Note:  This research was supported in part by the U.S. Department of Education grant number H180E20014. The content and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position of the U.S. Department of Education, and no official endorsement should be inferred.
Abstract: For students with severe disabilities, inclusion in the regular education classroom requires much more than physical accommodation. Curricular accommodation is needed to provide meaningful roles in group activities and an engaging and meaningful set of learning experiences. Communication enhancements, where needed, are crucial to participation by students with severe communication disorders. Technological advances that empower the average citizen are also available to enhance the educational experience of every student with special needs. Technology use in the classroom, however, can be a complex and disruptive innovation for many teachers. The use of technology that enables teachers to individualize instruction for students with disabilities, to enhance their ability to communicate, and to participate more fully in classroom activities is accompanied by barriers to easy and practical everyday use (Mason, Tanaka, and Lian, 1987; Parker, et al., 1990). Furthermore, for students with severe disabilities who may depend heavily upon the reliability and availability of the technologies they use, any disruption of equipment use may result in a serious disruption of their instructional program. This study of 28 teachers of students with severe disabilities identified student use of technology in the classroom and barriers to effective use. Among the barriers identified were the lack of a reliable source of power, the lack of mobility of technologies, the cost of and access to the technology, the difficulty of maintaining systems in good repair, and the lack of curricular outcomes that consistently include the use of technology. The authors suggest some procedures for minimizing or overcoming barriers to technology use for students with severe disabilities.
Keywords: Technology, inclusion, severe disabilities, barriers, computer