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Chapter 13. Enhancing Accessibility thro... > A Real-World Example: The ATSTAR Pro...

A Real-World Example: The ATSTAR Project

In October 2000, the Austin Independent School District (AISD) was awarded a grant from the Texas Education Agency to develop a multimedia, Web-based, teacher-training curriculum to help classroom teachers and other campus-level educators learn about assistive technology (AT). The project was called Assistive Technology Strategies, Tools, Accommodations and Resources (ATSTAR) and was envisioned as a way to bring into the classroom the expertise needed to identify appropriate AT devices. Jan McSorley, the technology facilitator at Bedichek Middle School who designed the project, wanted to provide a practical solution to the challenges that teachers faced in trying to navigate the myriad AT devices available. She understood that, despite the fact that federal law requires schools to provide appropriate AT, it is impossible for classroom teachers to prescribe solutions of which they are entirely unaware. (For more about federal mandates for students with disabilities, see Chapter 3.) AISD, like the great majority of school districts in the United States, relies on a small cadre of AT specialists. In this district, where more than 12,000 children are eligible for AT assistance, there are only three AT specialists to assess and meet their needs. You don’t have to do much math to realize that these numbers don’t add up to reasonable accommodation.

McSorley and codirector Carye Abete designed ATSTAR to be a team-based, interactive learning experience through which teachers could first learn the process of making successful accommodation assessments and then work their way to finding the right AT solution for each individual student. They built a powerful coalition of national AT experts, students, parents, local educators, software developers, and disability advocates to develop a learning system that has the potential to change the way students with disabilities throughout the country receive services. Central to this mission is the development of the curriculum delivery mechanism. Videotaped scenarios illustrate a series of learning modules and lessons.


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