Social Media and Accessible Technology

This summer, I participated in “CPD 23 Things,” an online continuing education opportunity sponsored in part by the Nebraska Library Commission. Participants (librarians) experimented with a variety of social media tools (e.g., Prezi, Pushnote, Google Docs, Evernote, citeulike and many more). We were to experiment with items discussed in one or more posts (“Things”) each week and blog about them. In addition, some weekly assignments asked us to think about our personal “brand,” library advocacy, and other elements of professional development.

So Much to Think About

The experience was almost overwhelming in that there were so many things to explore and often times we were comparing similar tools, (e.g., Google Docs and Dropbox). At the same time we were also asked to think about whether we would or could make meaningful professional or personal use of  any of the tools we were experimenting with.

Like many who participated, I tried some tools that I knew immediately that I would have no use for. There were other tools  that I need to think about and experiment with some more; there were a few tools  that I was already using or that I embraced and am using now.

The “23 Things”program was a positive experience and I’ve continued to read about and explore new tools and resources. Truthfully, it is daunting to not only try to remain aware of emerging technologies but also to sift out the gems from the dross and chaff.

Complexity Increases

Assistive technology or equipment adds its own layer of complexity to our computer dependent society. Being savvy about assistive technology and equipment can also be a formidable task. Sometimes identifying and acquiring the proper technology or equipment is not the only challenge. User-friendliness, learning curve, and price add to the issues that must be considered. In terms of computer software or equipment, issues of compatibility with existing hardware or software, and license requirements are additional considerations.

We indeed live in exciting, if dizzying  times. Some adaptive technology and/or software has gone “mainstream” now and is marketed to a broader audience (Dragon Dictate comes to mind). With the advent of “smart” phones (and similar “smart” technology), more and more apps are being developed that open up the world for individuals with disabilities. This is good!

Smart Technology Changing Lives

A recent article from Mashable Tech, 4 Ways iPads Are Changing the Lives of People With Disabilities is only one of several articles I’ve skimmed recently that talk about how IPads, and other “smart” tools are enhancing the lives of people with disabilities. An April 2011 post from the Blind Blogger entitled, Creating a Mobility App for Blind People, talks about a mobility app for the Android phone. Thomsen Young
compiled a handy list of the top 10 “most useful” iPhone apps for deaf and hard of hearing consumers.”

Educational apps are also beginning to proliferate and at our recent conference, WinAhead members were fortunate to have an informative presentation by Lenette Sprunk of ESU 3 about a number of useful apps and technology such as the LiveScribe smart pen (I want one!). The image below shows the apps Lenette shared with attendees.

It’s exciting to see how smart phones and similar technology are tools usable by everyone including individuals with disabilities. The pace of technological development is dizzying but exciting. Learning how to remain technologically savvy and aware is a significant challenge we all face but it is worth it.

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About WINAHEAD

WINAHEAD is made up of representatives from twenty-nine institutions. Our members are professionals employed by two- and four-year colleges and universities who work directly with students with disabilities to ensure equal access to higher education. WIN indicates the geographic area we represent: Western Iowa and Nebraska. AHEAD is our national parent organization, the Association on Higher Education and Disability.
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