Saturday, February 20, 2010

Public Schools Need to Step Up Their Game!

It has recently been brought to my attention that despite considerable progress toward integration of disabled students, many public schools still have physical barriers that prevents students with disabilities from reaching their full potential. I found it quite interesting that there is a lack of data regarding the accessibility for disabled students in public schools in the United States. A survey conducted in 1989 found however, that one-fifth of parents with children in special education programs and one-fifth of public school educators rated access to their schools' physical facilities as being either "fair" or "poor." In 1995 the American Disabilities Association conducted a survey that found that a majority of school districts needed to improve access and that in some large districts most school buildings were inaccessible. The greatest problems appear to occur in central-city school districts that have fewer resources. On the other hand, wealthier suburban school districts have over the years made more progress toward accessibility but there is still much work that still remains to be done in order to achieve our goals of providing access to public education for all American students, those with and without disabilities.

Although much work still needs to be done to make schools more accessible in terms of architectural design, many public schools (especially rural schools) have integrated assistive technology into their special education programs. Assistive technology has to quite an extent leveled the playing field between students with disabilities and those without because the technology helps students with disabilities to improve, expand, and extend their capacity to interact with their environment and to function independently.

New developments have mostly been made in various computer technologies, which have expanded the potential for students with disabilities to improve upon their interactions, independence, and quality of life. Using these technologies in schools to quite an extent reduces the need for an altered curriculum or different teaching methods for some students. In some cases with students who have severe disabilities, assistive technology allows these students to participate more in mainstream schooling and allows them to also interact with their classmates and teachers in a way that would have otherwise been impossible. I feel the greatest benefit is that assistive technology in public schools increases the potential for students with disabilities to learn how to live independently, to engage in employment and to enjoy an improved quality of life.

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