ATIA logo: Assistive Technology Industry Association
Friends of ATIA Newsletter
September, 2013
"Back to School"
Welcome Back to School!
Headshot of David Dikter smiling.
David Dikter, CEO ATIA


In the coming era of digital assessments, some thoughts on staying positive, informed, energized, and connected...

Another summer has passed, another year has gone by, and although summer is a time for many of us to relax and rejuvenate, I want to thank you for also taking the time to keep up with professional development.  It's clear to ATIA that many of you--educators, parents, therapists, AT practitioners and providers of all stripes--consider professional development as important as we do. You took advantage of the discounts we offered for summer webinars and that was exciting to see. Thank you for joining in and continuing to seek solutions for the individuals with whom you work. Thank you, also, for letting us know about speakers you'd like to learn more from, content we should cover, and/or topics you are interested to present. We highly value your input and engagement!
One education concern that ATIA is engaging--and that we need you to be aware of--is the issue of digital testing and accessibility.  As most of you know, beginning in 2014, the PARCC and Smarter Balanced consortiums will be implementing digital assessments to evaluate student learning in accordance with the new Common Core State Standards. The test-takers will include our students, those who use assistive technology in and, often, out of the classroom. ATIA has been working with the consortiums, as well as directly with the developers of these new digital assessments (see the article from the American Institutes for Research this edition) to try to ensure that test-takers can maintain access to their assistive technology--to the AT products with which they are most familiar and comfortable, to the devices and software that best help them convey what they know [as supported in this DOJ ruling]. And right now the pathway to success will be bumpy with a long learning curve for us all.
I'm highlighting this here to raise your awareness of the issue, to urge you to learn the approaches taken by the consortiums to provide tools and accommodations, and to learn what will be required of you to ensure your students have access. ATIA will, of course, continue in the effort for AT interoperability. In the meantime you can read more at the PARCC and Smarter Balanced Web sites.


The advent of digital assessments, on top of rapidly evolving assistive technology solutions (and technology in general), underscores the growing responsibilities carried by educators and others who work to help students succeed. Many feel pulled in a seemingly ever-expanding number of equally important directions. At the same time, opportunities for students with disabilities to effectively access the curriculum have never been greater. The challenge is remembering this, staying positive, energized, and connected to the people and communities who hold the same responsibilities, and support a high level of excellence in this work.
One way to do this, of course, is to attend ATIA's conference in Orlando this January (you saw that coming, right?) What we've learned, indeed, what we've seen again and again is that the face-to-face in-person opportunities at an international conference like ATIA Orlando allow for a depth of learning and connection that is unmatched by any "virtual" offering or social media tool (although we love these too).  In addition, attendees who take the time to come to Orlando with an agenda for their learning, consistently report coming away with experiences that far exceed their expectations. The reason is that the conference allows them to connect with others who are solving the same problems, carrying the same responsibilities, are eager to maximize their learning, and perhaps above all, are exceptionally generous to share. You have to attend to experience this. We love webinars and conference recordings, Facebook and Twitter; we value all that they offer and the way they enable continued learning, follow through, and communication, but nothing compares with directly talking with one another and the collective energy of all those AT-caring people in one place.   


Best, David Dikter, CEO ATIA

EnGAMESment: Let's Play

The ever-playful Christopher Bugaj shares his game-based approach to learning and assistive technology

Headshot of Chris Bugaj
Chris Bugaj
Education has shifted away from memorizing facts and toward applying what you know to complete authentic projects. Those who play cooperative and competitive games practice the skills necessary to successfully participate in collaborative project-based activities. As educators head back to school they are looking for ways to engage students. Games provide an immediate way to snare a student's attention. Whether it's spinning the spinner, rolling the dice, laying a card, or flicking thumbs across a control pad, everyone enjoys playing games.

Tabletop games have been a mainstay of education. Almost every teacher has an array of board games useful for targeting individual goals. As digital technologies become more pervasive in the classroom, educators can incorporate computer games to practice skills outlined in individualized education programs. Below is a consideration of how specific games and gaming technologies are helping students with different needs learn.

Minecraft (both the Web version and the Pocket Edition) draws on the idea that everyone has an innate drive to create. In the game's Creative mode, players use various building materials coupled with imagination to construct 3D, Lego-style representations of virtually anything. Savvy educators encourage students who have difficulty drafting an essay, making a video, or drawing a sketch to build a model in Minecraft, particularly if this is an interface with which students are already familiar. For example, while learning about the habitats of Native Americans, one way a student might demonstrate his or her knowledge is to construct longhouses in Minecraft.

