LIFT Forum on adaptive technology

Todd Vandenbark

The Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library presented its Library Information Technology Forum today. Its purpose is to inform the University of Utah community about electronic information resources, and current trends in the use of computers and online technologies for accessing these resources. The Forum is generally held the second Wednesday of each month between September and May, in the Health Sciences Education Building, and is co-sponsored by the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library and the Media-On-Demand committee.

This month’s topic is was on adaptive technology for students of the University of Utah, and was provided by Scott M. McAward, Ph.D., the Director of the Center for Disability Services (CDS). McAward pointed out that technology can benefit all users – students, faculty, and staff. However, technology is not always accessible or adaptive for all.

McAward presented a chart showing the number of different disabilities they assist with, along with the percentage of students with disabilities involved. The CDS serves students at all levels and disciplines, and tracks 13 broad categories of disabilities. They have seen this population increase by 26% over the last five years, and they expect a larger group of veterans to be returning to campus in the future. Well over half of the students they assist have disabilities that are invisible — cognitive, psychological, etc.

The CDS provides adaptive and accessible software and technology to students with disabilities. These include providing interpreters and notetakers for students, changing and holding (restricting) classrooms to accessible locations, and providing computers with adaptive technology such as screen readers, text-enlargement, etc. McAward went on to demonstrate several types of software and hardware, including a pen that records what the presenter says as you take notes, and which can be played back when you are reviewing your notes.

MacAward ended his talk with a “What you can do” list of steps and actions that we, as academic professionals, can take to support students with disabilities:

  • Become familiar with adaptive technology; an ongoing process.
  • Install adaptive software in labs.
  • Be able to teach/demonstrate t someone else how to use adaptive tech
  • Begin with accessibility in mind (electronic content).
  • Pay attention to closed captioning.
  • Consult with other professionals.