What would it be like if you couldn’t see your loved ones, or hear what your teachers were saying? What if you couldn’t run and play with your friends?
These are the questions Melinda Wright, an assistive technologist for the Killeen Independent School District, asked second-grade students at Hay Branch Elementary School on Wednesday morning.
For the second year, Wright and other members of the district staff went to the school to give the students a firsthand look at the technology used to assist KISD students with disabilities and special needs.
“These are tools that help people overcome their challenges and gain access to the curriculum,” Wright said.
After a presentation from Wright, the students visited several stations featuring a wide selection of assistive technology, including Braille typewriters and board games for visually impaired students and a special tricycle and other equipment designed to help students with physical disabilities or limited mobility.
Representatives also included speech and physical therapists who worked at the district’s schools.
While some of the equipment was highly specialized, another guest presented items the students likely see on a daily basis.
Joseph Hudson, 23, was on hand to talk with the students and answer their questions. Hudson, who’s been blind his whole life, said he frequently uses items like his iPod and laptop as assistive technologies.
“Apple has made a lot of really accessible devices,” he said. “These are things you can pick up almost anywhere.”
While it is easier to find helpful technologies than before, Hudson said he still usually needs to install separate programs or software to adapt the devices for his needs, such as voice software that will read what is on the screen to him.
“In the future, it would be nice if you could get a laptop with that program already loaded on it,” he said. “Most of the time you have to go and find it and install it yourself.”
This is the second year Hay Branch has hosted the event, which coincides with the school’s second-graders learning about Helen Keller.
“We have been learning about how people who are blind or deaf communicate,” said Christine Hill, a second-grade teacher at Hay Branch. “This gives them a chance to see how they do that.”
Wright said she hoped to show the students that they are not so different from their peers with disabilities.
“I want to try to get them to understand that everyone has something they struggle with,” Wright said. “You should be respectful of other people’s challenges because you have challenges of your own, too.”