Screenshot of a long hounse built using Minecraft
A Minecraft longhouse

Additional sandbox gaming apps to consider include Blocksworld HD and Lunacraft; these also offer a way for students to express what they've learned by building a virtual representation.

New challenges and unique rewards are embedded in many digital games which inspire users to set and strive for new and ever-changing goals, not unlike working toward achieving educational goals. The act of completing a level and then progressing to more difficult challenges is what keeps content fresh. Scribblenauts is an example of a game that constantly provides new content while encouraging players to use their real-world knowledge. The user types words to create virtually any item from an incredibly robust dictionary. Using prediction-like technology, the game's database queries the text. Like magic, the requested object appears for use by Maxwell --the onscreen character--to achieve an objective. Students who play Scribblenauts are working on typing, spelling, logical reasoning, and vocabulary skills (and they may not even notice!)

Technologies like Kinect for Xbox incorporate gestures to control onscreen actions. Research has shown that building in movement throughout the day helps people learn and remember content. Using Avatar Kinect, a closed environment where students control a three-dimensional avatar using gestures, students with communication difficulties can practice communicating with others in anonymity. Educators can also be physically present to provide prompts and guidance without appearing as a third party to the communication partner. In Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia, students in some autism programs have demonstrated increased communication skills (such as providing one another with verbal directions) while playing a cooperative gesture-based game. One limitation of some gesture-based games, however, is that they may require full-body motion to control the onscreen avatar.

Another advantage to playing computer games is that they can generate interest in how digital games are created. Games like Scratch and Kodable take advantage of that interest and allow students to explore the fundamentals of coding, a 21st Century skill. Scratch is a free web-based platform developed at MIT that allows students to create animations and games by manipulating puzzle-like blocks. Kodable introduces students to following command structures by dragging objects into a correct sequence to move a character through a maze. Both teach logic and reasoning.

Often when a game becomes popular, online discussion forums crop up where players come to discuss their experiences. These communities offer authentic opportunities for students to practice communication, social, and keyboarding skills while learning to become responsible digital citizens.

Many games, such as the Lego series, follow a storyline using well-known characters in which the player progresses through a plot. Educators can utilize these types of games to represent content when teaching language arts and narrative concepts. For example, when discussing character traits, types of conflict, and the elements of a story, a teacher can use the Legends of Chima: Laval's Journey to discuss personality, how the story pits man vs. man, and as a relatable representation of a story arc.

In some games, playing through content, achieving milestones, and demonstrating competency leads to "leveling up" a character. Like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, participants earn badges for demonstrating the application of a skill once they've completed a part of the game. The school-based social media site, Edmodo, incorporates the use of badges for users to record and display their accomplishments, effectively turning the entire experience into a game by challenging users to acquire more rewards. The app, DIY, provides users with badges for documenting the achievement of real-life goals in categories such as astronomy, athletics, farming, cooking, chemistry, cartography, film-making, fashion design, forestry, medicine, music, oceanography, zoology, and more.
DIY badges for Gamer, Gardener, and Geologist.
DIY badges
Students feel a sense of accomplishment when they earn a badge. As with a portfolio, students can review  badges to reflect on their body of work.

Without question students are engaged by games. However, accessibility may be limited based on a game's design or the user controls. Organizations like the Ablegamers Foundation work to provide industry awareness of the need for gaming accessibility. Ablegamers also provides examples and materials for adapting controls to individual users.

At the dawn of a new school year consider "leveling up" your technology implementation by integrating digital games into your educational toolkit. Harness the inherent power of play to hone in on areas of need. Students will practice necessary life skills while having fun without even realizing it. Game on!

Chris Bugaj, MA CCC-SLP, is an assistive technology trainer for Loudoun County Public Schools. An audio version of this article is also available as Episode #121 of his A.T.TIPSCAST podcast.
Will Google Glass Be Assistive Technology's Next Big Thing? 

Smiling headshot.
Therese Willkomm wearing her Google Glass 

While test driving the long-awaited prototype, Therese Willkomm took time out to talk to Friends of ATIA   


Thank her for this sneak peek... Google Glass is not exactly in your local assistive technology (AT) demonstration/loan program. To get her hands on it, Therese Willkomm, PhD--that app-happy professor at the University of New Hampshire who is passionate for both high and low-tech solutions--applied for the privilege to pay $1,500 to purchase Google Glass (plus tax!) And once found worthy, she traveled at her own expense to Glass headquarters in New York City for training, fitting, and "free" Champagne. Why did she go to all this trouble? Initially to "enable virtual participation for persons with disabilities"  (to quote her 50 word beta-tester application).


