Tomorrow Is Too Long to Wait for Inclusion

7 Ways to Use a Sequential Message Device in the Inclusive Classroom

sequential message device; a classroom with students' belonging strewn about on desks, it looks like the students have been active all day

Have you ever wondered how to use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices in the classroom? Here are seven quick and easy ways to use a sequential message device in an inclusive environment:


Every morning across America, children are reciting the Pledge of Allegiance! This is one of the easiest ways to include our students; you can setup the device to recite the whole thing or sequence the pledge so that your student has to hit the switch at certain points in the pledge. They can lead the class in the pledge or simply participate during morning announcements.


This one is too simple. There are probably a million reasons to count in a general education classroom during the day (i.e. lunch count, attendance, calendar days, the number of people/objects on a graph, skip counting, able to). Programming your student’s AAC device to count in sequence will be useful all day long no matter what subject or content area.

Giving Directions

Even if you can speak, sometimes prerecording something for them to say helps the class understand them the first time (especially if intelligibility is an issue). The student can be the teacher’s helper and ask the class to turn their papers in, take out a particular textbook, or clean up before going to lunch. This idea can be modified on the fly and does not need tons of planning to accomplish.

Vocabulary Words

This can work in any grade level. By recording vocabulary words to the pertinent lesson, your student will either be able to interject during classroom discussions or answer questions. The best thing to do is touch base with the general education teacher and find out what specific words will be used. This way your student will be ready to hit the switch at the appropriate time.


There are lots of opportunities to read in class. This could be a passage from a book or worksheet as well as instructions for an activity. In primary grades…the student could read an entire picture book to the class. Perhaps you can work with the classroom teacher to create a job that your student could perform related to reading something every day. The point of using AAC devices in the classroom is to give access where it would be difficult otherwise. Using a sequential device makes reading or programming longer passages much easier.


Self-determination is always a good thing and giving our students choices is part of that. But…sometimes we want a random response. For example, choosing a number between 1 and 10, or picking nouns for a “mad libs” activity. In this case…some sequential devices also have a randomizer. I have found this comes in handy whenever I need a novel response quickly. The Big Talk Triple Play switches are the absolute best when it comes to this.

Social Interactions

This is probably the most obvious suggestion of the whole group, but sometimes it is easily overlooked. There are a couple of scenarios where programming social interactions are ideal. Try recording positive messages for outside play. I have had switches programmed with phrases like “this is fun,” and “go, team,” when I know there is a structured event with the class (like a kickball game). Another idea is to program simple conversations where your student can ask a peer a question and then comment on their answer. Something like, “what is your favorite TV show?” where the student would reply, “I like Sponge Bob Squarepants!” There are lots of ways you can go with this.

Not Just for Special Education Classrooms

The point of these suggestions is to get you thinking that AAC devices should not only be used in a sterile, self-contained environment or small group lesson. There are plenty of opportunities to use this technology within inclusive settings. For more ideas, check out 101+ Ideas For Using the BIG Step-by-Step™ and Other Single Message Communication Devices or Other Sequential Message Device to Access Curriculum

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Photo Credit: Allison Meier/Flickr

Mix Applesauce with Medicine to Create Inclusive Classroom Communities

jars of homemade applesauce

By Alex Dunn

Inclusion is not a place, but rather a philosophy that all students deserve to experience successful academic and social participation side-by-side with peers. 

What does successful inclusion look like?  Recently Nicole Eredics on her Inclusive Class Blog asked this question and found this wonderful visual from The Parent Leadership Support Group of Georgia, which was posted on their Facebook page, as a response.

From our four year Smart Inclusion research project, I would like to propose some small changes to this great image in order to recognize that in order to create inclusive classroom communities, we need to acknowledge that no two students are alike and that changes need to be made to existing learning environments to reach and teach every student; “barriers to learning are not, in fact, inherent in the capacities of learners, but instead arise in learners’ interactions with inflexible educational materials and methods.  (CAST Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning, Preface p. iv).

