Many people with learning or certain physical disabilities have important ideas they would like to share. However, for various reasons, they face considerable challenges. Assistive technology exists to make tasks accessible to these individuals. Recently, our Assistive Technology Specialist Kristen Russell helped student Erin find the assistive technology tools that would be helpful for her; she was studying graphic design at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California and recently started her consulting practice. Erin was happy to share her insights about the tools she used and also talks about how she uses one of them in her freelance business as well. Erin found two programs particularly helpful:
- The Livescribe 3 Smartpen looks like an old-fashioned fountain pen. However, inside there is an infrared camera that records audio and written data and transmits that to a laptop or other computer. With the Livescribe 3 pen, Erin would simply turn it on and press RECORD. Erin wrote down key bits of information on major points on special paper. A day or two thereafter, Erin went back and listened to the recording to retrieve missed information.
- Dragon NaturallySpeaking is software that allows for quick spoken communication, enabling the user to compose and read email messages more than five times faster than by using a keyboard. Used by business people everywhere, NaturallySpeaking is particularly useful for individuals with dyslexia and ADHD.
These and other programs have helped many bright individuals beside Erin.
For Erin, taking notes in high school and college presented a challenge. Teachers wrote the main points on the board and then talked about all the little details. When the teachers talked, Erin would miss all the details, because she was trying to record the main points on the board. At other times, she was missing the primary information.
When writing, Erin has always struggled with structure and grammar. To compensate, Erin would quickly jot down what she wanted to say and rework it later. In college, Erin started with Dragon Naturally Speaking, whereby she to “talk through her paper” and get her thoughts down. Then the program would read everything back to her. This was most helpful, as when she was proofreading the document, she would believe a sentence to be correct when, in fact, it was not.
As a Freelancer Erin, Still Using Her Livescribe Pen
As Livescribe is a recording device, when Erin contacts a client, she discloses her need to document the conversation, as she may otherwise miss valuable information and asks requests their permission. After the meeting, when Erin is brainstorming, she is able to review the conversation and retrieve information she may have missed.
Without those assistive technology programs, says Erin, “I sincerely would not have been able to make it through college” With the right assistive technology, Erin succeed in college so she could succeed in life—with her own business, no less.