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Tech Tools Help Students With Disabilities Thrive

May 18, 2016

Since it opened in 1931, the A. Harry Moore School has always been unique. Offering programs for students from ages three to twenty-one, the school supports over a hundred learners with physical, medical, and cognitive disabilities. But even after nearly a century, teachers and students at A. Harry Moore are finding that there are always new ways to innovate and grow. These days, the school is able to help students in ways it has never done before – and it’s all thanks to technology.

Jonn Villanueva is a 20-year-old student at A. Harry Moore whose muscular dystrophy has made it impossible for him to type. But Villanueva, an aspiring voice actor, has no trouble practicing his writing skills thanks to speech-recognition software that takes his words directly to the screen. His peers use specialized mousepads that are responsive to small movements, or eye-tracking software that helps nonverbal students communicate. According to tech coordinator Stephanie Talalai, it’s all about access. “There’s always some kind of tech tool incorporated because that’s how the students have access to the curriculum,” she says. “We use the technology so they can have the same experiences as typically developing children.”

Technology has given students at A. Harry Moore the ability to work independently from their teachers and support staff – something the school would not have been able to do a few years ago. Thanks to new digital tools, the school is helping learners of all ages develop confidence and practice important skills for the classroom and beyond. “We’ve moved beyond the disability,” says curriculum and instruction supervisor Courtney Pepe. “I watch those kids working and I don’t see a kid in a wheelchair anymore.”