For those like me in the trenches, in schools every day, it is important to ask the question: How can we make a difference to the students and educators we serve and really achieve inclusive classroom communities?  A recent Twitter exchange with Jeannette Van Houten (@jvanhoutensped) and Tim Villegas (@think_inclusive) made me reflect on what we tried to do in our schools at Upper Canada District School Board in Ontario Canada over the past four years.

Educators told us that in order to achieve inclusive classroom communities they, with their students, needed to become proficient across three continuums – inclusion, curriculum, and technology.  In a way, I equate the integration of all three continuums to applesauce and medicine.  Although the technology (e.g., iPads, SMART Technology, Nintendo, Laptops etc) and other classroom manipulatives (e.g., Lego, Wikki Stix etc)  have been the all-important applesauce, I think all those involved with Smart Inclusion research would agree the key to the success for both educators and students has been the way the applesauce of technology has been combined with the medicine of bringing research-based pedagogy (e.g., Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Differentiated Instruction (DI), Aided Language Stimulation, Student, Environments, Tasks, and Tools (SETT) and Participation Models) into practice.  In short, educators cast a UDL net attempting to catch all students but sometimes, despite our best efforts, some students fall through the net and sit on the outside of education looking in which is completely unacceptable.  Pat Mirenda and David Beukleman’s Participation Model (PM) (really Differentiated Instruction with a twist) has provided us a way of catching all students that fall through the net.  As Jeannette Van Houten suggests “failure is a way to move to success”.  The Activity Standards Inventory (ASI), from the PM does just that.  Here is a link to a case study of one of our Smart Inclusion students and how we applied the Participation Model to help identify barriers to participation and subsequent intervention, including the use of technology.

A special thank you to the staff, students and parents at UCDSB for giving their nights and weekends and for sharing their work and that of their children, so that children worldwide can experience the same successful academic and social participation.  This groundbreaking research we have undertaken has been replicated in other school Districts in Ontario and Alberta, Canada.  Many other Districts, educators, parents, and students, worldwide have joined us on our journey to ensure that ALL really means ALL and that we are truly welcoming everyone, all the time, everywhere” (Pat Mirenda).

Photo Credit: Andrew Seaman/Flickr

Alex DunnAs Speech-Language Pathologist at the Upper Canada District School Board and president of Inclusioneers, Alex Dunn has presented across the USA, Canada, Germany, England, Spain, exploring technology (SMART Technology, iDevices, Assistive Technology) and theory as part of Universal Design for Learning Toolkit to ensure ALL students, achieve the goal of meaningful educational, social participation.  Recently Alex Dunn was named SMART Exemplary Educator of the Year for Canada for 2012 and appointed as an Officer for Special Education Technology Special Interest Group for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).  You can find her on Twitter @SmartInclusion or visit the Smart Inclusion Wikispaces Page

6 Accessibility Tools That Help Make the Web Accessible for Everyone

image of a man's hands typing on a laptop keyboard

The internet plays a huge role in keeping the entire world connected and has also revolutionized the ways in each we work, play, socialize and do business. Internet access is now so important that the United Nations has sponsored conferences which aim to reduce the digital divide between countries and to remind the global community of the need to uphold human rights, even in the digital world.

Some of the world’s biggest tech companies, Microsoft and Google included, are now developing technology and tools that can boost inclusiveness and enable people with disabilities to utilize all that the internet offers productively and comfortably, so they can benefit from the web in all the ways other users do.

Here is a list of six tools and applications that can enhance your time online.

Google accessibility

Google is one of the leading companies championing accessibility enhancement. The company is committed to placing accessibility at the forefront when developing products, even at the earliest stages of design. Here are some of the tools Google puts on the web free for everyone to use.

