The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Assistant Technology offers solutions

Over the years, CSUN has become nationally known for its ground-breaking programs and technology meant to aid people with disabilities. Through Assistant Technology (AT), disabled students can now enjoy specialized software to accommodate their needs.

These programs are used as technological solutions for disabled students and are an excellent service to them, according to Patrice Wheeler, Assistive Technology Specialist.

‘It has a sort of universal appeal,’ Wheeler said. ‘That’s the great thing about these programs. They’re easy to use.’

Wheeler displayed five AT software programs – JAWS, Inspiration, Dragon Naturally Speaking, ZoomText and Kurzweil 3000 – each having a different, useful function.

JAWS is a screen-reading software used by students who are blind or who have impared vision that allows for keyboard only commands and a mouse isn’t needed. It reads text in computer programs and accessible Web sites, and helps students navigate the program through audio response. Students who use JAWS usually need’ headphones that will enable them to hear the screen reader. This software could help the visually impaired type papers or fill out forms.

The software called Inspiration is a learning tool that does what Wheeler calls ‘mind-mapping.’ This interesting program could help students organize, plan, and complete research by formatting their information into a diagram or outlined form.

Wheeler then demonstrated Kurzweil 3000, a software program that scanned text and then converted it to speech. This software is specifically designed to help students with 0disabilities that affect their reading and/or writing. It not only reads text on accessible websites and highlights them, but it has an auditory dictionary and spell check. Wheeler showed that the software could read scanned material on top of being customizable.

‘It recognizes the text,’ she said. ‘It does so many things.’

Kurzweil is quite popular among disabled and non-disabled students in terms of usage. Guadalupe Covarrabias a English major who’s legally blind uses the technology software to help her with her studies.

‘I love Kurzweil,’ Covarrabias said. ‘Having the Kurzweil where I can do my annotations is really helpful.’

ZoomText, enlargement software, was the next to be displayed. This is yet another tool that legally blind or low-vision students can utilize. It enlarges the entire computer screen no matter the program being used and can be magnified from 2X and beyond.

Like JAWS, ZoomText too can read text, but it allows mouse usage to toggle screen size.
The Dragon Naturally Speaking program does the exact opposite of JAWS. Its voice’-to-text software allows students with physical limitations to use a computer without using a keyboard or mouse. Students can issue out commands to navigate through programs and applications. It also types verbatim whatever the user says, making it a valuable tool for note taking.

All of these programs, except for Inspiration, are available on select computers located throughout campus. A few computers in Jerome Richfield and in Manzanita Hall carry the software, but the Oviatt Library has equipped 4 assistive technology rooms designed to assist students with disabilities.

ELP major, Deyannia Shipp-Mutoya, is thankful for the library’s assistive technology rooms that she visits several times a week.

‘It gives a sense of privacy and it enhances my skill in learning,’ Shipp-Mutoya said. ‘[It’s] very useful. I come a long way to use the facilities and program.’

Shipp-Mutoya has been using Kurzweil program for more than three years. ‘Kurzweil is the best,’ she said.

The Center on Disabilities is working with Information Technology to place the software on more computers, according to Wheeler.

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