But first, just what is Google Glass? If you haven't heard, it's basically your smartphone migrating to your head. The display is not yet implanted in your eyeball, but it's making moves to get there. Worn like eyeglasses, Glass enables you to keep your head up while using your device, to access the Internet in new hands-free ways, to share and experience the world ...annotated (check out Google's vision, What It Does). Although this is consumer tech, the wearable platform holds promise to inspire a new volume of apps from independent developers for persons with disabilities, including students. Willkomm--who loves her iPad--wanted to see if this could be AT's next "big thing."


Key specs and features

  • Low-profile wire frame (without lenses) supporting a small, transparent, high-resolution display in the upper right field of vision (Google has plans for integration with prescription eyewear);

  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity  (to connect with wireless Internet or your phone's hotspot)

  • Bone conduction transducer (a speaker that does not go in your ears);

  • Camera (5 MP for photos, 720p for videos)

  • 12 GB of usable storage (synced with the Google cloud storage)

  • Touchpad at the temple for simple gestures;

  • Built-in voice commands to record video, take a picture, send an email, launch a Google Hangout, get directions, and search the internet (more are enabled with the MyGlass Android app or from the Web site);

  • Head-tilt gesture to wake up the display.

What caught Willkomm's attention


Before purchasing Glass, Professor Willkomm had mounted an iPhone 5 on a bicycle helmet for use with Facetime. Her goal, she explained to Friends of ATIA, was to make possible realtime, virtual, community participation for a woman in a nursing home. With help from a helmet-wearing partner, this nursing home resident could go shopping (and make selections off the shelf)  or kayaking (and choose the fork in the river). "The problem" Willkomm says, "was the helmet made the partner feel like a dork." So when Glass was announced, with its sleek design and head-mounted camera, she knew she had to give it a try.


Willkomm's findings


As is often the case with beta technology, Glass is a combination of the best of times and the worst of times. Below is Professor Willkomm's take on the new hardware and apps platform, cast through her own lens as an AT professional (and user).


Realtime sharing? Err... never mind


Although Google's promotional videos seem to emphasize Glass's capacity for realtime video sharing, Willkomm found her original motivation for acquiring the headset quickly sidelined. Realtime virtual travel is not, it turns out, Glass's strong suit. And while a Google Hangout could theoretically take up to ten people on an adventure, the experience is made or broken by the quality of the poorest connection speed in the Hangout. "And virtual travel is no fun when the audio arrives seconds before the video." Another problem is the legality of plans. Bringing her Hangout to Wicked at the Boston Opera House proved impossible. "They made this blanket statement before the curtain went up banning any and all recording devices, like they saw us Glassholes coming!"


Speedy for sharing videos and pictures


What works well, however, is the speed and ease Glass provides for taking and sharing pictures and videos. This benefit quickly overshadows deploying live Hangouts. She found she could share media with everyone in a Google Circle with the swipe of her finger and that everything is automatically backed up to her Google+ account. The downside is a risk of accidental sharing. "You have to be very careful with your gestures!"  


As a college professor who frequently makes videos for instruction, Willkomm is finding Glass a helpful tool. On the fly she can record instructions for creating one of her low-tech AT solutions and instantly share it with students and colleagues. Or she can record video without connecting to the Internet and Glass will back up her work once it senses a connection (she never has to plug into her computer). The disadvantage is that the camera is not good for distances closer than four feet; also she must maneuver the frame on her nose to center the lens for demos.


