to "doing."

Several ATA centers shared some of the software applications they find particularly useful. Their choices can be a starting place for your child's own exploration.

Center for Independence, Technology and Education (CITE) 215 E. New Hampshire St. Orlando, FL 32804 (407) 898-2483 E-mail: comcite@aol.com

Away We Ride by SoftTouch provides a multi-sensory transportation environment with a wide range of vehicles--including cars, buses, boats, and motorcycles--to explore. Created by a teacher of children with disabilities, this program helps pre-school children--a large part of this Center's participants--sharpen their proficiency with auditory scans, as well as other skills important for the future use of augmentative devices. Animation and sound help make this learning program fun for all children and also help develop reading skills.

CITE also uses Edmark's Bailey's Book House, a program which allows children to learn their ABC's, make their own greeting cards and invitations, create rhymes and stories, and develop reading and vocabulary skills. The program works for all children because no reading skills are required--all directions and words are spoken. The "Letter Machine" portion of the program works well with children who are blind and/or physically disabled. The "Letter Machine" takes a letter and provides text, picture and verbal information about a word beginning with that letter. Children who are blind use an IntelliKeys (touch sensitive) keyboard which can be programmed with only those options needed for a particular child--such as selected letters of the alphabet--and has a Braille overlay. This program can be used with a single switch and with Don Johnston's Ke:nx (pronounced "connects") scans, allowing children to access computers using devices other than a keyboard or a mouse and to have the words on the screen audibly read back to the user. Both access methods develop skills needed for future word processing.

The Center for Enabling Technology 622 Route 10 W Whippany, NJ 07981-0272 (201) 428-1466 E-mail: cetnj@aol.com

IntelliTools' IntelliPics enables teachers, parents and students to create unique learning activities using pictures, colors, numbers and speech output. Students choose a picture, add sounds and make their pictures come alive with over 55 pre-designed motions. The activities can be made accessible through the use of a switch or IntelliKeys. The program also allows teachers to create customized quizzes providing varying levels of feedback. Because it can be readily customized, it is easy to zero in on the skills the child is working on--colors, numbers, size--and to create new activities. The Center sets IntelliPics up so the user can direct the action on the screen just by positioning the mouse pointer anywhere on the display area and pressing the button, or by touching a TouchWindow touch screen.

By turning on the typing window, older children can work on word-recognition skills by typing in the word and watching a picture of that word appear.

Broderbund's The Playroom allows the "player" to use a mouse, a keyboard, or touch screen. Children learn to tell time, count, add, subtract, spell and even create their own shapes and colors with a special virtual chemistry set. Children can create their own screen scenes with characters they can move and icons that come to life with the click of a button. Some activities are complex, so parents may want to accompany their child on the first visit to the Playroom. The program sounds out words after they are typed, a feature great for building early keyboard skills.

Tidewater Center for Technology Access Special Education Annex 960 Windsor Oaks Blvd. Virginia Beach, VA 23462 (804) 474-8660 (voice/TTY) E-mail: tcta@aol.com

Katie's Farm, by McGee Software (with the TouchWindow by Edmark), a device which allows children to manipulate screen choices with their fingers rather than a keyboard or a mouse, is especially good for non-readers. McGee, a mischievous little boy who loves to explore, goes to visit his cousin and friend--Katie--who lives on a farm. A tour of the farm includes visits to the barn, garden, chicken coop and other exciting sites. Sounds and animation bring life to the program. The sound and graphic features are excellent, and the touch screen lets children easily interact with language, memory and problem-solving activities and explore cause-and-effect and spatial relationships.

Carolina Computer Access Center Metro School 700 E. Second St. Charlotte, NC 28002-2826 (704) 342-3004 E-mail: ccacnc@aol.com

The Living Books series answers six questions (who, what, when, where, why, how) about stories and concepts. The program presents stories on the screen while, at the same time, speaking the words aloud. Children can simply listen or read along. Pages are filled with characters and objects with which children can interact by just clicking on or touching them. This helps children start experimenting with language--communicating basic wants and needs, sharing and requesting information, and using their imagination to express ideas.

SACC- Assistive Technology Simi Valley Hospital North Campus PO Box 1325 Simi Valley, CA 93062 (805) 582-1881 E-mail: dssacca@aol.com

When used one-on-one or with a small group, Ukandu Little Books and Write:Out Loud, both from Don Johnston, are great software programs for students with disabilities. The programs allow a group of children both to lead and follow in an inclusive setting, writing their own story. The result is learning to work together, good fun, cooperation and creative development all rolled into one "no-lose" experience!

For slightly older children, Write:Out Loud, a talking word processor with great customization options, can be used to learn and enhance spelling and pronunciation and to develop sentence structure. Words can be spoken as each is typed, as each sentence is completed or as cued by the user. A synthesized voice explains the functions of each toolbar button (located at the top of the screen). The program is also fitted with a vocal spell-checker.

RELATED ARTICLE: Great Software for Kids

Away We Ride SoftTouch 4182 Pinewood Lake Dr Bakersfield, CA 93309 telephone: (805) 396-8676 For Macintosh only.

Bailey's Book House Edmark Corporation PO Box 97021 Redmond, WA 98073-9721 telephone: (206) 556-8484 website: http://www.edmark.com. For Macintosh or Windows (3.1 DOs or Windows 95 required).

Intellipics IntelliTools 55 Leveroni Ct, Ste 9 Novato, CA 94949 telephone: (415) 382-5950 e-mail: intellitoo@aol.com. For Macintosh only.

Katie's Farm McGee Software Lawrence Productions, Inc. 1800 S 35th St Galesburg, MI 49053 telephone: (800) 421-4157 For Macintosh or PC.

The Playroom Broderbund 500 Redwood Blvd Novato CA 94948-6121 telephone: (415) 382-4400 For Macintosh or Windows (3.1 DOS or Windows 95 required).

Write:Out Loud Don Johnson Inc. 1000 N Rand Rd, Bldg 115 PO Box 639 Wauconda, IL 60084-0639 telephone: (800) 999-4660 e-mail: DJDE@aol.com. Available in Macintosh or Windows (3.1 DOS or Windows 95 required)

IntelliKeys keyboard IntelliTools 55 Leveroni Ct, Ste 9 Novato, CA 94949 telephone: (800) 899-6687 e-mail: info@intellitools.com Price: $395, includes one cable, eight standard overlays that work with most software programs.

Ke:nx or Discover:Switch Scans Don Johnson Inc. 1000 N Rand Rd, Bldg 115 PO Box 639 Wauconda, IL 60084-0639 telephone: (800) 999-4660 e-mail: DJDE@aol.com Prices begin at $399.

TouchWindow touch screen Edmark Corporation PO Box 97021 Redmond, WA 98073-9712 telephone: (206) 556-8484 website:http://www.edmark.com Price: $335.

The Alliance for Technology Access is a growing coalition of community-based nationwide technology resource centers providing information about and access to conventional, assistive and information technologies. Working with students, families, teachers and others, the Alliance strives to bring the benefits of technology to all persons with disabilities. To identify the Center nearest you, check Exceptional Parent's 1997 Resource Guide (January issue) or call the ATA at (415) 455-4575; e-mail; atainfo@ataaccess.org.

All hardware and software resources mentioned in this article are detailed in the Alliance book, Computer Resources for People with Disabilities, available through the Exceptional Parent Library or ATA for $22.95.
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Title Annotation:The Alliance for Technology Access
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:May 1, 1997
Words:1403
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