Chrome Browser

Screen Reader: Chrome’s TalkBack function enables users to receive spoken feedback when browsing pages in Chrome. TalkBack’s navigation settings are designed to be easy to use and require minimal typing, relying on swiping to make and save changes.

Chrome Accessibility Extensions: There is a huge variety of free Chrome extensions designed to enhance accessibility. Users can browse the full range at the Chrome Web Store, and then install their desired applications on their browsers. Some notable free extensions include Readability, which makes web articles more readable by getting rid of desktop clutter, Virtual Keyboard, which makes typing on touch screen devices easier, and Night Mode Eye Guard, which helps protect users’ eyesight.


Inbox by Gmail Accessibility: Inbox by Gmail is designed to be compatible across as wide a range of devices as possible. Android devices enjoy all of Android’s accessibility features, such as screen magnification and the TalkBack, screen reader. iPad and iPhone users can also use the VoiceOver screen reader with Inbox by Gmail.

Gmail buttons as text, not icons: While Gmail’s icons make navigating the email application easy for some, there is the option to change the button labels to text instead of letting them remain on the screen as icons, which can aid those using TalkBack or whose devices display text better.

Google Search

“Ok Google”: Navigating Google search by voice is possible thanks to the “Ok Google” voice search function. The voice search function can be customized according to users’ language or country. The “Ok Google” method of formulating commands enables users to make queries in a simple, straightforward way. For instance, an inquiry about the weather could be formulated in the following manner: “Ok Google, is it going to rain today?”


YouTube Captions: Foreign language enthusiasts would already have noted the presence of YouTube’s Captions function. Users who upload videos can now add captions to them, and they can be turned on and off at will or swapped for captions in a different language. Also, YouTube automatically provides captions for certain videos. Captions in multiple languages can be added by users. Viewers then select their preferred language from a drop-down menu.

The Internet is one of the most powerful forces driving the modern world, but it is, unfortunately, true that accessibility remains limited for a great many people. Fortunately, efforts to provide a rich and productive online experience for all, including those with disabilities, have been heartening.

At seoWorks, we believe that every SEO Company should do their part to make the web accessible for everyone. We recently published an article on “How Web Accessibility Best Practices Can Improve Website SEO” aiming to help webmasters make their websites accessible and SEO optimized.

We hope that these tools will make the internet more pleasurable and productive.

Photo Credit: Flickr/Ministerio TIC Colombia

The Best Mobile Apps for Sensory Impairments

This helpful infographic provides information about some of the best mobile apps for people with sensory impairments. Many of them can be especially helpful in classroom settings.

Best Mobile Apps for Sensory Impairments Infographic

Best Mobile Apps for Sensory Impairment

What is Sensory Impairment?

  • Sensory impairment or disability, is when one of your senses – sight, hearing, smell, touch or taste, is no longer functioning normally.
  • A person does not have to have full loss of a sense to be sensory impaired.
  • 95% of the information about the world around us comes from our vision and our hearing.

Vision Impairment vs. Hearing Impairment

285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide. 360 million people have moderate to profound hearing loss.
39 million people are completely blind. The current production of hearing aids meets less than 10% of global need.
More than 4 in 5 people living with blindness are aged 50 +. Approximately 1 in 3 people aged 65 + are affected by disabling hearing loss.

Mobile Apps for Vision Impairment

App Tap Tap See
What It Does
  • Uses the devices camera and VoiceOver functions to photograph objects and identify them out loud for the user.
  • Double tapping the screen enables the user to photograph any 2D or 3D object at any angle and define the object within seconds.
  • The devices VoiceOver function audibly identifies the object to the user.
  • Includes the ability to repeat the last images identification and to save the image to the camera roll with the attached tag.
  • Allows the upload of identified images from the camera roll and can share identification via Twitter, Facebook, text or email.
  • iOS and Android.
  • New users are provided with 100 trial pictures to start.
  • 4 subscription plans available starting from $4.99 +.