Further AT potential

  • Glass voice recognition is superior to Siri (on iOS devices). Willkomm says Glass understands her better than her iPad and is quickly responsive. This, coupled with how easy Glass makes sharing content, could  turn it into a powerful tool for individuals with limited dexterity who use speech to communicate.
  • The hands-free capacity of Glass is also promising. Willkomm imagines a student in a power chair snapping images on the playground to complete an assignment (such as finding shapes in their environment for Everyday Math).
  • Glass has significant potential for use with video modeling. Individuals (with autism, traumatic brain injury, etc.) could create custom videos--filmed from their own perspective--of themselves accomplishing tasks and routines for later review or as reminders and prompting. Also, Willkomm notes, students with autism could use Glass to work on social skills by recording their interactions with others (to review and learn from facial expressions and reactions).
  • There is potential for image recognition and even face recognition. Glass has the capacity to use the Google image database to match and help identify objects for persons with visual impairments (as with Google Goggles). Face recognition may be accomplished by third party developers, but is not something Google is pursuing, according to Willkomm. For persons with prosopagnosia (an inability to recognize faces), face recognition software could be life-changing.
  • Glass's bone-conduction speaker (behind the right ear) means it does not rely on the ear canal for conveying sound. For individuals with hearing impairments due to damage to the ear canal, Willkomm suspects this may have an advantage. The speaker is not as loud as in-ear buds, however, for most users.

Fatal flaws? 

  • The battery life is too limited. Willkomm found that when used for her purposes, the battery lasted about 3.5 hours before needing a recharge. This is a major hurdle she sees for Glass's successful deployment.
  • Privacy is a central concern. How will people know when they are being videotaped? Willkomm anticipates this will be a problem for schools and limit the adoption of this technology in K-12 environments. Google designed Glass with voice commands for taking pictures and video, but a third party developer has already devised an app for snapping pictures with just a wink. Also the face recognition potential of Glass raises a host of privacy and security concerns.
  • The right temple heats up! Using Glass for extended periods is uncomfortable and concerning.
  • Glass requires Google accounts. Not much is new here in the hardware wars, but Willkomm was annoyed to have to make sure those she shared with had Google accounts. She notes, however, that apps for other services will be forthcoming.
  • Glass is yet more Wi-Fi-dependent assistive technology. Although college students might be a great market for Glass, Willkomm notes that the Wi-Fi readily available on college campuses, like UNH, often allows limited-use access only (such as Web browsing). Glass cannot configure to the UNH high-speed wireless network to accomplish other tasks (like uploading). It's the same problem UNH students are having with their Livescribe Sky pens. Also, Willkomm notes that access to broadband with adequate bandwidth is a problem for many regions of the United States, and the more AT assumes this availability, the more locked-out of potentially transformative technology individuals with disabilities will be in poorly served communities. Willkomm reports that bandwidth problems are a primary and defeating experience when trying to use Glass.
  • Willkomm still feels like a dork. Okay it's not a bicycle helmet with a camera, but she admits she hasn't worn her Glass as much as she'd thought she would. She says she feels like a billboard for new technology and that at this point, wearing Glass becomes an invitation for anyone to stop her to talk (and she does not have time for this!)


Coming Soon... an ATIA webinar on Glass


Willkomm, however, is offering an ATIA webinar January 21st, 2014 on her experiences with the new Glass technology. So if you see her wearing her Google Glass, ignore her consider signing up to get all your Glass questions answered!


Thanks to Therese Willkomm for sharing these insights with Friends of ATIA newsletter!


AIRNew Computer-Based Assessments Include Focus on Accessibility 

AIR logo: American Institutes for Research. Shows a Greek ionic column. The American Institutes for Research invite AT manufacturers to certify their devices for use with the Smarter Balanced Assessment


In the 2014-15 school year, two multi-state consortia will begin delivering Common Core-aligned operational summative assessments for grades 3-8 in English language arts and mathematics. These assessments will replace current end-of-year tests that individual states have developed in compliance with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) are two federally funded, multi-state consortia developing and delivering these assessments. Most states are participating in at least one of the consortia.


As states adopt computer-based assessments, new opportunities arise for accessibility. Both PARCC and Smarter Balanced have devoted significant thought and resources to accessibility, and moving to computer-based testing could be a turning point in making all assessments accessible. PARCC and Smarter Balanced each have an Accessibility, Accommodations and Fairness Technical Working Group, including sub-groups specifically focused on students with disabilities. Each consortium has committed to a minimum set of accessibility standards in the first year of operational testing, with plans to improve accessibility features over time.


Test to include embedded supports and interoperability with third-party assistive technologies


American Institutes for Research (AIR) is delivering both the pilot and field tests for Smarter Balanced. As part of our work, we are developing an open-source Test Delivery System that integrates many embedded support features.  The system is also being designed to integrate with third-party assistive technologies. AIR and Smarter Balanced have collaborated to design a certification program for assistive technology devices. This program will ensure that assistive technology devices are fully compatible with the Smarter Balanced open-source Test Delivery System, and that students can complete the tests using familiar devices.


