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New Labs Offer Technology to Make Learning More Accessible to VCU Students - VCU News

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The Office of Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity at Virginia Commonwealth University will open an assistive technology lab in the Commons basement to connect VCU students with technology to make learning more efficient and accessible.

“The Assistive Technology Lab is intended to help students progress toward independence,” said Ian Kunkes, Ed.D., director of student accessibility and educational opportunities, part of the Student Affairs Division. says.

Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity, a designated office on VCU’s Monroe Park campus, is responsible for fostering an environment in which all students have equal access to university programs, services and activities.

At the end of the spring semester, the office was assisting 2,300 students who revealed a disability. The new lab supports both students enrolled in the office, as well as other students looking for tools to help with time management, improve writing, speech-to-text, or other assistive technology needs It is intended to

“For decades, students have come to offices like ours for fellow note-takers. You can’t focus on class and take notes at the same time,” says Kunkes. “If we can provide them with a software or hardware technology solution that allows us to take notes with them and for them, and it doesn’t involve relying on others, it’s a move towards independence. .”

Senior Access Specialist Christopher Parthemos says students who visit the Assistive Technology Lab can find information about assistive software and hardware.

“When it comes to hardware, it could be a ‘smart pen’. It’s a pen that synchronizes the notes you’re taking with the audio you’re listening to in lectures,” he said. “Or maybe a portable magnifying glass that makes text easier to read.”

Software tools may contain adaptive fonts for dyslexic students. Grammar to check spelling, grammar and punctuation. Or Equation, useful for math.

Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity provides free access to certain hardware and paid subscription software as accommodation for registered students. These tools are often very affordable, but are available to other students for a fee, Parthemos said. Also, any student who visits the lab can get information about freely available tools to help with dictation, spelling, reading, and more. Staff members such as Parthemos can provide training on how to use hardware and software to support learning.

The Assistive Technology Lab has also partnered with VCU Libraries on a new accessibility station available on the first floor of the James Branch Cabell Library. Gives all members of the VCU community access to Magnifying Reader, text-to-speech tools, large-font keyboards, and more.

“We are very pleased that this new accessibility station is in the Cabell area that demonstrates our intention to be inclusive of all abilities,” said Dr. Laura Gariepy, Associate Dean of Research and Learning, VCU Libraries. “Our partnership with SAEO has been invaluable in advancing our efforts to make library services, collections and technology truly accessible to all.”