CLOSING THE ADAPTIVE LABS: FROM ISOLATION TO INTEGRATION

P. King1, N. Soto2, K. Kirkland1

1Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (UNITED STATES)
2Harrison College (UNITED STATES)
Closing Adaptive Labs may appear to be crazy. This interactive panel of the practitioner, the university and the Community agencies will address how the Assitive Technology (AT) program at Urban University has grown from a small collection of basic assistive technology devices to a state of having nearly all computer labs on campus equipped with state-of-the-art AT systems available to students.

The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates that universities make their programs and services accessible to individuals with disabilities. Students routinely identify that access to library materials is important to success as a student and that access to assistive devices such as screen enlargement and reading systems are necessary devices to ensure that success. Many universities have repositories of adaptive equipment located in isolated locations and utilized by a small number of students (Loope, 1996). Additionally, many universities do not have established policies or procedures in place to effectively address the AT needs of students. The result is a situation in which individual student AT needs are met based on a student self-identifying, rather than a pro-active and comprehensive system (White, Wepner & Wetzel, 2003).

As universities continue to develop skills and techniques related to AT, a need to move AT from those isolated areas into the main stream technology offerings of the university is becoming more clear. Additionally, the need to build consensus among those university entities responsible for AT is critical to program success (Norris & Vasquez, 1998).

Having AT centralized and available only in dedicated labs creates a number of barriers to student access. These barriers include limited hours of access, limited number of available workstations, compatibility problems among competing AT applications, feelings of isolation due to the requirement of working in an isolated lab, and general lack of awareness and lack of ownership of the need for AT among other university entities.

As IUPUI continued to implement AT software in the AT lab and within other university departments, a poorly organized collection of single-user licenses manifested. This resulted in excess spending and a lack of coordination of licensing management. As the university has developed a more coordinated and university-wide deployment of AT, a more organized approach to software licensing has been developed. This has resulted in an overall cost savings and an improved ability to forecast student AT needs in response to increased populations of students with disabilities.

Although there is an increasing number of AT software solutions to meet the needs of students with disabilities, there continues to be a pervasive need for AT hardware solutions. Examples typically fall within the area of keyboard alternatives, pointing device alternatives and devices to augmenting audio or visual computer output.

At present, students may utilize AT hardware devices from a collection of hardware devices that can be loaned for temporary use.
Additionally, the university continues to develop strategies for making these hardware devices available in public labs while addressing the issues of theft and the high-incidence of repair related to these somewhat fragile devices.