Device certification process ensures only appropriate features are available for test taking


As part of the development of this certification program, we faced the challenge of balancing compatibility with security and measurement. For example, an assistive device that automatically corrects spelling and grammar may be required to disable those features for a writing assessment. The certification process ensures that features of assistive technology devices do not interfere with the intended measurement while providing students with the support needed to access and complete the test.


AIR plans to make our Test Delivery System compatible with WCAG 2.0 guidelines. The system can render tests in a standard format that follows most of these guidelines, but not all.  Informal tests on many assistive devices have proven the compatibility of this interface. The AIR system also offers a second rendering, our Streamlined Rendering, which adheres to WCAG 2.0 guidelines and is designed for compatibility with assistive technologies such as screen readers driving refreshable Braille displays.  Both renderings are delivered using the same system, and the rendering a student sees depends on his or her personal needs.


We invite interested ATIA members to learn more about the AIR certification program.


Jon Cohen, President, Assessment, American Institutes for Research

Florida's Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS); a unique statewide approach to providing assistive technology services

Headshot of David Davis
David Davis
David Davis invites you to join a national conversation

Here in Florida we carefully weigh, as do educators providing assistive technology support services to students with disabilities in all states, the overarching issues and concerns that have been raised by several decades of policy reform and implementation. How do we ensure the provision of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE)? How do we provide access to the general curriculum and promote inclusion? Does inclusion in a low performing classroom meet the spirit of FAPE? Do we truly believe that students with disabilities are first and foremost general education students?

These issues are of national importance and worthy of continued discussion. In Florida we work to meet these challenges through a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) service model that includes problem solving/response to intervention, positive behavior supports, universal design for learning, and specially designed instruction. Here I'd like to share a little about this service model, where it came from, and then let you know about upcoming opportunities to join the conversation at ATIA 2014 in Orlando.   


Florida's Approach

In 2008 the Florida Dept. of Education (FLDOE) published a state-level Response to Instruction/Intervention (RtI) framework to support school-wide implementations. In 2011 the statewide implementation of a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) began with the merging of the Florida Positive Behavior Support and Florida Problem-Solving/RtI Projects, and the Technology and Learning Connections for Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning (TLC). Florida has a long history of assistive technology and augmentative communication services, and our conceptual framework [PDF] for a multi-tiered system of supports provides guidance in service alignment.
Currently, core components of our service model include:
  1. Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS)- the systematic use of multi-source assessment data to efficiently allocate resources in order to improve learning for all students. Academic and behavioral supports are integrated. This system includes: 

      • Tier 1: Core academic and behavior instruction and support differentiated for all students in all settings. Instruction and supports are designed to ensure mastery of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and core instructional goals/expectations.
      • Tier 2: Targeted instruction/intervention and supplemental support to meet identified goals.
      • Tier 3: Intensive intervention based upon individual student needs and aligned with core curriculum, instruction, and supplemental supports.

  2. Universal Design for Learning - the use of UDL principles and instructional scaffolding to bridge gaps and reduce or eliminate barriers to engagement (academic, behavioral, psychological, social). UDL principles are applied across all three tiers of instructional intensity, and include support for flexible, transformative, digital instructional materials as appropriate.

  3. Independent Learning Skills - support for self-progress monitoring, time management, task persistence, resource and materials organization, self-assessment, and self-determination.

  4. Specially Designed Instruction - adaptations to the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction that: 1) address the unique needs of a child that result from the child's disability, 2) ensure access to the general education curriculum, 3) are guaranteed by IDEA and implemented in accordance with the individual educational plan (IEP) process. Specially designed instruction addresses those unique supports (including accessible instructional materials and assistive technology) needed by students with disabilities to be successful in the multi-tiered system of academic and behavior supports provided to all students.

Join Us


In January please join the national discussion and hear from other state leaders on how they address these issues. The MTSS Technology and Learning Team is co-hosting a four part series of Town Hall-style meetings at ATIA 2014. The meetings will each have a moderator and panelists to contribute to and lead discussion one of the following key topics (select the links to learn more):

You can also help us create the meeting agendas by submitting your questions, views, perspective at this Survey Monkey page. Thanks in advance for helping us to consider emerging best practices and strategies for supports and instruction. We look forward to seeing you there or stopping by our booth in the Exhibit Hall.


David Davis is an independent consultant with over 35 years of experience working with students with disabilities, school districts, and federal/state funded service organizations. He currently works with the Technology & Learning Connections (TLC) Team, a part of Florida's Multi-Tiered System of Supports Projects.

