Assistive Technology Tools : High School Students Create Assistive Technology Tools to Help People with Disabilities
Friction, torque, mechanics, electricity, all those terms you learned in high school Physics, have enduring application in nearly everything we do. The junior and senior students in Aaron Podolner’s Physics 1-2 classes at Oak Park and River Forest High School are about to learn the extraordinary range of applications in a very vivid way.
This Monday, students will begin a long-term journey into understanding how the principles of Physics can be used to improve people’s lives. They will use academic skills they have been acquiring all year to create tools and devices that will assist people with disabilities.
"We can study the concepts in Physics and learn how to do all the calculations, but I think that getting students to identify and develop real-life applications for this knowledge gives real meaning and direction to all they study and do," said Mr. Podolner, a ’96 OPRFHS graduate himself. Mr. Podolner’s own interest in assistive technology (tools and devices that improve the functional capabilities of people with disabilities) dates back to his encounter with a junior high student with severe disabilities he met as a counselor at CAST. That experience led him to become a Respite Care worker for six years while he went through high school and college.
This Monday, his Physics classes will convene in the 3rd floor library instead of their usual 2nd floor lab. There, students will be guided through exercises designed to give them at least a glimmer of understanding about the impact specific disabilities might have on given functions. How does someone whose sight is impaired find the book they need in the library or get a snack from the Paws Awhile Café? How does a student in a wheelchair get from the 3rd floor circulation area to the 2nd floor periodical and research desks? How does a student operate the computer without use of a dominant arm? How can a student who has a hearing impairment keep up with directions?
Through a series of presentations and in-class exercises the rest of the week, students will explore social, physical and political issues surrounding ADA requirements and uniform design. This multi-disciplined effort will involve the school’s occupational, physical and speech therapists, as well as the carpenter who has helped make extensive modifications to the school to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act codes and to increase its adherence to Universal Design principles. Students will even have the opportunity to write representatives in Congress to voice their views about ADA requirements and enforcement.
Students then will design and develop their own assisted technology devices. Students will be able to contact several experts in the "assisted technology" field via Internet for help and eventually some of the ideas may be featured on their sites, as well. Students will also have the chance to learn about patents and royalties on inventions.
|April 5, 2002||© Yenra ®|