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New Adaptive Technology Specialist Welcomed at the O.D.A.

By Dr. Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner, Student Computing Services Manager

Kristina Clark began work at the University of North Texas as the Adaptive Technology Specialist and Testing Coordinator for the Office of Disability Accommodation in November. Clark comes to her UNT job after serving four years as testing coordinator at the University of Texas at Arlington. At UTA, her primary duties were the proctoring, scheduling, and handling of exams for students who needed accommodations due to a disability. These disabilities create problems in classroom testing arrangements and require specialized skills and adjustments to solve.

Examples of the accommodations Clark implemented and managed at UTA included: a quiet, distraction free, testing area for students who have ADD/ADHD; conversion of tests, textbooks, and other written materials for students who are blind; and use of text to speech software allowing students who cannot use a keyboard to enter data. She also maintained various adaptive hardware and software technologies used to accommodate students with disabilities.

Mission at UNT

Clark's mission at UNT is to use her knowledge and experience to first ensure that O.D.A. testing accommodations continue to be delivered in the most effective and secure manner possible. Once this is accomplished, she will use her technology skills to implement wide scale production of text books and materials in digital format. The digital texts (or e-texts) offer tremendous benefits to UNT's students with disabilities, especially for those who are completely blind. Digital texts allow them to customize the reading experience to their tastes, using their own computer and adaptive software instead of being forced to listen to one human reader. Additionally, e-texts are much more flexible for students; by simply using a lap top they can jump to any portion of the text. Traditionally, such students had to use cumbersome tape recorders, which they could navigate only by using the fast forward and rewind buttons.

There may very well be students who are not familiar with these types of technologies. Ms. Clark plans to eventually be able to offer training to these students. Students who master adaptive technologies are greatly enhancing their independence and their chances of success both at UNT and in the workplace. In fact several UNT graduates with disabilities now serve as sales representatives and technical support for some of the largest adaptive technology companies in the country.

Ms. Clark will endeavor to ensure that UNT stays on the cutting edge of technology, and that our students actually understand how to use these tools. The number one reason people with disabilities do not use adaptive technology is because they can't find anyone to spend time offering them one on one training. Few people have the skills to share this knowledge, and relate the benefits to the students while encouraging them not to give up. There is a wealth of resources and funding available to actually get technology into the hands of our students but there are very few people like Ms. Clark who can actually teach students how to use it. With these skills, Ms. Clark will provide a unique and invaluable service to UNT students.

The Adaptive Technology Lab Connection

Much of the work that Clark will be overseeing will be done in connection with the Adaptive Technology General Access Lab run by Academic Computing Services. In addition to having much of the adaptive hardware and software needed to accomplish many of her projects, the lab will help provide workspace for O.D.A. personnel and the students who use their services and support and encourage the acquisition of new technical skills and resources. Lab personnel will continue to be thoroughly trained on all adaptive technology used in the ISB 110 facility and the lab will assist in coordinating teaching and help sessions.

Any and all university community members needing adaptive technology assistance and instruction are encouraged to contact the O.D.A. and/or Dr. Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner, the manager of the Adaptive Technology General Access Lab. [Thank you to Ron Venable for contributing the information for this article.]

 

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