Features and Highlights
EnGAMESment: Let's Play--Chris Bugaj
Will Google Glass be Assistive Technology's Next Big Thing?
New Computer-Based Assessments Include Focus on Accessibility--Jon Cohen
Florida's Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS): an invitation--David Davis
ATIA Updates
Alliance Partner Updates
Helping Students with Print Disabilities AIM for High Achievement--Diana Carl and Joy Zabala
Understanding Student Reluctance--Jamie Martin
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ATIA Updates:

Conference News!

Logo for ATIA 2014 Orlando January 29 - February 1, 2014

(Pre-conference January 28 - 29)  


Back-to-school is the perfect time of year to begin planning for ATIA 2014
and we support you each step of the way: 
  • Online Conference Session Directory--review the catalog of over 300 sessions offering the latest in assistive technology, research, and implementation strategies to meet and exceed your professional development goals! CEUs are included.        
  • Early Bird Registration Discount--purchase early and save 20%! This is $115 off the full onsite cost. Add in one of our discount programs for Past Attendees, Parents, Students, Groups, or AOTA members and you can save even more! Register by 9/27 for best rates.    
  • Risk-free Registration Policy--our 60-day cancellation policy allows you to lock in your registration at the Early Bird price while you are waiting for funding to arrive. If your funding doesn't come through, you can cancel up until November 29th for a full refund.   
  • Strategies for Funding Requests--looking for strategies to get your conference request approved? We've built a whole Web page of ideas and we even include a sample funding request letter!        
  • Additional Discounts--ATIA has negotiated a special hotel rate at the Caribe Royal and reduced rates for shuttle service to and from the airport through Mears. We've even negotiated discount packages for many of the local attractions! Learn more at the ATIA Travel and Lodging pages.   
  • Accessibility--before the conference we provide Wayfinding Maps online (fully accessible narrative route maps of the conference venue). Attendees may request accessible materials  (e-Braille, Braille, large print or tactile maps) in advance during the registration process. At the venue itself, tactile floor runners are installed to assist navigation for guests with visual impairments, and sighted guides may be requested for one-hour periods.   
  • Mobile Device Access: the conference mobile app (available in October) additionally provides extensive conference information including detailed session descriptions via iOS and Android versions or at the mobile Web site. Wireless internet is available throughout the conference center to ATIA attendees.  

ATIA strives to ensure that your conference experience is the best in the business. From the moment you arrive to the time you leave, we work to ensure yours is a first class conference experience.   

Coming Soon:
More ATIA Conference Recordings for 2014!

Last year we launched an innovative way to catch more of ATIA Orlando. We created audio/visual recordings of 10 of our most popular conference presentations, archived them online, and made access available to individuals or groups through subscription purchase. The program proved very popular!

This year we are pleased to expand this offering to up to 40 ATIA 2014 sessions. It's a great way to multiply your learning! For those attending ATIA 2014 who wish there were more hours in the day, you can purchase sessions you were unable to attend at 50% off the recordings-only price. Not only will you have access to additional sessions, but also additional CEUs.

For those who can't attend ATIA 2014, you can purchase access to the recordings for you and/or your staff. It's an excellent way to stay current on advancements in AT from the best in the field, and receive CEUs.

Learn more in the coming weeks at this Conference Recordings Web page.

  Webinar Series News

Graphic of professionals on laptops in bubbles with lines connecting them to one another.

A Great Fall Lineup! 
Now that you're back to school and settling in with new students, you're probably also facing new challenges, including unfamiliar technology needs and products. To help, we've scheduled webinars rich in ideas, tips, strategies, and support from experts and peers. Do you have a team of AT professionals and teachers who are interested in professional development and CEUs? Take a look at our Online Professional Development Subscription program. Discounts on purchases of 20+ webinars start at 20% off the single webinar rate. ATIA offers results-oriented training to help you make significant and positive differences in the lives of individual students.

