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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Unique Tools Level the Learning Landscape

  • The Echo Smartpen can record lectures and transfer written notes to a computer screen.

You can’t tell by looking at people that they have trouble reading. But students who find reading a barrier to learning at WCC have access to some cool tools that will help them learn without drawing attention to the problem.

One of those tools is ZoomText, a text magnifier and screen reader for the computer. Kaitlin Burt, who is studying for a pharmacy technology certificate, said ZoomText has made all the difference in her medical terminology class.

Burt has a hard time processing what she reads. That makes memorizing and comprehending information difficult for her. Thanks to the WCC Learning Support Services office, Burt has access to ZoomText, one of the many adaptive tools available through LSS to students with any of a wide range of documented disabilities.

LSS obtained a digital version of Burt’s textbook from the publisher. Burt highlights the text on a computer screen and ZoomText reads it back to her. That way she can listen to and absorb what she hears instead of putting all of her energy into trying to process what she sees. Burt also uses ZoomText to access tests online through Blackboard. It has made a significant difference in mastering definitions, pronunciations, and applications in her medical terminology class. “Without it, I would have had to have someone read it to me and that can be extremely distracting,” said Burt.

Learning Support Comes in Many Forms

High-tech tools like ZoomText and the Echo Smartpen, which can capture audio lectures and transfer your written notes to a computer screen, serve as the great equalizers for people with reading challenges. They also are helpful for people who want to use them for taking notes.

Some of the assistive equipment can be very expensive. “That is why the adaptive technology available through the LSS office on campus is available free of charge to qualified students with disabilities,” said Debra Guerrero, LSS director. “Probably the greatest resource is our AT coordinator, who will give a demonstration and provide training in using the equipment.”

That coordinator, Debbie Welch, said the adaptive technologies that WCC students most commonly request are:

  • Audio textbooks
  • Screen readers
  • Tape recorders
  • Closed circuit television that enlarges print
  • FM listening systems for students with hearing impairments

But her office has a wide variety of other technology available as well, ranging from special keyboards to Braille textbooks to voice recognition software. Staff members also can teach students how to use adaptive tools that are built into many computers and software programs.

Money Available For Students With Disabilities

Some WCC students with disabilities may be eligible for scholarships and special funds:

  • The Burt Black Memorial Fund Scholarship helps students with physical and/or learning disabilities pay for tuition and books.
  • The John Lynch Scholarship and the Delta Gamma Fund provide assistance for students who have visual impairments.
  • The Washtenaw Learning Disabilities Association awards scholarships to graduating high school seniors in Washtenaw County.

More information about the scholarships is available on the Learning Support Services website or by contacting the office.

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