App Be My Eyes
What It Does
  • It connects blind people with volunteer helpers globally via live video chat.
  • A blind person requests assistance via the app.
  • The volunteer receives a notification for help and a live video connection is established.
  • Utilises the iPhone VoiceOver technology which enables synthetic speech and a touch-based interface.
  • At the end of each session there is a ‘rate it’ or ‘report misuse’ option both for the helper and the user.
  • iOS, and an Android version is in production.
  • Free, but a subscription may be put in place from September 2015.


App Color ID
What It Does
  • The camera on an iPhone or iPod touch speaks the names of colours in real-time.
  • ‘Augmented Reality’ technology app to discover the names of colours around you.
  • A toggle button at the top left corner enables the user to move from simple colours to exotic colours.
  • iOS.
  • Free.

 Best of the Rest

  1. Adriadne GPS
  2. Voice Brief
  3. Talking Calculator

 Mobile Apps for Hearing Impairment

App ASL Dictionary
What It Does
  • Video instruction of over 5,000 + words signed by a professional ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter.
  • It offers deaf and hard of hearing people a portable and convenient way of learning and using sign language in their daily lives.
  • A searchable dictionary divided into 7 categories each with its own list of alphabetical entries.
  • An onscreen keyboard allows users to search words and numbers.
  • A video comes with each video demonstrating a word, phrase, number, or symbol.
  • Teaches users how to translate common English phrases into ASL.
  • Includes 765 multiple meaning words, 473 idioms and the ASL numerical system to represent money, time, dates and years.
  • iOS, Android, Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook and Windows Mobile.
  • Ranging for $4.99 to $7.99, platform dependent.


App Tap Tap
What It Does
  • Helps deaf and hearing impaired people respond to their audio environment.
  • When it detects noise, the app will vibrate and flash to alert the user.
  • Adjusts sensitivity for noisier environments.
  • iOS.
  • $2.99 to download.


App Netflix
What It Does
  • Plays unlimited movies and TV shows.
  • 80% of the movies and TV shows it offers have closed caption subtitles for those deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Closed caption subtitles mean that the subtitles spell out the dialogue and the sound, for example to alert the viewer that a song is playing or a door is shutting.
  • iOS, Android and Windows.
  • The app is free once signed up to a paid monthly subscription service from $8.99.
  • Has a 1 month free trial option.

Best of the Rest 

  1. LouderTV
  2. Play It Down
  3. Dragon Dictation


Thank you to Home Healthcare Adaptations for this resource.

8 Examples of Assistive Technology in the Classroom

8 Examples of Assistive Technology in the Classroom

By Amy Williams

Over the past few years, there has been a push to ensure that every student is able to participate equally in the classroom. The past assumptions that special education must be a separate entity from general education is fading. It is giving way to filling the desks with a rich and diverse student landscape.

Researchers have looked extensively at the outcomes of education for students who have disabilities. They examined their placements and concluded that the children’s classroom setting or placement didn’t impact success. It’s actually the quality of instruction that enabled children to reach their achievements.

Inclusion in the Classroom

Shutterstock1Studies suggest inclusion is the most effective solution to create well-rounded individuals and learning environments. This practice ensures all children are developing social skills and sound fundamentals at the same times.

Inclusion goes beyond the simple “mainstreaming” illusion. Attempting to mainstream students with special needs is done with the best intentions, but often this occurs only when there is no instruction. This unintentionally creates a type of segregation that places students with their peers only on a part time basis for “specials” like art or music.

The teacher has a monumental job in front of him or her. Luckily there are a variety of assistive technologies available to supplement lessons so all students are learning and engaged. These devices promote independence for people with disabilities as they adapt and interact in their environment.

8 Types of Assistive Technology to Utilize Today

In the past, assistive technology was expensive, cumbersome, and difficult to locate. These units were bulky and lacked easy mobility which stifled a child’s peer interaction. Today, technology advancements are easing the job of individualizing lessons and locating materials to create a scholarly environment for all students.