Which One: Speech Generating Devices vs. Mobile Technology Apps?
Phyllis Watson, CCC-SLP/AAC Specialist, Crotched Mountain ATECH Services
September 25, 2013 3:30-5:00 PM Eastern

Re-Wording with MSWord: Scaffold Print with Tools You Already Have
Judith Schoonover and Sally Norton-Darr , Assistive Technology Trainers, Loudoun County Public Schools
October 2, 2013 3:30-5:00 PM Eastern

So Many Apps, So Little Time...So Little Money - A Review of Top Free Apps
Mo Buti, Special Education Administrator, private special education specialist, international presenter, special education administrator
October 16, 2013 3:30-5:00 PM Eastern

Technology Interventions for People with Cognitive Disabilities
Gayl Bowser, Independent Consultant, Assistive Technology Collaborations and Lynn Gitlow, Associate Professor, Ithaca College
October 30, 2013 3:30-5:00 PM Eastern

Amazing New iPad Accessories and Adaptations to Support Individuals with Disabilities
Therese Willkomm, Director of ATinNH, University of New Hampshire
November 7, 2013 3:30-5:00 PM Eastern

Building Vocabulary Skills through the Use of Games - Apps, Web-Based & Software Tools to Create Effective Vocabulary Instruction
Fiorella Quinn, Independent Consultant/Content Developer, Independent Consultant
November 20, 2013 3:30-5:00 PM Eastern

Apps for OCD, ADHD, LD, Anxiety, and Executive Function Impairments
Therese Willkomm, Director of ATinNH, University of New Hampshire
December 3, 2013 3:30-5:00 PM Eastern

Framework for Including Young Children with Disabilities in Planned UDL-Supported Classroom Activities
Howard Parette, Professor, Illinois State University
December 11, 2013 3:30-5:00 PM Eastern

Alliance Partner Updates

 Coming this Summer:

ISAAC 2014 

ISAAC 2014 Lisbon logoThe International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC), is holding its 16th Biennial Conference July 19-24th, 2014 at the Lisboa Congress Centre in Lisbon, Portugal. The event will include an exhibit hall, pre-conference workshops, an AAC camp, and a research symposium. Submissions for this event are accepted online until October 15th, 2013 at the ISAAC 2014 Paper Submission Portal. Learn more about the event at this ISAAC conference Web page.

Applications are also currently being accepted for the Outstanding Consumer Lecture Award (among other ISAAC awards). The deadline is November 29th, 2013. This award  provides a platform for a person who uses AAC to present on a topic in which she or he has special expertise. ISAAC wishes to highlight the talents (such as storytelling, creative writing, humor), perspectives (on current events, relationships, etc.) or individual endeavors (scholarly, entrepreneurial, recreational, etc.) of an individual beyond AAC, reinforcing the point that a person who uses AAC is not defined by AAC. The award recipient will be a presenter at the ISAAC 2014 Biennial Conference in Lisbon and will receive a cash award of $5,000 CAD. Access the application. Learn more about this and other ISAAC awards for 2014.


AT Coalition  
Creates New Webinars Resource!

Accessible Technology Coalition logo  

In addition to the extensive webinar collection at ATIA, a host of institutions around the country are offering and archiving webinars on education-related topics such as finding accessible materials,  using interactive whiteboards in special education, and differentiating instruction with iPads. How do you find a list of all these archives in a single place? A new, searchable database of free, archived webinars put up by the Accessible Technology Coalition includes 45 that are relevant to K-12 educators. The list can be found at this AT Coalition Web page


-Lisa Wahl, AT Coalition for the Center for Accessible Technology 

Helping Students with Print Disabilities AIM for High Achievement

Headshot of Diana Carl
Diana Carl
Diana Carl and Joy Zabala orient educators to a great Web resource

Headshot of Joy Zabala.
Joy Zabala
Many students have difficulty reading and using standard print materials. Many educators who work with them have questions about how accessible instructional materials (AIM)--such as Braille, large print, audio, and digital text--can help increase their independence, participation, and achievement. As the new school year begins and teachers meet students who struggle with printed materials, get to know the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM Center) Web site. It is full of "just-in-time" resources, tools, and learning opportunities.

You can get started with the three-minute video, "Accessible Instructional Materials: Simply Said" at the All About AIM Web page; and to learn more, delve into the different sections on that page. Then investigate the AIM Navigator which is a process facilitator that guides a team through the decision-making process related to an individual student. Next explore the recently added AIM Center Quick Starts; these were specifically designed for groups with different interests and responsibilities related to AIM, such as families, educators, state and local education agencies, and teacher educators.

In addition to a broad array of webinars and technical assistance, the AIM Center supports several AIM-related communities of practice. Communities of practice provide valuable opportunities to share and learn with others with similar interests and responsibilities. Effective communities of practice --widely considered to be among the most effective means of professional development--are built on the principles of providing an ongoing system of support for continual improvement, promoting collective responsibility, and supporting the attainment of aligned goals. The AIM communities of practice are guided by the Critical Components of the Quality Indicators for the Provision of AIM which have been vetted by the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.

