Changing times: Emerging technologies for students with disabilities in higher education

Fichten, Catherine S.; Martiniello, Natalina; Asuncion, Jennison; Coughlan, Tim and Havel, Alice (2023). Changing times: Emerging technologies for students with disabilities in higher education. In: Madaus, Joseph W. and Dukes III, Lyman L. eds. Handbook of Higher Education and Disability: International Perspectives. Edward Elgar, pp. 131–148.



In this chapter we explore a variety of topics related to emerging technologies in the post-secondary education of students with a range of disabilities. Much has changed in the past decade including: (1) the impact and evolution of the increasing accessibility of general use technologies, comprising built-in accessibility features and accessibility checkers and correctors in both desktop and mobile operating systems and apps; (2) the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in mainstream technologies, including AI-based captioning and translation into various languages; and (3) developments in braille and sign language technologies, virtual reality, voice-based web searches, wearable technologies, indoor navigation, and the potential of robots in science classrooms. We comment on the accessibility - or lack thereof - of virtual and augmented reality and highlight barriers to students with disabilities such as inaccessibility of science-based technologies, limited numbers of individuals with disabilities involved in training AI-based technologies, and the continuing high cost of some essential assistive technologies. We note the need to recruit individuals with disabilities to assist with the development of products from their inception, to test usability of products already in development, and to participate as researchers. We emphasize that developers need to assess their products’ continuing accessibility and to be attentive to user feedback. We also stress the need for colleges and universities to continue to engage their stakeholders, such as publishers of academic material, procurement officers, campus IT specialists, teaching and learning specialists, instructional designers, and librarians to ensure that accessibility standards are met throughout the institution. Finally, we note concerns related to the new technologies about privacy, ethics, and product safety.

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