Computers are essential tools in all academic studies. They can enhance the independence, productivity, and capabilities of people with disabilities.
Furthermore, computers can benefit people with low vision, blindness, speech and hearing impairments, learning disabilities, mobility, and health impairments.
Each of these impairments poses challenges to accessing and using a standard computer and electronic resources. For example, a student who is visually disabled is unable to read a computer screen display or standard printouts.
A student with a spinal cord injury may not have the motor control and finger dexterity required to use a standard mouse and keyboard.
Accordingly, African governments should prioritize adaptive technology devices since they are necessary for people living with disabilities. Adaptive hardware and software can facilitate computer access for people with disabilities.
Access to computers for students with disabilities involves two major issues: access to the computers themselves and access to electronic resources such as word processors, spreadsheets, and the World Wide Web.
Adaptive technology solutions may involve simple, readily available adjustments such as using built-in access devices on standard computers, or they may require unique combinations of software and hardware such as those needed for voice or Braille output.
Most individuals who are visually impaired can use a standard keyboard. Since viewing standard screen displays and printed documents is problematic, specialized voice and Braille output devices can translate text into synthesized voice and Braille output, respectively.
Dr Tamru E Belay, an adaptive technology specialist, says there are essentially five methods of output that can render computers and printed materials accessible for individuals who are blind or visually impaired: screen reader, Braille printer, reading device, electronic Braille displays, and text magnification.
He explains: “The Screen Reader converts computer outputs and text entering cues into major spoken languages. The person with visual impairment can access computers with the help of speech output to use any word processor application to write letters, school assignments or any other writing. The exploration of the Internet and sending electronic-mail (e-mail) are possible for a blind individual by the use of a speech synthesiser”.
“A Braille Embosser is a hardware device for ‘printing’ a hard copy of a text document in Braille. A Braille translation software program is required to translate the text from the computer into Braille. Most Braille translation software programs can translate material into several grades or versions of Braille. Computerized Braille Embossers definitely have great advantage over the manual Brailing method”.
“The reading devices for the blind allow access to hard copy of ink printed materials into the computer where it becomes accessible. Once the text has scanned within a second, the user can start listening to the text in a clear voice. The user can also save the scanned material for later use”.
(Source: The Southern Times