I really want to encourage you to try to attend,
because your initial responses below are certain to raise follow-up questions.
Our impression is that little has changed
in the past five to ten years. As you indicated, people are still looking
to one program to do everything. They don’t really understand that’s
not even practical, because it involves four or five quite distinct computer disciplines.
For a comparison, Xpress It is totally unaware of where its input is coming from.
It can be a keyboard or a virtual one, that means all of those alternative
input devices you mention should work with Xpress It. People in the rehab field
tend to have a simplified view of computer software because the enormous complexity
of how the various levels involved is hidden as it should be. Getting input
from the user is something best left to hardware and the operating system (in
our case, Windows). Attempts by untrained developers to insert software at that
level make that computer unstable and potentially useless for other tasks. The effect
is much like expecting a GP to perform neurosurgery. Input is definitely quite
closely linked to the computer’s nervous system analog. Fortunately,
Windows XP has several interface points specifically exposed to help correctly
integrate specialized devices like the eye readers you refer to. However, the
software specifically required to connect such devices to the operating system
needs to be written by professionals trained to write device drivers. Our contention
is that input devices should never be
sold as part of an overall ACS solution.
The above is very closely related to a
second problem. According to the regional director in charge of ACS solutions
for the Texas Rehabilitation Commission, disabled clients rarely transition away
from the first ACS they receive. You can imagine the serious implications this
fact can have on limiting a child’s future. It’s highly unlikely
that I would be as articulate as I am if icon-based ACS were available as I grew
Sent: Saturday, July 09, 2005
To: Scott Royall
Subject: Re: Meeting
I am not sure if I will be able to attend. You
might want to know that there is only one Director of Special Education in the
Alief District. This is the same in most districts. Each school has
Special Education personnel, but they are not decision makers, though they can
review materials and make recommendations to their supervisors. Of
course your assistive technology people would recognize the benefits of
your software and be able to decipher its advantages over programs they
might be using. So, knowing the advantages of your program and
highlighting them in your brochure would be important. It seems you might
want to study the programs that are available and see what they do.
Perhaps you already have.
I am not sure what software is on the market at this
time. I have been out of the loop for about five years. Younger
children do not have the keyboarding and spelling skills to use your more
sophisticated program. Their programs are usually built around
pictures and key words and phrases.
I don’t know if you have looked into what is available
through the special education software companies. As you can guess the
industry changes quickly with available technology. At one time there was
talk of a program that used visual glances rather than pressing keys.
You can find the names of all the directors in surrounding
districts on the web. You might want to contact TEA, Texas Education
Agency, Harris County Department of Education and all twenty Education Service
Centers in the state.