Here are 8 forms of assistive technology to use in your classroom today:

Apps for tablets. Combine iPads with communication apps to allow students a variety of ways to convey their ideas with a tap of the screen. The lightweight and portability of iPads make this easy to use.

Encourage positive behavior and parental participation with computer programs. Class Dojo is a great example of what is available for educators. This program allows students to receive real-time feedback on behavior and class participation. It is also a great way to communicate with parents.

Look for co-writer word programs that are similar to autocorrect. This allows children to write and express their ideas on the computer without worrying about spelling. There are also apps for dysgraphia that allow students to snap an image of their paper and type in the answers to avoid falling behind in class.

Use hearing aid compatible headsets to allow children with hearing impairments or aids to hear audio better. These simply fit over a hearing aid and work just like headphones.

Smartpens can streamline the writing process. These writing utensils have the ability to record lectures or spoken words as you write, which allows the author to focus on writing or listening. Later, they trace the words on the paper to hear the recording.

“Slide boards” or custom made supports for keyboards or tablets. These wood or plastic frames steady hands while typing or engaging on a screen without limiting the device.

Velcro tabs or small stuffed animals. Look for small handheld manipulatives that provide stimulation to help calm restless children or increase focus during lectures or quiet times. These are examples of low-tech assistive technology.

Monitoring software for Smartphones and Internet use. This is a good recommendation for parents of children with special needs who are using the Internet on a regular basis. These programs allow parents to view a child’s texts and online activity to make sure they are not being targeted by cyberbullies or predators.

Encouraging All Students

Shutterstock2The philosophy of inclusion promotes a sense of community. Children learn valuable social skills like empathy, problem solving, communication, taking turns, teamwork and more!

Individualized instruction for all learners allows them to master or review concepts at their own pace. Pupils are able to rewind clips, pause videos, or rework problems to develop a greater understanding of the lesson.

Surprisingly, educators have noticed that inclusion has benefitted the entire student population—not just the ones who have an IEP. This process, aided with assistive technology, possesses the power to create meaningful experiences that are superior to one size fits all worksheets and direct lesson plans.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Do you have any assistive technology examples that you would like to add? Tell us about it in the comments section below!
Author_Amy WilliamsAmy Williams is a journalist based in Southern California. As a mother of two, she has learned a lot of things the hard way, and hopes to use her experience as a parent to help other parents raise their children to be the best that they can be.

Assistive Technology Increasing Inclusion in Classrooms and Beyond


Creating inclusive environments involves problem solving, something Sonora High School special education teacher Rob Mayben knows quite well. Mayben invented the Desktop Desk, an assistive technology (AT) device that enables better access for students with disabilities in classrooms and other environments. Recently Think Inclusive caught up with Mayben to learn more about his invention, including a special back to school sale which could help land you the AT device at a discounted price.

Origins Behind the Desktop Desk

One student’s needs initiated what eventually became the Desktop Desk. In 2008 Rob Mayben found himself with a student named Neil. Due to his cerebral palsy Neil uses a wheelchair. The way Neil’s wheelchair and the classroom’s surfaces configured limited the learner’s ability to participate in class. Mayben began brainstorming ways to change that. The video below featuring Neil captures the final product.

During the invention process Mayben realized the Desktop Desk possessed potential to help more students than just Neil, something we discussed in a previous interview. Explaining how his invention increases inclusion Mayben said, “Instead of a student being in their chair away from everybody else it hooks up to any table and now they’re right next to everybody.”

Desktop Desk Increases Computer AccessMayben also pointed out the Desktop Desk can benefit more students than those with physical disabilities. “We’ll use them for kids who just need to focus a little bit better. Sometimes we have autistic kids that they have a lot of stuff that distracts them so we set it up for them.”

