2009
Grant helps train future teachers to use assistive technology

Grant helps train future teachers to use assistive technology
October 28, 2009

Phil Brozynski, Media Relations Manager
(630) 829-6094
pbrozynski@ben.edu

Computers are easy to use and can improve many aspects of daily life – provided the user can see, hear and has no physical limitations. Donka, Inc., in Wheaton, Illinois, is a non-profit organization that provides no-cost computer training and job readiness services to persons with physical and visual disabilities. Through computers and assistive technology, Donka helps persons with disabilities become more self-sufficient and independent members of the community. However, while the assistive technology that can help students with disabilities is often available in local schools, teachers do not always know how to use the equipment. A grant from Tellabs that will allow Donka to teach the use of assistive technology to Benedictine University education majors is helping to change that. “This partnership meets a huge need for our students,” said MeShelda Jackson, Ph.D., chair of Benedictine’s School of Education. “All future teachers need to know how to use and teach the use of these devices, but extensive hardware and software required to use the assistive technology devices make providing the training independently cost prohibitive.” Benedictine students recently attended a computer accessibility seminar at Donka’s main lab in the DuPage Convalescent Center. They learned how accessibility options currently built into computers can make the computer easier to see, hear and use, and observed specialized assistive technology that aides students with visual, physical and learning disabilities. The grant will allow 48 Benedictine students to be trained each semester. Special education majors will attend additional classes at Donka for hands-on training with specific assistive technology software. Jackson said that due to inclusion in mainstream schools for students with a disabilities, all future teachers – not just special education majors – need to know how to use and teach the use of these devices. “Classroom teachers are frequently faced with meeting the needs of students who have temporary disabilities such as a broken arm,” Jackson said. “Skills learned through these sessions will equip future teachers to meet the needs of a diverse population of students.” Assistive technology includes voice-activated software that allows students with little mobility or visual impairments to open computer files, dictate text and move the mouse through voice commands. Screen magnification software can adjust the screen size and act as a screen reader to assist students who are visually impaired. Head mouse and eye gaze software empowers students with limited speech and mobility to independently control computer commands by simply moving their head or gazing at the computer screen. For more information about Benedictine’s education programs, please contact the Enrollment Center at (630) 829-6300 or e-mail admissions@ben.edu.

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Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 56 undergraduate majors, 16 graduate and four doctorate programs. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently ranked Benedictine University as the seventh fastest-growing campus among private nonprofit master’s universities, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among the top 20 percent of America’s colleges for 2011. Benedictine University’s Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain’s Chicago Business as the fourth largest in the Chicago area in 2011.