Keep in touch by signing up for the AIM Connector e-Newsletter and visiting the AIM Center on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and YouTube. AIM Center staff is always available to assist you at  Enjoy a productive new school year as you AIM for the achievement of all of your students!

Diana Carl, Special Projects Coordinator, National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials

Joy Zabala, Director of Technical Assistance, National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials

Understanding Student Reluctance

Head shot of Jamie Martin
Jamie Martin
Jamie Martin reflects on why students are sometimes hesitant to use assistive technology

As we head back to school, we are all undoubtedly excited about working with new students and training them to effectively use assistive technology. Nevertheless, some of us will likely encounter students who do not share our enthusiasm. They will politely watch us demonstrate software, apps, and devices, and they may even go through the motions of trying them out, but in the end, they will make it clear that AT will not play a major role in their lives. Instead of taking it personally, we need to understand why students with learning differences may reject assistive technology.

AT Use May Add to the Stigma of Having a Learning Difference

The LD students we teach have grown up (or are still growing up) with a different kind of brain.  They have experienced academic failure, and they view their learning difference as a stigma. Those of us in the field of assistive technology know that AT can help those students, but some (and even some of their families) just see it as another way to be different. Fortunately, we are making great strides to remove that perceived stigma.  As more educational technology follows the principals of Universal Design for Learning (e.g., iPads and iOS accessibility), assistive technology use is becoming a "normal" part of school culture.

Students May Be Worried that Academic Expectations Will Increase

For many LD students, completing independent schoolwork is a struggle, and they have difficulty communicating their understanding of the subject matter effectively.  As a result, they believe that they are only capable of giving short, incomplete responses that don't reach their potentials. Once they start using assistive technology, though, many are able to quickly overcome that belief and can finally share their knowledge completely.  Nevertheless, some have difficulty coming to that realization.  Even with the use of assistive technology, they continue to believe that they have the same limitations. They become worried that if they use AT, their teachers will increase their expectations, and they are frightened that they won't be able to meet those expectations.  

Students May Not Be Comfortable With Independence

In general, LD students receive a great amount of help in order to be academically successful. A wide variety of supports are put into place to ensure that their academic needs are met.  The tricky part is when a student is expected to become more independent when assistive technology is introduced. Most of the time students welcome the independence that AT brings, but sometimes they are just not ready for it and resist the tools that can make it happen. They get comfortable receiving the human support and have difficulty making the emotional leap toward completing certain tasks on their own with technology. If every LD student embraced assistive technology whole-heartedly, our jobs would be easy, but the reality is that they don't. The thing to remember is that many of them, given enough time, do come to appreciate the independence that AT can give them.

There is one student in particular who recently reminded me of that. I started working with him when he was in eighth grade. At that time, his reading and writing skills were well below grade level, and he was consequently identified as a good candidate to receive assistive technology training. The problem was that he wasn't ready to use it yet, probably for all the reasons that I've just described. Despite my best efforts, he spent the next three years resisting AT and struggling with his work. Nevertheless, during his junior year, something happened. Having experienced a great deal of maturation since I first met him, he was now self-confident and ready for independence.  Instead of relying on teachers to be readers and scribes for his tests, he was ready to use assistive technology to complete them on his own. After completing his first test with AT, he had a big smile on his face, and it was clear that he was proud of what he had just accomplished. This past spring, it was my pleasure to watch him graduate from high school, far more independent than I ever could have predicted.

Students like this are the true success stories. They may not immediately latch onto the cool app that we are so excited about, but we need to remember that we are not necessarily wasting our time with them. They may just need a little more of our patience and understanding, which are things that assistive technology cannot provide.

Jamie Martin is the assistive technology coordinator at the Kildonan School
Our next newsletter...

Eliza Anderson headshot.
is the "Global" edition!
It's crafted to set the stage for ATIA 2014 in Orlando, our event that annually draws an international crowd of AT- interested individuals and organizations.

The newsletter is due for release in mid November. Please contact me if you have a program, initiative, or happening you would like our 15,000+ subscribers to know about. Contributions may be between 300-500 words (but, you'll notice, we are flexible). Send to by November 1st, 2013 (editing support is provided). As always, thank you for your enthusiasm!

--Eliza Anderson, Managing Editor, Friends of ATIA newsletter


Assistive Technology Industry Association
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