Great for Outside the Classroom Too

Over the last half decade The Desktop Desk proved a great catalyst for inclusion outside the classroom too. “Whether it be for a laptop or at a table for a meal, it’s been making a huge difference” remarked Mayben. The picture to the right shows how the Desktop Desk can assist with computer access. Meanwhile the following parent made testimonial video demonstrates the Desktop Desk’s versatility as both a writing surface and eating surface.

Back to School Special

Driven to get the Desktop Desk to those who could benefit from the assistive technology Rob Mayben remains amidst a special back to school sale. Now until the end of September 2014 you can purchase the Desktop Desk for $199 by visiting Regularly the Desktop Desk sells for $374.99. Said Mayben, “I’ve never done it this much before but the goal is to get as many of these out as possible to help folks.”

He added, “It’s just me so I’m going to be up late at night getting this stuff processed, packaged, and in the mail. So it’s probably going to be a busy month for me but that’s cool. I’m excited.” With each Desktop Desk Mayben will throw in a Desktop Desk carrying bag (normally $49) at no cost besides shipping and handling.

In the past community groups like rotary/service clubs partnered with Mayben to sponsor Desktop Desks for local schools and adult centers. Mayben invites any interested parties to contact him about taking advantage of the sale to do something similar.

“If there is a rotary group or just a service club or a business that wants to sponsor a district, that’s even better. They can actually contact me and I’ll work with them and whatever the school districts are in their area. If they need help finding them, I’ll find a place to put it (the Desktop Desks) to benefit kids. “

Contact Mayben via email ( or phone (209-768-9242). He teaches full-time at Sonora High School but promises to return any messages received during the workday.

Photo Credit: kev-shine/Flickr

These 7 Assistive Technology Users Will Leave Your Mind Blown!

These 7 Assistive Technology Users Will Leave Your Mind Blown!.pngThe Family Center on Technology and Disability has done a tremendous job producing seven videos that highlight assistive technology users. While their disabilities range in scope and severity, each one displays how with the right supports any child can succeed in their education.

Meet Sam

The Family Center on Technology and Disability (FCTD) and PACER Center are pleased to announce the release of our new assistive technology awareness series, AT in Action. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), this fully-captioned video series is designed to strengthen awareness of AT devices that help individuals with disabilities participate fully in school, at home, and in the community. In this first video, you’ll meet Sam, a young man with cerebral palsy who, with the help of AT, is a successful college student, blogger, and sportsman. We invite you to view and share this video with your colleagues and the families you serve.

Meet Elle

In this video, you’ll meet Elle, a young woman with cerebral palsy who, with the help of AT, is able to communicate with family, friends, and teachers.

Meet Mason

In this video, you’ll meet Mason, a young boy with vision loss who, with the help of AT, is able to learn reading and writing in the same classroom as his sighted peers.

Meet Jared

In this fourth video, you’ll meet Jared, a young man with cerebral palsy who, controls his computer using a sip and puff switch. That computer access allows Jared to run a business creating dynamic graphics and websites.

Meet Nick

In the FCTD’s newest AT in Action video, you’ll meet Nick, a young entrepreneur who owns his own lawn-care business. Nick uses assistive technologies, both low and high tech, that aid him in driving and accessing his laptop computer and tablet.

Meet Jean

Meet Jean! In our newest AT in Action video, you’ll meet Jean, an engaging 6th grader who uses assistive technology to support learning and having fun with friends and family. Jean’s mother and 6th grade teacher, Jacob Westman, provide interesting insights into Jean’s technology use.

 Meet Brody

Meet Brody, a bright young sixth grader who uses assistive technology to help him write and participate in class. In this video we also hear from Brody’s teacher JoAnn Olsen as well as from Annette Ceretta, the AT Specialist for Brody’s school.

How awesome were these videos?! Please take some time to share them with your family, friends and colleagues. The more people know how AT can enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities the better!

7 Assistive Tech Users Ready For Them To Be In Your Classroom

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