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New Assistive Technology Laboratory at DSS

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
July 20, 2011

Zoom Twix is a magnification and screen reading program.

A $2,000 grant from CVS Caremark will help furnish the assistive technology laboratory that Disability Services for Students is opening this fall in Smith Hall. The new lab will give students with disabilities use of technologies and equipment that allow them equal access to programs and curricula. Some of this technology previously has not been available at UNH.

New software and hardware includes Read and Write Gold, MathType, MathTalk, Inspiration, Zoom Text Magnifier and Zoom Twix. Students have been using the speech-to-text program Dragon Naturally Speaking 11, and the text-to-speech program Kurzweil 3000 for some time.  

“We have students for whom, without this technology, it would be very difficult, and, in many cases, impossible for them to do their work at UNH,” Diana Petschauer, assistive technology specialist, says of the programs. “My vision and passion is to ensure accessible post-secondary education to every individual, regardless of ability.”

Dragon Naturally Speaking 11 is helpful for students who have limited physical mobility, students who have dyslexia or a learning disability, and students who are slower at typing or processing. Speaking into a microphone, they can do such things as search the Internet, conduct research, write e-mails; and accomplish assignments.

Read and Write Gold and Kurzweil 3000 are text-to-speech programs with features that include, among others, Web highlighting, reading text aloud, scanning documents to be read aloud or typed into, such as worksheets or tests, and speaking as you type, converting text files to audio files that can be listened to on an iPod or on a CD, as well as phonetic word prediction.

MathType program

MathType allows students to create mathematical notations and equations for word processing, Web pages, desktop publishing, presentations, e-learning, and for TeX, LaTeX, and MathML documents. Point-and-click editing makes typing math equations as simple as using a pencil and paper. MathTalk allows students to do this using Dragon 11.

ZoomText Magnifier/Readerm, critical for students with visual impairments, is a magnification and screen reading program that enlarges, enhances and reads aloud everything on a computer screen.

Zoom Twix has a camera and video camera that sits on a tripod and folds into a backpack. The camera scans and magnifies written text onto a computer screen or laptop that can then be read aloud. An attached video camera can zoom in on a whiteboard or chalkboard, magnify and project the information onto a laptop screen, and convert it to a text document to be read aloud.

“Being able to scan handouts saves a lot of paper and a lot of time,” Petschauer says. The students do not need to wait to access the information that their peers see immediately. They acquire the information, process, participate, and respond in real time equally.”

The assistive technology lab can acquire Braille notetakers, and refreshing Braille displays as loans for students. The notetakers have a Braille keyboard and use a speech synthesizer or Braille display, allowing a blind student to use a computer as any other student would.

The lab will have Apple products such as an iMac, as well as two iPads loaned to DSS by Assistive Technology in New Hampshire (AtinNH), the state’s program on assistive technology.  In addition to accessible features already embedded in these products and technology, there are innovative applications that can be downloaded to an iPod, iPad or Android.

“I think it’s phenomenal that UNH is offering so much to help students access their curriculum,” Petschauer says. “This fall will be all about getting students and faculty familiar with everything we have.”

And it will be about offering the training needed to use the technology, something DSS employees had little time for prior to hiring Petschauer in February. Work-study students who have been taught how to use the technology will assist Petschauer with training.

“Equal access to education at UNH will lead to equal employment opportunities for people with disabilities, so they don't have to solely rely on the state, government, or family for support,” Petschauer says. “And these individuals can pursue their goals and happiness, as we all have the right and opportunity to do.”

Read about the assistive technology laboratory at http://www.unh.edu/disabilityservices/assistive-technology. Or contact Petschauer at diana.petschauer@unh.edu.

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