Technology aids disabled ‘middle college’ students

Technology is helping high school students with learning disabilities take college courses, writes Michael Yudin,acting assistant secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education.

In the heart of Silicon Valley, the Santa Clara Unified School District and Mission College have created Mission Middle College to enable students to earn college credit while still in high school. High expectations  and e-literacy services build students’ confidence, said program coordinator Jennifer Lang-Jolliff. All students develop a postsecondary plan that includes attending community college or a university.

Students with visual impairments, physical disabilities and severe learning disabilities are helped to find the right assistive technology, computer software application or device to help them achieve academically. Students with reading problems can use Bookshare, a free and federally funded online library developed by Benetech, a Palo Alto company.

Bookshare provides timely access to curriculum in digital formats and offers a large collection of eBooks (currently over 190,000 books and growing) as well as reading technologies to enable students to experience multimodal learning—the ability to see and hear text read aloud.

Kate Finnerty, a high school senior with dyslexia, uses Bookshare to keep up with reading and research. She plans to study graphic design in college.